I think this is a fascinating question. I think that the medical community ought to ask it more and more. A generation ago, there were very few “fat” kids in the U.S… Now around a third of children are overweight or obese. I think that doctors and scientists ought to study the way we ate back then, and see if perhaps a return to those eating patterns would keep our children thinner and healthier. I know that’s simplistic, but it’s worth a look-see.
I really don’t recall big Sunday dinners except on special occasions, and they were usually held at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Our family didn’t do family dinners, even during the week. My dad worked a third shift for 17 years, and a second shift for the next 17 years, so he was often sleeping during the day or evening. My brother and I would eat at the kitchen table (we didn’t have dining room), or sometimes we would eat in the living room on the floor in front of the TV, but with newspapers spread out under our plates. Funny, my mother didn’t eat with us. She would pick at food, but I don’t remember her eating with us very often. I wonder if she ate with my father later, after we were in bed.
Like many moms in the 1960s, my mom followed a “schedule” of meals and made the same things every week. This was done for a lot of logical reasons. One of the reasons was cost–she could pretty much count on groceries costing the same amount every week. And shopping was very quick–even though my brother and I tagged along with her, she would be in and out of the store in just a short time, so we wouldn’t have time to get naughty.
Sunday was almost always roast beef. The leftovers were ground up in a meat grinder (hand cranked), mixed with salad dressing and pickle relish, and used for my dad’s lunch sandwiches for the first few days of the week.
I can’t remember the specific days of the week, but we always had fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, meat loaf, pork chops, chicken fried steak, hamburgers, and hot dogs. When I was a little older (about 13), my mom learned to make tacos, which the whole family loved.
Usually meat loaf day was Wednesday, because by then the roast beef had run out and my dad could take meat loaf sandwiches for lunch for the rest of the week.
There were certainly variations–occasionally my dad brought home catfish, which I refused to eat after I got sick on it once. I still won’t eat it. Sometimes we would have a smoked sausage.
We never had pizza, which my parents considered “snack food.”
We never, ever had spaghetti or any other kind of Italian food. My parents both loathed garlic and they had a prejudice against Italians and their food. So we never had it. When I got old enough to figure things out, I would learn when other kids at school were having spaghetti, and then get myself invited over to their house for supper on those nights. I hated pork chops, and I was always happy to skip that meal at my house and eat spaghetti at someone else’s house! (I still hate pork chops.)
My mother made mashed potatoes for almost every meal. Taters were cheap and it was an easy dish. I hate “real” mashed potatoes today–I prefer the boxed variety. On Sundays, she would bake the potatoes.
Occasionally she would substitute buttered noodles for the starch.
We almost always had canned green beans, corn, or peas for a vegetable. Every few weeks, my mother would bring home either fresh cauliflower or fresh brussels sprouts, and my brother and I would pig out on these! We loved them.
In the summer, my mother always had a garden, and we would eat green beans every single day. We loved them.
Since my grandparents lived on a farm, we were kept supplied with sweet corn all summer, and ate it almost every day. My granddad gave away sweet corn by the bushel to everyone, including all our neighbors, the pastors, my dad’s work buddies, my music teacher–everyone.
I never had salad until I was in Junior High–I didn’t know what it was, and I had never seen salad dressing. We occasionally had leaf lettuce with a little vinegar and sugar, but the leaves were on the side of our plates, not in a wooden bowl. Sometimes we would have radishes, too.
And tomatoes–fresh out of the garden. My mother would slice them up and we would eat them with sugar.
My mother made a cake or a pie once a week, usually on Saturdays so we would have something to offer if anyone dropped by on Sunday. She also made a batch of plain piecrust cookies. These sweets were expected to last the entire week. By Friday, everything was gone.
For snacks, my brother and I had apples, raisins, grapes (in season), applesauce, a small cup of marshmallows, a few graham crackers, or a piece of bread. Sometimes my mom would give us raw oatmeal in a cup with a little brown sugar. My brother still eats this as a snack. And sometimes we would get a little cup of coconut. Yummy.
Once a week, we had a candy bar, after church. Candy bars were five for a quarter back then, and my dad would take the extra one to work on Monday night.
Once a week, usually on Saturdays when he was home, my dad would bring home a half gallon of ice cream, and this, too, would last the entire week.
Almost every morning, my dad would bring home donuts and sweet rolls from the bakery near his factory. They would open early to sell the “day olds” left over from the day before, and my dad would buy them cheap.
My dad had (and still has) a sweet tooth, and when I look back, I can see that he was the one who would bring home the sweets. He’s really curtailed it in the last decade, but I think he wishes he could eat donuts all the time!
We always drank milk with meals. We didn’t have soda in the house until I was in Junior high. Even then, we were only allowed to drink small cups of soda.
I only remember a few times from my childhood eating out, and those were when relatives took us out. People didn’t take kids to restaurants back then. People seldom went to restaurants. My dad would occasionally bring home burgers from a place called “Geri’s,” kind of like McDonalds, only local. Some neighbors of ours owned it. My brother and I would split a small hamburger, and the whole family would split the little bag of French fries. My parents always said that the food tasted like cardboard, but my dad continued to buy it every few weeks out of kindness to the neighbors.
My brother and I were never fat growing up. I remember enjoying food, but not craving it like kids seem to do today. I just ate what I was given (except cat fish and pork chops!) I think back then, we ate to live rather than lived to eat.