A Square Meal
By Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe
Harper

You won’t be desperate to try the recipes in this book, but Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe’s work will leave you sated. A Square Meal is a culinary and social history showing how food insecurity during the decade-long Great Depression, the resultant free-school-lunch and food-stamp programmes and technological advances in food production had a lasting impact on the American diet. White sauce over budget meals became standard, thanks to home economists such as Flora Rose, who saw it as a way to pump nutrients and calories into the meals of have-nots. Flavour was secondary: food relief wasn’t meant to tickle the taste ­buds as much as push people to seek jobs. Mass layoffs, however, increased the numbers of the homeless and forced serious government thinking about how to feed the nation while balancing budgets. Shifting responsibility for food was accompanied by newfangled comestibles on the table, including canned and frozen fare. It was also a time for self-declared diet experts to discuss ways to best nourish the body. You’ll learn that, way before Instagram, American cooks were already making “wheatless, eggless, butterless, milkless, sugarless cake” … and probably wonder why they bothered.