Home cooking

A story in the LA Times today (with the truly terrible headline ‘Joy of Cooking’ or ‘Joy of Obesity’?) points to a new study finding that the calorie count of 14 selected recipes from Joy of Cooking increased an average 44% between the 1936 and 1996 editions.

Joy of Cooking

Joy of Cooking

Researchers looked at recipes including beef stroganoff, waffles, mac and cheese and goulash in each of the seven editions to chart how American home cooking has evolved. Similar trends were found in other classic cookbooks.  An odd little study, but it’s interesting to see cultural shifts reflected this way. For instance:

The study found that some of the added calories in the dishes came from a substitution of ingredients — extra meat instead of vegetables, for example. Back in the day, meat was expensive, so less of it was used, he said.

Cultural shifts may have also had an effect on recipe ingredients and portion sizes, Wansink added. Families have gotten smaller, so a dish that once was consumed by eight people is now consumed by four.

And because sizes of dinner plates have grown over the years, a standard 2-ounce portion of pasta can now look diminutive.

The past decade has seen a huge shift in awareness about nutrition. Recent versions have featured more fresh ingredients, and the 2006 edition has a chapter on nutrition. Yet far and away the biggest increase in average calorie content came between the 1997 and 2006 editions. We Americans are a confusing bunch.

I’d love to do a little more reading on this – any cheeseclothers have a copy around to compare with my 1963 edition?


One response to “Home cooking

  1. I’ve got the ’75 edition.

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