A while back I happened upon a study that has been tracking recipes in the Joy of Cooking from 1931 to the newest version in 2006. The study found that the average calorie per serving for a certain group of recipes had increased by 63%! The calories per recipe and the serving sizes had both increased over time, and largely due to fat, sugar, and meat. What was most surprising to me, when I looked at the comparison table, the largest increase was between 1997 and 2006. So while we are trying to become more health and weight conscious, it sure hasn’t been reflected in the recipes, and apparently there are similar findings in other cookbook series’. All of these people who are trying to eat healthier by cooking at home, like their grandmothers’ did, likely have no idea that their recipes are supersized and laden with fat and sugar, just like the rest of our typical American diet, and that they are anything but grandma’s recipes. I attempted to post the data, but couldn’t make it fit, so I’ll post the link where you can read the full text version yourselves. Link to study
After reading this, I started looking for vintage copies of the Joy of Cooking; a few weeks ago I finally purchased a copy from a seller on Amazon. It is in great shape and I was really excited to try out some recipes. It’s organized differently that I’m used to, so it’s interesting to browse, and it is indexed well. I think what surprised me the most was the variety of meats that there are recipe, baking and/or shopping instructions for. There are recipes that include fish/seafood, beef, lamb/mutton, pork, chicken, duck, partridge, pheasant, grouse, rabbit/hare, squirrel, squab, pigeon, turkey, capon, goose, guinea hen, quail, snipe, and also, sweetbreads, brains, kidneys, hearts, tongue, and oxtails. I have to admit I was, in fact, surprised to learn that oxtail soup contains, you know, OX tails. Somehow I thought it was made from something different and just called that. Wow what difference between our diet today! Our industrialized food system has us believing that meat only comes in chicken, beef and pork, wrapped in plastic, on slabs of Styrofoam. Now I have to say that I’m not super excited about the idea of kidney stew, or liver loaf. I imagine enough damage has been done to my view of what “food” is that I may never develop a taste for certain things. Over the past couple years we have started buying local grassfed beef, raised our own chickens, and fish our own salmon, but still there isn’t the diversity of meat that there should be in our diet. I may not be ready to make kidney stew, but I am ready enough, that I gave my husband the go ahead to finally breed our rabbits for meat (ok, so raising those nasty Cornish Cross, and a really great 4H project I saw at the fair also swayed me), we have our first 5 in the freezer and I think we’ll eat our first this weekend. I also found myself saying yes to the idea of ptarmigan, moose and caribou hunting, which we haven’t done yet, but it's in the plans for this season . Who knows where this will go from here, maybe someday I’ll be sharing my very own liverloaf recipe here.