Meals from a box hold a helping of nostalgia, too | Health, Med. & Fitness

Grandma didn’t cook from scratch much, despite coming of age during the Great Depression on a homestead in the southeastern corner of Colorado.

Her family had a huge vegetable garden and, as a child, she prepared everything from the very basics. Nothing was wasted. If butter was needed, it was churned. Cows for milking. If poultry was on the dinner menu, Grandma would break the neck of an unlucky chicken, then scald it in boiling water to release its feathers.

But sometime in the 1960s, Grandma abandoned those old school methods, opting instead for ready-to-eat meals from a box. Dinner, cakes, sides. The shift coincided with her taking a job outside the home.

For 25 years, she worked a physically demanding job as a grocery store cashier. After standing on the cold-tiled floor for eight-hour stretches, the last thing she wanted to do was stand in the kitchen and cook.

In this, Grandma mirrored the women’s movement of the time.


“After the war, women were moving out of the countryside and into town,” says Jenny Barker-Devine, a professor of American agricultural and rural women’s history at Illinois College. “They lived through the Depression, through the war, there was a lot of deprivation, and they didn’t want to cook anymore.”

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