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Food Thrift: Scraps from the Past

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Today’s post is authored by Constance Carter, head of the science reference section. Connie has written for us before, see her post - Celebrate with a Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Display of home-canned food. FSA/OWI Color Photographs.

Today, as the country recovers from an economic downslide, we can seek our forebears’ advice and learn from their ingenuity. How exactly did they use their talents to feed and care for their families and communities?  Books, such as the American Frugal Housewife and Home Canning and Food Thrift, maxims, such as “husband your stuff, don’t stuff your husband” or “waste not, want not,” and articles in 19th-century magazines, e.g., the Delineator, Good Housekeeping, and Table Talk,  paint the picture.  We learn that our ancestors economized through the imaginative use of leftovers, by substituting protein-rich beans and peas for expensive cuts of meat, planting vegetable gardens, canning and drying surplus food, and by bartering goods they had for ones they needed.

Our newly released webcast, “Food Thrift: Scraps from the Past,” uses the Library’s collections to illustrate how our ancestors coped with downturns in their economies as far back as 1829. This illustrated 19-minute webcast, which covers the years 1829-1922, is accompanied by a transcript and a 7-page resources guide providing primary and secondary print sources, web sites of interest, and a list of period magazines.

Comments (6)

  1. fascinating to realise the many attempts people have made to preserve food when fasting preceded by organic raw fruit and vegetables is the way to extend life.
    what a monument to food addiction.
    I am a 30 year cancer survivor who has remained alive over the past nine years by eating nothing canned or preserved, and fasting when I ran out of food. it actually helped reverse a number of health conditions. breaking a fast with cooked or preserved food has been known to cause death…

  2. I enjoyed this and the webcast so much! I’m a suburban fruit grower and trade for veggies. It’s amazing how much you can grow in a small yard. It was fun to hear thrifty tips from the past, as found in the science collections at LC. Thanks!

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