Thursday, March 24, 2011

Food and diet

It's really easy to romanticize the past, including the kitchen table of the past, but a recent Freakanomics podcast I listened to suggests that some caution should be involved in that. That's no surprise really, but it is something that we rarely consider.

In our minds, the table of the past was always the place where home cooked meals were served, with fresh food of all kinds. But this really wasn't so. For one thing, refrigeration was not really terribly advanced until the 1930s or so. Prior to that, a lot of people had an "ice box". My father still referred to the refrigerator at the "ice box" in the 1970s, not really switching over to "refrigerator" until the 80s. An ice box isn't anywhere as efficient as a refrigerator.

People compensated for that by buying food every day, but that couldn't really take care of the entire problem. Fresh food simply isn't available every day, everywhere. Frozen food wasn't really fully available year around. Canned food was, in the 20th Century of course, but it wasn't always as good as the canned food we have now. Salted and pickled food made up for part of the problem.

And food variety was necessarily much more restricted. It isn't as if you could expect to buy oranges everywhere easily prior to relatively efficient transportation. Something like a Kiwi fruit would have been unheard of. Even when I was a kid fish came from the river or from a box in the freezer section of the grocery store. In the early 20th Century here fish would have been from the river, and that's about it.

Food related diseases, such as rickets and goiter, that are attributable to a simple dietary deficiencies. Vitamin D is now put in milk to address rickets, but when most people bought milk in glass bottles that was from a local creamery, this wasn't true. Iodine is now in salt, but it wasn't always.

In looking at images from the past, a full farm larder is easy to imagine. But that isn't always the way things were.

An interesting look at an aspect of this, in military terms, is on this Society of the Military Horse thread.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The distance of things, and self segregation

Sometimes its helpful to actually know what I'm writing about (d'oh!).

In the post The Distance of Things I commented on how remarkably close in proximity Mother of God, Holy Ghost, and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception are, and were not, in terms of transportation in earlier times.

Well, they are close now, to be sure, but Mother of God Church was not a Catholic Church until about 1949, so my analysis there fell sort of flat. Of course, Holy Ghost and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception have always been Catholic Church's, so my analysis still made sense there.

Be that as it may, another church also provides an interesting example of changing times, that being Holy Rosary. Holy Rosary is probably no more than five miles, maybe less, from the Cathedral, but it's north of I70, and it would be hard for people in the neighborhood to get to the Cathedral even now, so I can understand why it is there. Having said that, what surprised me is that, in reading the parish history, how ethnic it originally was.

The church, built in 1918, originally served a principally South Slavs population. Another Catholic Church existed within just a few blocks, but it was principally Polish in population. Prior to the construction of Holy Rosary, the South Slavs attended that church, but they wanted one of their own. That's probably understandable given language differences between the various parishioners. Of interest, a Russian Orthodox Church was and is located very nearby.

What all this shows is that there was a rich population of Eastern Europeans in this section of Denver early in the 20th Century. They all lived in the same area, but they also maintained certain distinctions between themselves. Overall, that's not surprising, but the degree to which the distinctions were maintained perhaps is.