Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cooking with St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas Magazine advertisement illustration, October 1933.

In the October, 1933 issue of St. Nicholas magazine, there is an advertisement for Baby Ruth candy bars. In the ad, the candy bar is positioned next to a glass of milk and a sandwich. The tag line reads, "Here's a Lunch...Good Candy Anytime." The important thing to note in this ad is that along with the image of a sandwich, glass of milk and candy bar, there is an endorsement emblem from the American Medical Association's Committee on Food. Apparently, back in 1933, a satisfying candy bar, rich in nougat and nuts, met a nutritional standard folks,including the AMA, could sign on to.

This ad got me thinking about our current dietary culture. We live in an age of 'super-sizing' meals. Obesity is at an all-time high. In an effort to offer more nutritionally balanced meals, fast food vendors now offer fruit, parfaits and raisons as substitutes for the more fatty fries and onion rings.

Very similar to the meal suggested in the candy bar ad, pre-packaged, lunch-time meals can be purchased in the grocery store. They offer very similar menus. Crackers paired with ham and cheese. Pizza with toppings paired with a cookie or candy bar.

I don't know about you, but I love them. I search the different options, trying to find the right combination of cookie, juice, turkey (my favorite) and cheese. And then I wonder, what made that 1933 AMA endorsed lunch suggestion that included a candy bar,so different from a lunch I choose for myself or my children - or for any of us?

Perhaps they aren't different. Perhaps, back in 1933, a candy bar was simply a way to make a lunch more inviting to the eater. Much like the offerings of cookies, candy bars and juice boxes are for pre-packaged lunches, today.

The difference between the lunch options of the 1930's and today, is that, back then, there were no pre-packaged lunches. The advertisement offered a suggested menu that would be created at home. The sandwiches, fruits and drinks would come from the kitchen of the mothers who packed them, not a factory.

We might learn something from that example. Instead of letting manufacturers choose our food for us, we could follow the teachings of St. Nicholas writers and put together lunches on our own. Lunches that are every bit as nutritious as those offered today, but with a more focused eye on nutrition combined with treats that we love to eat!
From the August, 1933 issue, sandwich suggestions include thinly sliced ham with mustard, turkey with cranberry jelly and simple peanut butter sandwiches.

Add an apple or peach or whatever fruit is in season, a mini bag of trail mix or nuts and your favorite juicebox (be sure it's pure juice)or milk. And then, for good measure, toss in a Baby Ruth ( or a candy bar of your choice). It's sweet, nutty and delicious. The perfect dessert to a wholesome lunch anyone can create in their own kitchen, just like moms and kids did during the depression.



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