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Modern Food, Moral Food

Self-Control, Science, and the Rise of Modern American Eating in the Early Twentieth Century

Helen Zoe Veit

Publication Year: 2013

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

This book is immeasurably better than it could have been because of the guidance I got as a graduate student. I had extraordinary support at Yale, especially from Glenda Gilmore. As a scholar, a writer, and a teacher, she is a model and an inspiration. She was a source of voluminous feedback and frank advice, as well as a constant source of encouragement. ...

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Introduction: Victory over Ourselves: American Food in the Era of the Great War

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pp. 1-10

In the 1890s, when a poor African American sharecropper in Mississippi ate a plate of beans, greens, gravy, and corn bread, her dinner seemed a world removed from a Gilded Age restaurant meal of steak, asparagus, béarnaise sauce, and white rolls. Just two decades later, however, by the 1910s, chemical analyses of these foods would reveal disconcerting similarities in their nutritive content. ...

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1. National Willpower: American Asceticism and Self-Government

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pp. 11-36

In January 1918, 300 of the richest women in New York City asked the government to tell them what to eat. The United States had entered the Great War nine months earlier, and food was one of the most immediate ways that American civilians experienced it. European food shortages were front-page news, and in the minds of many, ...

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2. Eating Cats and Dogs to Feed the World: The Progressive Quest for Rational Food

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pp. 37-57

Herbert Popenoe had to go to police court after neighbors complained to the city of Washington, D.C., that he was killing and eating all the stray cats he could get his hands on. The judge dropped the charges, however, when he was unable to find any law against cat-eating. ...

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3. Food Will Win the World: Food Aid and American Power

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pp. 58-76

“Gentlemen, Europe has begun to take stock of us,” Herbert Hoover announced in a fund-raising speech in New York in February 1917. Since the start of the war in Europe, Hoover had led food relief efforts as head of the Commission for Relief in Belgium. In the months before the United States entered the Great War as a belligerent, ...

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4. A School for Wives: Home Economics and the Modern Housewife

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pp. 77-100

On Valentine’s Day in 1912, a West Virginia farmer sat down and wrote a letter to the president of Cornell University. “My Dear Professor, I have red of your women students,” he wrote. “I would like to correspond with One . . . For the purpose of Matermonial.” The farmer provided his economic prospects as well as a physical inventory: ...

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5. A Corn-Fed Nation: Race, Diet, and the Eugenics of Nutrition

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pp. 101-122

In 1917, the cuisine of the Old South arrived in New England. Southern food was already there, of course, in the recipes and products and techniques carried north by generations of migrants and travelers. And of course most “southern” foods themselves had been carried south in the first place. ...

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6. Americanizing the American Diet: Immigrant Cuisines and Not-So-Foreign Foods

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pp. 123-156

Around noon one day in the early 1910s, a home economist paid a visit to an immigrant family’s small home. She found the family in a stuffy room, eating lunch while a large cat perched on their dirty table, begging for morsels. The cat, the filth, and the airless room were bad enough. ...

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7. The Triumph of the Will: The Progressive Body and the Thin Ideal

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pp. 157-180

Sometime in the 1910s, a woman named Nina Putnam decided to go on a diet. She had been slim as a young bride, and for a few years she had stayed that way by cleaning her own house and doing all her marketing on foot. But as her husband’s salary increased, they acquired new things: a vacuum cleaner, an automobile, an apartment in a building with an elevator, and a maid to do the housework. ...

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Epilogue: Moral Food and Modern Food

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pp. 181-188

In the late 1910s, Americans sent soldiers abroad to fight in what many believed was actually a great war, one they hoped would forever vanquish a Prussian system of government that represented autocratic control by the few and the slavish submission of everyone else. In this morally electric context, an unprecedented foreign food aid project turned cooking and eating into intensely political activities on the American home front, ...


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pp. 189-268


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pp. 269-294


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pp. 295-300

E-ISBN-13: 9781469612751
Print-ISBN-13: 9781469607702

Publication Year: 2013