Cooking and Eating: Some Harsh Truths

Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards

Food thoughts for munching … thanks to Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards, the originator of home economics, or domestic science.

Nutritional psychologist Marc David states that

Most nutritional assertions that originate from authoritative sources [like the home economics/domestic science movement that began in the late nineteenth century] have a brief shelf life. Our nutritional information is not based on what is ultimately good to eat, but what we believe is good to eat at the time. Within this unstable state of affairs, one thing does remain constant — the connection between our relationship to food and our inner world. How we eat is a reflection of how we live. Our hurrying through life is reflected in hurrying through meals. Our fear of emotional emptiness is seen in our overeating. Our need for certainty and control is mirrored in strict dietary rules. Our looking for love in all the wrong places is symbolized in our use of food as a substitute for love.

A good survey of the domestic science/home economics movement, written by  Carolyn M. Goldstein, appeared in Andrew F. Smith’s Food and Drink in America (2004).

Goldstein writes:

Throughout the twentieth century, home economists wielded their authority as food experts to make their ideas part of the dominant culture. Although they failed to achieve their ultimate, idealistic goals of rational consumption and the eradication of ethnic cooking practices, they did have a strong influence over what families ate.

Have home economists ever examined the rather haughty attitude they historically held toward immigrant women?

And we’re still cursed with the Basic Four or Five. Or whatever. The Food Pyramid, that’s today’s version!

3 thoughts on “Cooking and Eating: Some Harsh Truths

  1. Hi Cynthia, Hope all is well with you and yours. I hope you don’t mind but today is the day she was born so I’m just going to tweet your link!

    Thanks for sharing…

  2. Thanks for posting this Cindy. I don’t mind saying, I need some time to reflect on this thought. Food for thought I suppose…

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