What's in your Lunch Box? Part 3 -- War and the Suburbs | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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What's in your Lunch Box? Part 3 -- War and the Suburbs

In these two decades, America bounced back from the Great Depression and solidified its position as a world leader. One particularly popular food item was a grilled cheese sandwich, says Lynne Olver, creator of the Food Timeline. For people today, it seems like a lunch staple, but in the 1940s an...

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Victory Garden poster, courtesy Smithsonian Photographic Services.



In these two decades, America bounced back from the Great Depression and solidified its position as a world leader. One particularly popular food item was a grilled cheese sandwich, says Lynne Olver, creator of the Food Timeline. For people today, it seems like a lunch staple, but in the 1940s and earlier, it was considered a “hardship meal” — eaten when meat wasn’t available.

1940s

The Times: On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan attacked the U.S. naval based at Pearl Harbor. Shortly after this, the U.S. joined the Allied forces in WWII. Germany surrendered in May of 1945, and the war in the Pacific theater came to a close in August of the same year after the U.S. detonated two atomic bombs in Japan.



Lunch: Spamwich Tomato soup and club crackers Victory Garden Salad Coffee

Why it was popular: During WWII, many goods were rationed. About 20 million Americans planted Victory Gardens, growing their own food to save war supplies for the troops. People cooked sauces, made salads or canned produce. Spam was introduced in 1937, but become very popular in the 1940s because it was an inexpensive meat product.

1950s











Meatloaf sandwich, courtesy of Flickr user rick.



The Times: Alaska and Hawaii became the forty-ninth and fiftieth states. The Civil Rights movement progressed with the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education and Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on a public bus in Alabama. During this Baby Boom decade, many Americans moved from the city to the suburbs. With the extra yard space and the international tastes of returning GIs, the backyard BBQ became a staple of cooks around the country, Olver says.

Lunch: Meatloaf sandwich Potato salad Cheez Whiz and crackers Milk

Why it was popular: In the 1950s, Cheez Whiz and other new products filled shelves at local grocery stores. Household cooks did some “interesting things” in the 1950s, Olver says, including making personal pizzas with Kraft American cheese.

Be sure to check back for the last two lunch box blog posts!



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