PLEDGE NOW
Food Files from the WPA
The Faro Caudill family eating dinner in their dugout, Pie Town, New Mexico. October 1940. Photo by Russell Lee.

In this photograph by Russell Lee, the Faro Caudill family eats dinner in Pie Town, New Mexico, in October 1940 (Library of Congress). Click image for more info.

In the last years of the 1930s, the last years before interstates and industry turned America into one big, homogenized market, Depression-era writers went out to see what Americans were eating.

They went North, South, East and West. Today, their report reads like a wildly diverse national potluck of very regional, very vivid cuisine.

Spoon bread and burgoo, oyster stew and chicken bog, hush puppies and possum, Johnny cake and hoecake and rabbit and grunion.

This hour, On Point: What we ate before we all ate the same. We’ll read the great American menu — and tuck in.

You can join the conversation — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Guests:

Joining us in our studio is Mark Kurlansky, bestselling author of many books, including “Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World” and “Salt: A World History.” His new anthology is “The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food – from the Lost WPA files.”

Also in our studio is JJ Gonson, a personal chef with a background in short order and home cooking. Boston Magazine named her “Boston’s Best Personal Chef.” She’s founder of Cuisine En Locale, based in Cambridge, Mass., and writes an eponymous blog, where she’s just written about food shopping and economies of scale.

In this video clip, Tom and our guests sample tastes of the ’30s…

Here’s our tasting menu for this hour. These are authentic 1930s dishes taken from Mark Kurlansky’s book.

Plain Maine Chowder
from the recipe of Mabel G. Hall, a Maine historian

– Ingredients: diced salt pork, onions, potatoes, water, salt, a very little bit of milk

Kentucky Wilted Lettuce
“Throughout Kentucky, and particularly in the mountainous area, wilted lettuce is certain to appear on the table of most every household that has a garden.”

– Ingredients: fresh lettuce, fresh green onions, salt, pepper, bacon, bacon grease

Arizona Menudo
from a description of an “Arizona Menudo Party” by J. Del Castillo

– Ingredients: beef tripe, hominy, salt, pepper

Depression Cake (far western U.S.)
from an essay by Michael Kennedy and Edward B. Reynolds, a cake born out of necessity by a woman preparing for a July 4 “picnic, rodeo, and general get-together”
– No eggs, butter, or milk.
– Ingredients: raisin water, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, allspice, bacon drippings, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Sep 2, 2015
Democratic presidential candidate, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley addresses the summer meeting of the Democratic National Committee, Friday, Aug. 28, 2015, in Minneapolis. (Jim Mone/AP)

We talk to Martin O’Malley, former Maryland governor and now Democratic candidate for the presidency. He’s been tough on Trump – and on his fellow Democrats.

Sep 2, 2015
Actor Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar, in the Netflix Original Series "Narcos." (Daniel Daza/Netflix via AP)

A new Netflix series “Narcos” takes on the story of the rise of the “King of Cocaine” — Pablo Escobar. We’ll look at drug trafficking then and now.

RECENT
SHOWS
Sep 1, 2015
Oliver Sacks (Elena Seibert)

Oliver Sacks, celebrated neurologist and best-selling author, has died at 82. We’ll listen back to our remarkable 2013 interview with Oliver Sacks on life and aging.

 
Sep 1, 2015
Denali is seen from a window on Air Force One during descent into Anchorage, Alaska on Aug. 31, 2015. (Pete Souza/White House)

The scramble for the Arctic. President Obama’s in Alaska. We’ll look at the stakes.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: August 28, 2015
Friday, Aug 28, 2015

You say #hashtag, we say, #forwhat? That, plus Usain Bolt and the ominous lurking Segway cameraman. Friday!

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: August 21, 2015
Friday, Aug 21, 2015

Do you even click? (And other reflections on link sharing and web commenting).

More »
6 Comments
 
Do You Recognize Amazon’s Workplace Culture? Tell Us!
Tuesday, Aug 18, 2015

Do you recognize the workplace conditions described in a recent New York Times piece on Amazon? We want to hear from you!

More »
5 Comments