A lot changes in 100 years. Maxine, the mother of our founder here at Maxine's Heavenly, was born in 1922. That means 2022 would have been her 100th birthday.
Maxine’s Heavenly was born when we decided to to take Maxine’s original recipe and use wholesome ingredients "made for today,” and incorporate everything we’ve discovered about nutrition and healthy eating.
To honor Maxine, we're looking back at how people baked, ate, and thought about food in the 1920s. Along the way we’ll examine changes in nutrition, packaged foods, ingredients, beauty standards and much more.
The 1920s: A Booming Decade for Baking
The 1920s was not just a revolutionary time in baking, but it was also effectively the era of the “modern kitchen.” Over the next decade, the kitchen began would be seen not just as a place for work, but a place for leisure and socializing as well.
Baking was on a sharp upward trend as improvements in flour, baking powders, and appliances made it a less laborious task. When the gas stove achieved mainstream adoption, it forever changed how we ate and cooked, and home baking was promoted along with new educational cook books all about cooking with gas.
Popular baking ingredients of the 1920s included things like beef suet, cocoa powder, pineapple, and Maraschino Cherries. Maraschino cherries and pineapple were both “introduced” in the 20s, and pineapple was seen as particularly exciting and exotic, even kickstarting a craze in pineapple upside down cakes.
In general, light, fluffy, and creative cakes were among the most popular indulgences of the day. But as flour, vine fruits, sugar, and other ingredients continued to become cheaper, all kinds of affordable baked goods began to line the shelves of the bakery. Home bakers now had access to cheaper ingredients and greater variety, while falling ingredient costs made baking and baked goods available even to the poorer classes. With all this in place, it’s no wonder the 20s turned out to be a booming decade for baking.
The Rise of Packaged & Processed Foods
Another huge development in the 1920s was the rise of packaged and processed foods. Previously, the American diet was largely meat and potatoes, only later growing to include fruits, vegetables, and milk.
But as manufacturers began to streamline their production of canned and frozen food, these packed and prepared items became extremely popular. Processed foods saved people an enormous amount of time that they previously spent peeling, grinding, and cutting their own foods.
Indianapolis News (Indiana), May 25, 1921, page 18.
As women continued to gain freedom and independence, prepared foods became even more popular. TV and radio ads from Horn & Hardart even used the motto "less work for mother," and promoted prepared foods as an alternative requiring much less time and work.
Many of the processed and packaged foods introduced during the 1920s are still around today, including:
- Wonder Bread
- Baby Ruth Candy Bars
- Yoo-Hoo Chocolate Milk
- Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
- Welch's Grape Jelly
Changing Beauty Standards | A Focus on Diets and Calories
The 1920s also saw the emergence of flappers - a new image of womanhood revolving around fun and freedom. But while processed and packaged foods did help free up women’s time, the flapper lifestyle also introduced new beauty standards onto the scene.
Popular portrayals of flappers largely depicted women with slender silhouettes. This was at the same time that the bathroom scale (patented in 1916) was gaining in popularity. The result was that a slender form came to be seen as fun and modern, while buxom curves were now old fashioned. These changing beauty standards even spurred a new interest in raw vegetables like celery, tomatoes, and lettuce, and some women adopted strict diets in the pursuit of “flapperdom.” Cigarette smoking was celebrated, partly because it reduced hunger and cravings.
Diets drawn up by strong personalities were revered, just as many of us follow along with the diets of popular “influencers” nowadays. Perhaps the most famous of these figures was Lulu Hunt Peters, who authored Diet & Health, the bestselling nonfiction book of 1922. The book describes watching one’s weight as a worthwhile but lifelong struggle, and encourages readers to view all food as a potentially fattening source of calories.
Many of these trends foreshadowed the shift towards diets and calorie-focused eating that we continue to see in our culture today.
How We’re Thinking About Food, Diets, and Health in 2022
As you can see, a lot of good has come from the past 100 years. Baking and baked goods became more accessible to people of all classes. Packaged and processed foods have freed up our time and made fueling our bodies easier than ever. We have a greater variety of foods available to us than our ancestors, who ate very simply and seasonally.
Still, with these changes come new challenges. Many packaged foods today have unrecognizable ingredients that we can’t even pronounce, let alone understand. These ingredients are a far cry from the mostly-whole foods diets we ate a few decades ago. As a result of changing beauty and diet standards, a lot of these packaged goods are now very low in calories, even though calories are the fuel that we need to live.
At Maxine’s Heavenly, we take a simpler approach to health. We think the best way to eat is to satisfy your body with natural foods that are as close to the plant as possible. With today’s modern sourcing, ingredients, and baking, packaged foods don’t need to be heavily refined and processed. That’s why our cookies use real foods like whole grain oats and dates instead of processed ingredients like bleached flour or refined sugars.
We’re looking forward to many more years of prioritizing nutrition, health, and good taste!