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How Americans Ate During The Great Depression

Residents of a Manhattan Hooverville preparing food in a mobile drum, in a ph...

Credit: HarperCollins

Above: Residents of a Manhattan Hooverville preparing food in a mobile drum, in a photo from 1932.

How Americans Ate During The Great Depression


Andrew Coe, co-author, "A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression"


Celery soup mixed with tuna fish and mashed potatoes. A salad of corned beef, gelatin and canned peas. Baked onion stuffed with peanut butter.

Those are just some of the recipes Americans turned to during the Great Depression, when many families struggled to eat enough nutritious food.

Food historian Andrew Coe said the emphasis during the Depression was less about what foods tasted like and more on how cheap and "wholesome" meals could be. The U.S. Bureau of Home Economics at the time disfavored some of the spices in immigrant cuisines like garlic and pepper, for example, which they considered stimulants that could make people even hungrier.

Coe co-authored the recent book, "A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression," and will be talking about his work Saturday for the Culinary Historians of San Diego. He joined KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday to share some of the Depression-era recipes he tried and whether any are appealing to modern palettes.

Book Event

Where: San Diego Central Public Library, 330 Park Blvd., San Diego

When: Saturday, April 15, 10:30 a.m.

Cost: Free


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