Tennessee Mountain Stories

Cooking Trends and Convenience Foods


This is a history blog.  I love history and I love learning about and even practicing the way my ancestors lived.  In fact, have I told you that I grind my own flour and bake bread a couple of times each week?  We’ve talked many times on this blog about the modern conveniences that I also enjoy and would really hate to give up.  Well have you ever thought about the modern conveniences your grandmother may have enjoyed?

I’m sure every busy woman was thrilled when she could throw her family’s clothing into an electric washer and stop scrubbing them on a board.  It was a universal relief to turn a knob on an electric stove and start cooking without having to build a fire.  And we won’t even start talking about refrigeration.

But have you ever thought about the nature of the food they were cooking? 

I’ve been assembling family favorite recipes as a gift for my niece’s upcoming wedding.  I specifically asked everyone to share recipes they’d gotten from our older relatives and my aunts really came through for me.  They gave me recipes from my Great-great Grandmother and my Great-great Aunts as well as distant cousins.  And I know these were favorite recipes or they would not have been saved so long.  So you can imagine my amazement at seeing boxed cake mix and packages of Jello among the ingredients. 

Like I said, I enjoy baking my own bread but somehow I always know that in a pinch I can run get a loaf off a shelf.  Those packages of sliced bread have only been available since 1928.  You know my grandmothers never made their own loaf bread despite baking cornbread or biscuits for almost every meal.

Baking a cake with sifted flour, adding in the baking powder and salt, then folding in the eggs seems nostalgic and is actually the healthiest way to get a dessert.  But when boxed cake mixes became available in 1947 they must have seemed miraculous.  And we’ve passed down a lot of recipes that start out with one of those boxes.

Just having self rising flour was a convenience.  While this baking combination was created way back in 1845, somehow it wasn’t readily available in rural areas for many years after that.

As we’ve become more aware of the impact that chemical preservatives have on us we seem to be cycling back to more basic foods and the old-fashioned cooking-from-scratch.  Yet I can’t help but remember that the quick trip to the store when I run short of time is a modern luxury in itself.

Now, I’d really love to hear what “convenience foods” you remember your grandmothers relying on.