Midwest Eats! Foodways of the Great Depression

April 29, 2011

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From left to right: James Wolfinger, Bruce Kraig, Margaret Rung, and Christopher Robert Reed

Margaret Rung, Director of the Center for New Deal Studies at Roosevelt University, leads a panel on events leading to the Great Depression.

Christopher Robert Reed, Professor Emeritus at Roosevelt University, presents "The Depression Comes To The Black Metropolis." Chicago's black community responded to the advent of the Great Depression in several unusual ways: by promoting greater citizens' involvement in forcing the establishment to alleviate widespread economic distress, and by modifying its dietary habits to meet the scarcity of available, affordable food resources. Today's soul food delights received a boost from past experiences with more meatless meals.

James Wolfinger, Associate Professor of History at DePaul, presents "Cities and Urban Life as They Transitioned from 'Prosperity' to Depression." Life radically changed for the worse for many Americans as the country moved from relative prosperity to depression in the 1920s and '30s.  This presentation examines conditions in America's major cities, focusing on how the depression impacted ordinary people and changed urban society.

Bruce Kraig, Professor Emeritus at Roosevelt University, presents "Down on the Midwestern Farm During the Great Depression: Dust Bowl and Economics." Everyone knows about the great Dust Bowl that destroyed agriculture and drove farmers from their land in wide swaths of the Great Plains. But many do not know that the farm economy collapsed as food prices were deflated and surpluses could not be sold. Rural poverty was just as great as in cities, and in many ways it was even worse. The federal government was forced to intervene on a number of levels, and this set American farm policy for the next half century--and more.

This event was recorded as part of the Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance Fourth Annual Symposium “Midwest Eats! Foodways of the Great Depression,” which focuses on the Great Depression’s impact on our culinary traditions.  Other events from this symposium recorded by Chicago Amplified—listed in the order they were presented—are as follows:

Midwest Eats!  Foodways of the Great Depression
Nightclubs and Bread Lines: Depression Era Foodways On Film
Templeton Rye of Iowa: Its History During and Just After the Prohibition
This Land is Whose land?
John Drury, Ace Chicago Restaurant Reporter of the 1930s
Community Canning in the Depression: A Case Study
Co-Eds at the Co-op: Student Depression-Era Foodways at Old Normal
Greater Midwest Foodways Heirloom Recipe Competition
No Longer does the Holiday Table Groan Under the Weight of Food
Steaks and Shakes and the Great Depression
Beer Production after Prohibition: Setting the Stage for the Rise of the Mega-breweries
The American (Bad) Dream: Soup Kitchens and European Immigrants in Chicago in the 1930s
Chicago’s Maxwell Street

Recorded Friday, April 29, 2011 at Kendall College.