Sunday, December 23, 2012

Food as a Moral Issue



A picture from Woman: her character, culture from Archive.org 1890. The caption says The Open Door. Women in those days were beginning to have some choices in their lives and this book was to guide them.

I've just downloaded it onto my Kindle. Edith Nicholson of Diary of a Spinster was 6 years old in 1890. This is the kind of book her mother Margaret might have had in her house and explains why she was all for women getting the vote.

Here are summaries to two chapters.  Food was a moral issue back then, in relation to the home, not in relation to feeding the poor. Today food is a moral issue, but in relation to a person's weight - and sometimes in issue to the environment.

This book and books like it are not mere curiosities: the ideas the books contain, these Protestant ideas, were what shaped economic and education policy in Canada at the turn of the 20th century. They are the reasons I had to take a Home Ec class in 1970, why I had to sew an apron (I chose pink calico and never finished it) and learn to cook chocolate pudding. (My own mother was a terrific cook what I learned at school was a waste of time... Well except for the theory about protein, fats, carbs, etc... And as we all are well aware, new theories about protein, fats and carbs are being invented every day.

Flora Nicholson of Threshold Girl attended Macdonald Teachers College in 1910/11, but that school was founded to teach domestic sciences to women, so that middle class women could be better housewives and lower class women could be trained as domestics for the wealthy.