Megan McArdle is Always Wrong (Again!): Kitchen History Edition

There are those who think the least snark directed Megan McArdle’s way is a waste of time — that her Our Lady of Perpetual Error persona is a considered ploy to grab enough attention to make it worth her masters’ while to retain her as Business and Economics Editor of the Atlantic. (Yes, the sound you just heard was Emerson spinning in his grave.)

__

Me, I’m actually sympathetic to that view, for all the joy I’ve taken in McArdle gigging over the last few years.  It would be better for both the body politic and the culture at large if McArdle’s fifteen minutes simply dwindled to their inevitable end. Certainly, I’m not helping every time some new catastrophe evokes a bloggy response.

But the problem is that her quarter of an hour is not yet over, and McArdle is still The Atlantic’s most prominent economics blogger, and she continues to weigh in on a whole raft of stuff about which she willfully knows nothing, all in order to advance an agenda that has only one item:  to comfort the comfortable.

__

So, despite the truth that each time someone points out she’s made another howler it only adds to her profile, I think there is a duty to do so. Once upon a time, in organizations that saw themselves as doing real journalism for audiences with an understanding of the term,  errors actually mattered.  Anyone starting out would get a chance or two, or even three.  But when gastritis broke your calculator once too often, you’d seek a new line of work.  You’d go become a shill, perhaps — a time honored retreat into expense account heaven for plenty of hacks who couldn’t hack the hard work of actually getting stuff right … or for whom, as in McArdle’s case, getting things wrong is a feature and not a bug.  That this hasn’t happened here is a problem for McArdle’s colleagues, I think, or it ought to be…about which a little more below.

__

So what’s today’s problem post?  Nothing overtly political actually, which in some ways makes the case of McArdle’s unfitness for her claimed role yet more clear.   In her post, “The Economics of Kitchens,” she attempts to engage an ongoing discussion between Paul Krugman and Tyler Cowen on the pace of innovation.  Krugman and Cowen point out that there isn’t a whole lot new in kitchens today compared with those of sixty years ago.  Not so, says McArdle.  Rather, we live now in culinary paradise compared to those bad old days:

1953 kitchens did not have electric drip coffee brewers, stand mixers, blenders, food processors, or crock pots….

Err, no.  I’ll give McArdle this.  Electric drip coffee makers do first appear in the 1970s.  The electric vacuum coffee maker was, however, a common appliance and a very competitive marketplace. Not to mention that it was a technology that offered such incredibly cool options as the Faberware Coffee Robot:

Stand mixers in the 1950s?  Oh, you mean the standing mixer invented in 1908 by Herbert Johnson, sold to commercial bakers in 1915, and released for the home as the KitchenAid Food Preparer in…wait for it…1919?  Sunbeam released its cheaper alternative in the ’30s, and in 1954, (that kitchen of the 50s thing again) one could actually purchase a KitchenAid in a color other than white.

__

Blenders? Same story. The blender was invented in 1922 first as a tool for soda counters, and the iconic Waring Blender hit the market in 1937.  By 1954, one million had been sold. As a sidenote, the Vitamix Corporation introduced a competitor to the Waring machine, and in 1949 sold it with the aid of a thirty minute broadcast on a brand new medium:  WEWS TV in Cleveland, in what is thought to be the first ever direct response ad.

You get the idea.  In the list above, food processors and slow cookers are in fact inventions that have their roots in the sixties and their commercial release in the early 70s.  Give McArdle that — but the point to take away from this is that in a list of five statements of fact, McArdle gets two wrong unequivocally, is deceptive in a third case (there were no automatic drip coffeemakers, but automatic makers using other brewing methods were readily available) and right only in two cases.  .400 may be fabulous in baseball.  In journalism, it wouldn’t even propel you to the Cape Cod League.

Then there’s this:

…aside from the privileged few who could afford copper, most Americans were cooking on thin, low-quality stainless steel and aluminum pans that deformed easily…

McArdle knows this how?  It’s a pretty bald declaration that would have come as a shock to a company like Lodge (founded 1896) or Wagner (founded 1891).  And if you want to think about the availability of high-end cookware aimed at more regular folks, what about the company born of a trip to Paris in 1952, on which Chuck Williams first encountered “classic French cooking equipment like omelet pans and souffle molds whose quality I’d never seen in the U.S.” Williams opened his first store in 1956 in the then very ordinary small-town farming community of Sonoma, California.  Williams-Sonoma proved to have legs, I believe.

__

__

Again, the point isn’t that one store in Sonoma in 1956 = sauciers for everyone.  It is that McArdle has neither knowledge nor diligence enough to investigate even this really elementary question of fact:   whether or not Americans in the ’50s cooked in lots of different kinds of pots.

__

And how about this:

I don’t believe that they have gone without fresh produce for six to eight months at a time, as my mother did in her childhood–and was told to be grateful for the frozen vegetables which hadn’t been available when her mother was young…Is the shift to flash frozen produce greater, or less great, than the shift from flash frozen to the fresh produce made possible by falling trade barriers, rising air travel, and the advent of container shipping?

There’s a lot wrong with this little passage, but here, let me just point out that McArdle is simply wrong in what she implies here about the history of the transport of refrigerated food.  The earliest prototype of a mechanically cooled railroad car received a US patent in 1880.  It certainly did take a long time for that to yield practical diesel-powered refrigeration on rails, but the use of natural ice for refrigerating specially designed rail cars — “reefers” dates back to the mid 19th century.  By the early 1880s, the Swift company were using ice-cooled cars to deliver 3,000 carcasses a week from the midwest to Boston.  When ice production on industrial scale took off around the turn of the twentieth century, refrigeration on rails became so pervasive that 183,000 reefer cars were on US rails by 1930.

__

All of which is to say that the delivery of fresh food to locations distant from production is something that has evolved over the last century and a half — and is not simply, or even mostly, the result of falling trade barriers, air transport or containers.

Or, in other words, McArdle — again — knows not whereof she speaks.

Of course, this being a piece by McArdle, it is not possessed merely of  factual howlers.  Misused citations also do their duty.

For one:  McArdle writes that you can tell Americans in the ’50s ate badly by looking to the sources:

It shows in the cookbooks.  The Betty Crocker is full of economizing tips: ways to stretch ground beef by adding Wheaties; noodle and rice rings that artfully disguise the fact that there isn’t much protein to go around; “one egg” cakes praised for being economical.  This was not a handout for welfare recipients; it was expected that the average housewife would be anxiously counting the cost of the eggs and milk used in her baked goods, and looking for ways to stretch out even cheap cuts of meat at the end of the month.

A couple of things here:  cookbooks published in the late ’40s and early ’50s often retained some of the traces of WW II rationing; they are very useful documents for the social history of that era, but they are not wholly reliable guides to the cooking practices of the post-rationing world.

__

More to the point of method and intellectual honesty, there’s the question of whether or not a 50s era “average housewife” text is that different from later, similar works.  I checked my ’75 edition of The Joy of Cooking, a perhaps slightly more upmarket cookbook than the Betty Crocker, and I find that when you get to the ground meat section, for example, there is a section on stretching animal proteins with starches, how you flavor such mixtures and so on. (And I’m not even going to go into the wealth of “improving” cookbooks that were also the rage in the ’50s, and that would give the lie to McArdle’s suggestion that those benighted days were wholly nasty, brutish, and full of hamburger helpers.  I’ve got a classic double-volume edition of the Gourmet cookbook from that period that shows that would be pink-Himalayan saltanistas would have had plenty of guidance.)

__

And finally, this: it wouldn’t be a McArdle piece in all its glory without a bit of gratuitious viciousness to the poor:

Now, I’m sure there are still people in this country who worry about the price of adding an extra egg to their cakes–but they are not the average, or even close to the average.

Current percentage of Americans in poverty?  As of 2009, 14.3% nationwide, according the US Census Bureau. Almost exactly the same proportion — 14.7% — American households suffered food insecurity according to the Department of Agriculture.

__

That is to say, those who might weigh the price of eggs may not be not average — but more than one out of every eight Americans had a moment recently when they might have thought twice and thrice about cracking that last shell  — or rather, had no cake at all to ponder.

__

This, of course, is the point to which McArdle was tending this whole time.  Even here, in a seemingly weightless post about cooking and memory,  McArdle is still working her one consistent vein of propaganda:  We live now at the apex of history, in the best of all possible worlds and hence would alter the existing power structure at our own great risk … and BTW f*ck the poor.  Same old, same old, in other words and just as dishonestly advanced as in the more obviously political of her work.  Which makes it more dangerous, I think, not less.

Oh well.  I could and probably should have got to this point in the story much sooner.  But all the overkill above is actually aimed at anyone who still takes McArdle seriously on any score — and it is especially intended to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind about the damage she does by association to anyone and any institution that claims to be serious about journalism.  That she still survives — hell, holds a prominent position at The Atlantic — casts a shadow, fairly or not, over the work of the genuinely thoughtful real journalists who still publish there, folks like James Fallows and Ta-Nehisi Coates along with many others.

As they care for their reputation, they must wince at the collateral damage inflicted every time McArdle hits the “publish” button.

Images: “Coffee Robot” Original 1938 hang tag.
__
Diego Velasquez, Old Woman Frying Eggs, 1618
__

158 replies
  1. 1
    JGabriel says:

    Tom Levenson @ Top:

    You’d go become a shill, perhaps—a time honored retreat into expense account heaven for plenty of hacks who couldn’t hack the hard work of actually getting stuff right … or for whom, as in McArdle’s case, getting things wrong is a feature and not a bug.

    Megan McArdle Is Shill should become a new tagline.

    .

  2. 2
    Nutella says:

    She’s got more than one item in her agenda:

    1. Comfort the comfortable
    2. Afflict the afflicted
    3. Profit !! !!

  3. 3
    BGinCHI says:

    For a book project I’m working on (it’s fiction), a woman owns a vibrator. In the course of the story she gets it out but before she can use it she’s interrupted.

    In 1901.

    Many readers of the manuscript, including professional editors employed by my agent, commented that this was not right, that this is anachronistic. McCardlesque, I’d say.

    The vibrator was invented in the late 19th century and was one of the first household electric devices.

    You can read it all in Rachel Maines’ fascinating book, The Technology of Orgasm.

    http://www.amazon.com/Technolo.....0801866464

    This kind of stuff always surprises people who don’t do their homework.

  4. 4
    Woodrowfan says:

    FYI, I have seen “slow cookers” in 1910’s era kitchens. the modern crockpot was popularized after 1960 but the idea has been around for much longer.

    As for 1950s food, the usual comment I read is that “bland” was in, which set off a reaction in the 1960s.

    FYI, some BJ readers may enjoy “Building a Housewife’s Paradise: Gender, Politics, and American Grocery Stores in the Twentieth Century” which I found very interesting on how gender roles and shopping for the family food intersected.

    http://www.amazon.com/Building.....038;sr=1-1

  5. 5
    Jennifer says:

    Obviously McMegan has never been to a flea market, or she would have seen some of these mythical devices she imagined did not exist until 50 years ago. Like electric percolators and such as.

    Flea markets are for the little people, I suppose.

  6. 6
    Turbulence says:

    Once upon a time, in organizations that saw themselves as doing real journalism for audiences with an understanding of the term, errors actually mattered.

    I don’t think so. Its always been the case that journalists lies were not only tolerated but welcomed, as long as those lies supported the prevailing narrative. I give you this awesome post from A Tiny Revolution:

    CHOMSKY: [A] few years ago George Will wrote a column in Newsweek called “Mideast Truth and Falsehood,” about how peace activists are lying about the Middle East, everything they say is a lie. And in the article, there was one statement that had a vague relation to fact: he said that Sadat had refused to deal with Israel until 1977. So I wrote them a letter, the kind of letter you write to Newsweek—you know, four lines—in which I said, “Will has one statement of fact, it’s false; Sadat made a peace offer in 1971, and Israel and the United States turned it down.” Well, a couple days later I got a call from a research editor who checks facts for the Newsweek “Letters” column. She said: “We’re kind of interested in your letter, where did you get those facts?” So I told her, “Well, they’re published in Newsweek, on February 8, 1971″—which is true, because it was a big proposal, it just happened to go down the memory hole in the United States because it was the wrong story. So she looked it up and called me back, and said, “Yeah, you’re right, we found it there; okay, we’ll run your letter.” An hour later she called again and said, “Gee, I’m sorry, but we can’t run the letter.” I said, “What’s the problem?” She said, “Well, the editor mentioned it to Will and he’s having a tantrum; they decided they can’t run it.” Well, okay.

    Now, if you really believe that there was some halcyon day back when journalists who just made shit up were fired, how do you explain George Will?

  7. 7
    dmsilev says:

    Anything McMegan writes should be taken with a large pinch of pink Himalayan salt.

    Or a large glass of some strong alcoholic beverage; that’s more effective at dulling the pain from banging one’s head against the wall.

    dms

  8. 8
    BGinCHI says:

    @Turbulence: This is why we can’t have nice things.

  9. 9
    Danno says:

    It’s also worth remembering that part of the function of the Betty Crocker Cookbook was to sell other General Mills products by including them in the recipies.

  10. 10
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Turbulence: You have a very good point.

    But there are some counterexamples.

  11. 11
    RSA says:

    Now, I’m sure there are still people in this country who worry about the price of adding an extra egg to their cakes—but they are not the average, or even close to the average.

    I never trust libertarians when it comes to the word “average”.

  12. 12
    ed says:

    @JGabriel:

    Megan McArdle Is Shill should become a new tagline.

    Second.

  13. 13
    trollhattan says:

    Dear Lord, I know McMegan can spell defenestration, I wonder whether she can spell evisceration, ’cause that’s what just occurred here.

    Rumor had it she was considered for the cherished Chunky Reece Witherspoon Douthat chair at the NYT, which would have created a river of “Even the Liberal New York Times” quips but even the Atlantic gig gains her entre to a lot of opportunities to publicly spew as a faux expert.

    Since she, nor The Atlantic offers any hint of embarrassment or willingness to make it stop, I guess she’ll continue to rewrite history, in Crayon, until she’s old and rich.

  14. 14
    MonkeyBoy says:

    I believe my family used Revere Ware pots and pans in the 1950s.

    Its copper-bottomed pots, first brought out in the 1930s, are classic kitchen staples.

  15. 15
    Pooh says:

    George Will loves baseball tho.

  16. 16

    You should also check out Susan of Texas’ takedown of this particular McArgleBargle Time Warp.

  17. 17
    Catsy says:

    @BGinCHI: You might appreciate this if you haven’t seen it already.

  18. 18
    Jennifer says:

    RE: 50’s food – what McMegan overlooks (along with so, so many other things) is that the 1950s is when “convenience foods” exploded – it wasn’t the dawn of processed foods, but it was when they became a staple of the supermarket and the kitchen. Flipping through 50’s cookbooks what really strikes you is how the recipes all call for processed ingredients – canned this and that, bullion cubes, cereals, etc etc. You find lots of recipes advising to lay on the MSG. Most of them specify margarine instead of butter, shortening instead of lard, etc. So yeah, it was bad food – they were trying to retrain people from eating stuff they made themselves from fresh or home-preserved ingredients.

  19. 19
    JGabriel says:

    Tom Levenson @ Top:

    More to the point of method and intellectual honesty, there’s the question of whether or not a 50s era “average housewife” text is that different from later, similar works. I checked my ‘75 edition of The Joy of Cooking … and I find that when you get to the ground meat section, for example, there is a section on stretching animal proteins with starches, how you flavor such mixtures and so on.

    Tom, to be fair, the original edition of The Joy of Cooking was first published in 1931 (with 5 more editions between ’36 – ’46) and — like the 40’s cookbooks written with rationing in mind — it still retains traces of the depression that was taking place when it’s first few editions were published. It’s not really the best example for the point you are making.

    .

  20. 20
    handy says:

    There are those who think the least snark directed Megan McArdle’s way is a waste of time

    I don’t get this critique. Being the the economics editor at an outfit like the Atlantic I assume affords them an audience of no small significance. So because she makes shoddy arguments with some regularity they should be ignored? Hell, tintin at the Sadlys aim for much lower-hanging fruit than McArdle. I don’t see a lot of pearl clutching among their FPers urging him to ease the throttle.

    ETA: stupid ideas should be refuted as often as they are made, without respect to who’s making them.

  21. 21
    trollhattan says:

    @Turbulence:

    Now, if you really believe that there was some halcyon day back when journalists who just made shit up were fired, how do you explain George Will?

    I understand 1998 was the coldest…hottest oh, Al Gore’s chubbiest year evah and the Chevy Volt is a Chinese plot. My bowtie sez so.

  22. 22
    Another Commenter at Balloon Juice (fka Bella Q) says:

    Thank you Tom, for reading McMegan, our lady of perpetual sloppy errors, so that I don’t have to.

  23. 23
    Jager says:

    Since I was alive and aware in the 50’s, my Mom’s kitchen may have not had a crock pot, she had a dutch oven, you know a crock pot you put in the oven on low heat. She did have a Boston Baked Bean Pot, a little, brown crock pot on an electric heating element, my sister still uses it. I still use Mom’s GE waffle iron circa 1947, works great. I’d trade my kitchen for her’s in a heartbeat and her stand mixer weighed about 50 pounds! She had a dynamite chrome percolator coffee pot, lasted for years and when she got a Mr Coffee, she used it for a week and went back to the old percolator!

  24. 24
    Violet says:

    Is McMegan addressing how the cost of food has changed over time? Is that part of her point? (I haven’t read her post.)

    In the 1950’s, food was about 32% of a household’s budget. In 2007 it was 15%. Link. Housing costs have gone the other way. If food costs more you’ll watch your pennies there more closely.

  25. 25
    Nylund says:

    Megan has never written anything that suggests she’s ever spent more than 5 minutes researching any topic. She just assumes that whatever comes to her mind is a universal truth. That arrogance and lack of effort is really off-putting and it has led me to assume that its more likely that she has her facts entirely backwards most of the time.

    As for progress and technology, I remember when I thought Captain Kirk’s handheld communicator was the most futuristic and fantastic thing I could ever imagine, and here I am now with my own vastly superior and more powerful pocket communicator. His couldn’t even text, much less surf the web.

  26. 26
    Jager says:

    @BGinCHI:

    The whaling crew wives in New England used dildoes carved in the shape of their husbands unit, usually in whale bone. They called them “My Husband’s Brother” they were hand powered of course unless the town crier was available to help out!

  27. 27
    Loneoak says:

    The other writers do occasionally argue with her, but they never tear her down. I few posts like this internally would probably kill her career permanently.

  28. 28
    BGinCHI says:

    @Catsy: File under “I’ve seen it all now.”

    Or, We’re all Steampunk now.

  29. 29
    RSR says:

    geez, the phrase banana republic derives from the early 20th century cultivation and shipping of the namesake fruit from South and Central America…

  30. 30
    BGinCHI says:

    @Jager: Thanks for that. History comes alive!

  31. 31
    trollhattan says:

    @Loneoak:

    It’s pretty clear they have a no-fratricide policy. Pity, I’d love to see TNC give it a go. Andrew, they’d just blame it on hormones and wave it off.

  32. 32
    J.W. Hamner says:

    Nice post. When I read her comments it felt a lot like somebody justifying their $50K kitchen remodel and thousands of dollars invested in high end pans and kitchen gadgets by arguing that they provided her a cooking experience exponentially superior to any plebe from the 50’s!

    It also seems strange to argue how HAWESOME cooking is in the 21st century when it is really only recently had a popular resurgence with her crowd. Most people our age grew up on instant ramen and neon yellow mac and cheese… give me a nice home cooked “bland” 50’s meal over that any day.

  33. 33
    freelancer says:

    Since I was alive and aware in the 50’s, my Mom’s kitchen may have not had a crock pot, she had a dutch oven, you know a crock pot you put in the oven on low heat. She did have a Boston Baked Bean Pot, a little, brown crock pot on an electric heating element, my sister still uses it. I still use Mom’s GE waffle iron circa 1947, works great. I’d trade my kitchen for her’s in a heartbeat and her stand mixer weighed about 50 pounds! She had a dynamite chrome percolator coffee pot, lasted for years and when she got a Mr Coffee, she used it for a week and went back to the old percolator!

    Best. Abe Simpson. Impersonation. Ever.

  34. 34
    Tonal Crow says:

    McArdle is the chief reason I cancelled my subscription to The Atlantic. Harpers, here I come.

  35. 35
    General Stuck says:

    Meghan is just playing 11 dementional checkers for shits and giggles. Some day, she’ll spring her cure for cancer on all you smarty pants.

  36. 36
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Jager: One of my favorite factoids in this realm is that the Spanish name for this particular device is consolador.

    Heh.

  37. 37
    Continental Op says:

    Philip Marlowe used a vacuum coffee maker.

  38. 38
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Violet: Yup. I was going to go into this, but ran out of patience with a post going way over length and time.

    Basically — we spend more in raw dollars and less in percentage of income now. Lots of sociology could be spun off this, but Megan’s argument here was just word salad. She tossed out a factoid and hoped no one would actually look at whether or not it bore on her nominal argument.

  39. 39
    MikeJ says:

    @JGabriel:

    the original edition of The Joy of Cooking was first published in 1931

    If that’s true why is it full of pictures of naked hippies?

  40. 40
    JGabriel says:

    MikeJ, that’s not “The Joy of Cooking“…

    .

  41. 41
    Tom Levenson says:

    @JGabriel: Actually, I disagree. (a) By 1975 much of the depression stuff had been long since edited out. (No rosin-baked potatoes, thank FSM). (b) her point was that cookbooks for the middle class emphasized cheap foods. Mine was that such emphasis remained for a long time after 1960. Which I do think is true.

  42. 42
    Jeanne ringland says:

    @Woodrowfan:The Sunkist co-op was formed in 1893 so that fresh oranges could be sold out of the immediate area without giving all the profits to the train companies.

    Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published in 1961.

    I will admit that most of what I ate in the 1950s through the mid-60s was pretty bland because my mother grew up in the midwest (Independence, MO) and was suspicious of that bulb known as garlic, that is until she made her first standing rib roast. After that garlic crept into more and more of the food she cooked, although never she never did use it as liberally as we do today.

  43. 43
    Ash Can says:

    I don’t believe that they have gone without fresh produce for six to eight months at a time, as my mother did in her childhood

    Where the hell did her mother grow up? In a trailer park in Antarctica?

  44. 44
    kindness says:

    Maybe The Atlantic uses the same ‘factcheckers’ the The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal use?

  45. 45
    BGinCHI says:

    @Continental Op: Christopher Marlowe was murdered in a tavern, stabbed through the eye with his own dagger.

  46. 46
    Jeanne ringland says:

    @MonkeyBoy: My family had those too, purchased sometime between 1947 and 1950.

  47. 47
    Steve says:

    Geez, guys, we’re not bonobos.

  48. 48
    birthmarker says:

    @MonkeyBoy: I KNOW women used Revereware in the 50s because my mom did. It lasts forever. Very heavy and well made. I use it myself.

  49. 49
    fasteddie9318® says:

    You know what she could do? Register her name as a trademark. That would really help something, somehow.

  50. 50
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Jeanne ringland: Mine too, from the mid ’50s. Still in use in the cabin my parents built in ’64, now by the third generation.

  51. 51
    Jager says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    When the rich bastards were buying up houses on Nantucket and restoring them they found those handy implements all the time. usually tucked away behind a panel in the bedroom. I don’t think they are on display at the whaling museum, probably locked in the back room or some investment bankers wife kept it for her personal use.

  52. 52
    Choey says:

    When I was a boy in the ’40s and ’50s, my mother had a Mixmaster stand mixer and an electric slow cooker. I don’t remember what brand it was (Crockpot is a brand name) but it had a picture of a chef on the front and his eyes glowed orange when the heating element came on.

  53. 53
    JGabriel says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    … her point was that cookbooks for the middle class emphasized cheap foods. Mine was that such emphasis remained for a long time after 1960. Which I do think is true.

    No doubt. My response also made that point.

    I intially interpreted the phrase “later, similar works” as meaning “modern cookbooks”, but you’re correct — it can also mean cookbooks with similar textual history. I don’t why I didn’t consider that on the first reading. Mea culpa.

    .

  54. 54
    Sko Hayes says:

    I bought a 1955 GE stand mixer at a garage sale and it still works like a charm. Because I wanted something bigger, I went out and bought a Sunbeam a couple of years ago. The motor sounds like it’s getting ready to give up the ghost already.
    When I bought this house 8 years ago, there was a huge chest freezer in the garage that was left behind because it was 50 years old and way too big to move.
    You could hide two or three bodies in there, easily, it’s that big. And it still runs (though probably an energy hog).

    And Tom, I followed your links to the other columns, and this one was quite prescient, wasn’t it?

    So perhaps unsurprisingly, when offered the opportunity to put some money down on the proposition that one of these firearms is soon going to be discharged at someone, they all decline…

    This is getting tedious: the fallacies here include the ad hominem argument — because people don’t bet, what they say is wrong — and yet another straw man. Who are these mythical non-gamblers. I’ll take the damn bet. Here’s a 100 bucks that says that some asshole fires a weapon at a political rally before the end of Obama’s first term.

  55. 55
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Sko Hayes: Yes. Sadly.

  56. 56
    Violet says:

    @Ash Can:
    Yeah, no kidding. Unless by “fresh produce” she means “vegetables harvested between May and August.” I guess early vegetables like broccoli, etc. don’t count. Nor do the fall and winter squashes.

  57. 57
    Dennis G. says:

    And there is Revere Ware–those stainless steel pots and pans that were everywhere in the 50s

  58. 58
    Jeanne ringland says:

    @Tom Levenson: I had to look up rosin baked potatoes. My family never inflicted such a thing on us, nor did my extended hill-billy family of aunts and uncles.

  59. 59
    Jeanne ringland says:

    @Tom Levenson: Funny, the ones we were given when we got married in 1969 are in our cabin, too.

  60. 60
    Tonal Crow says:

    @Steve:

    Geez, guys, we’re not bonobos.

    Why the hell not?

  61. 61
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Jeanne ringland: Takes a special kind of bachelor Norwegian farmer to make them, I think.

    At any rate, in the pre-war JoC in which I read about them first time, they were touted as a great snack after ice skating…

  62. 62
    AdamK says:

    Food processer? We had a Foley Food Mill. Can’t beat a Foley Food Mill for millin’ yer food.

  63. 63
    Pococurante says:

    So, despite the truth that each time someone points out she’s made another howler it only adds to her profile, I think there is a duty to do so.

    That must be wrong. BJ frontpagers pull this crap as well. There’s no more “accountability” for this community either. Why insist on a double standard.

    Yeah she is shrill. Yeah she doesn’t apologize. Yeah she shrinks into her “community” to justify it.

    Yeah.

  64. 64
    RossInDetroit says:

    She may be full of baloney but I kind of like her prose. Lively, colorful and varied. It’s to my taste anyway. Now if only it was employed in the service of something worthwhile.

  65. 65
    brad says:

    I think the point of this particular column was Megan wanting to feel like a superhuman future hero-god. I’m reminded of her claiming that her hi-def tv gave her special insight into the 08 election because McCain looked really old on it. Her work has two purposes; to reinforce for her, and her clique, that they are special humans who deserve special things and history has progressed solely to provide them for them, and that corporations and the rich people behind them define positive morality by their actions.

    And, having spent years rolling this rock up the hill only to finally step out of its way, I’m both glad and sad that people like you and Susan are still at it, Tom. The interwebs need periodic reminders that Megan is a mendacious hack whose only talent is to somehow never discover there are basic facts which disprove the central premises of her entire worldview.

  66. 66
    JGabriel says:

    @Pococurante:

    There’s no more “accountability” for this community either. Why insist on a double standard.
    __
    Yeah she is shrill. Yeah she doesn’t apologize.

    But you see, the front-pager’s here DO apologize.

    Here’s a post from Tom Levenson, the author of this post, apologizing to, of all people, McArdle herself: Boy Do I Hate Doing This…But I Gotta, and, for another instance, Cole has repeatedly apologized for his early stance as a supporter of the Iraq War.

    .

  67. 67
    RossInDetroit says:

    Oh, and BTW you can click through to a VERY large high def version of that gorgeous still life with lobster. It’s wonderful.
    I did not know that the German word for lobster was ‘hummer’. Wonder if GM thought that through before branding their big trucks.

  68. 68
    jl says:

    History of Kitchen appliance (really more a grab bag list)
    http://inventors.about.com/od/.....itchen.htm

    Waffle irons since 1869. I love waffles.

  69. 69
    birthmarker says:

    @Dennis G.: Do they make Revere Ware now? I terminally burned rice in one I had for 25+ years, and had to resort to Ebay to replace it. I use that one several times a week. Shines like a new quarter.

    We grew up in a suburban area in the 50’s, and my mother’s kitchen probably wasn’t that different from mine now except for the microwave. My grandmother lived in a rural area and was relatively poor, and I can remember the feasts she would put out. Quail, fried chicken, roast, chicken and dressing, every veg you could grow or buy, homemade rolls…mmm. Desserts to die for–not depression (or depressing) food by any means. Much better than the packaged and frozen premade stuff we eat now.

  70. 70
    JGabriel says:

    RossInDetroit:

    I did not know that the German word for lobster was ‘hummer’.

    The Russian word for “blow job” has some sort of graphical similarity to “minetta”. The only reason I know this is because I have a Russian friend who loves taking his guests down to Greenwich Village and photographing them leaning against the signpost for Minetta Lane.

    I guess Europeans can be just as immature as we are.

    .

  71. 71
    gwangung says:

    @Pococurante: And the front pagers here DO apologize. And even change their minds when called on it. Even for stuff that’s not obviously wrong.

    Dunno about you, but I’d call that accountable.

  72. 72
    Tom Levenson says:

    @birthmarker: Revere Ware for sale via Amazon.

    Happy to help; we’re here all week. Don’t forget to tip your servers…

  73. 73
    birthmarker says:

    @Tom Levenson: Ha! Thanks!

  74. 74
    Arundel says:

    You know who else talked about cake and the poor? Hint: she lost her head.

    — As Susan of Texas points out, Mcmegan just mangles Krugman and Cowen’s central point. That there was a quantum leap in kitchens from the late 19th century to the 20’s. That plumbing and electricity and a stable and growing middle class made the mod cons available to many. The difference between chopping wood to start a fire in the stove , hauling or pumping water, or a 1945 kitchen that we moderns could use, was drastic. They were saying that the pace of change since has been incremental, not as amazing as that jump to mod cons from say, a log cabin’s kitchen without electricity or water. God.

    — It’s funny that she’s talking about the price of eggs for a cake mix. I’ve read that cake mix manufacturers added this step- the egg- because postwar housewives didn’t really feel like they were “cooking” with the new, easy mixes. The egg is just there to make it seem more like what they were used to. Anyway, that’s what I read.

    — Anyone who’s seen the film East of Eden would know that refrigerated trains became a booming business ca. 1900. Anyone who hasn’t seen East of Eden is not someone I’d consider too culturally literate.

  75. 75
    RossInDetroit says:

    @JGabriel:

    And there’s another meaning of ‘hummer’ that I forgot.
    Sorry for the crustaceous OT. I’m staggeringly tired. And hungry.

  76. 76
    MikeJ says:

    Arundel: WP hates dashes.

    FYWP.

  77. 77
    scav says:

    books, I knew I had books. The Comforts of Home: The American House and the Evolution of Modern Convenience by Merritt Ierley

    Factoids:
    first successful electric dishwasher? 1924 (tried in 1913), with others that were gas-powered and hand-cranked before that.
    1891: electric coffee or tea pot, electric iron and electric pancake griddle.
    1901: electric chafing dish and electric curling iron heater.
    1902: 8-inch electric frying kettle and electric waffle iron
    1909 electric corn popper!

    Only for the truly obsessive: From Fireplace to Cookstove: Technology and the Domestic Ideal in America by Priscilla J. Brewer. Don’t ask. I can also be, umm, dull, about medieval cooking arrangements.

  78. 78
    redoubt says:

    @trollhattan:If TNC doesn’t know something he is not afraid to ask questions. (He has a semi-regular feature called “Talk To Me Like I’m Stupid” about some subject he doesn’t know enough about.)

    We used to call people like that “journalists.”

  79. 79
    freelancer says:

    “What’s the ‘Wingnut Outrage du Jour’?”
    “That’s the ‘Wingnut Outrage of the Day’.”
    That sounds good. I’ll have that.

  80. 80
    Rebecca says:

    You are all missing the beauty of this post. Her post was supposed to be an “oh, snap” rebuttal to a Krugman column. Krugman was trying to say that improvements in the kitchen from 1918 to 1957 were greater than anything that has come since. There have been vast improvements in the past 50 years, but can’t compare the changes wrought in our everyday lives by universal electricity, running water, refrigeration (not just an “ice box” with an actual block of ice) and a stove that doesn’t require a steady supply of cut wood. Krugman was trying to make a larger point that so many of todays inventions are like that- they make life even easier, but not to the same scale. Then Megan, because she hates Krugman, tried to get all petty and say, “Oh, your point is invalid because,you know, stand mixers and such.” And then she gets her examples all wrong! Ha!

  81. 81
    Liberty60 says:

    But it isn’t just McCardle who pushes the meme that we live at the apex of history- for most people who live upper middle/ McMansion lives, this IS the apex of the history that they know.

    “Name” journalists, columnists who have gigs like the Atlantic live very different lives from “average” Americans, but mistakenly think they are regular Joes.

    This is why unemployment insurance is a strange and exotic issue for them, why the central issue in health insurance reform is whether or not you can keep your plan that offers free yoga, not whether or not a waitress in Cleveland will get chemo for her breast cancer.

  82. 82
    jl says:

    forgot to add that refrigerator cars, cooled with crushed ice, got going in the late 19th century. Pacific Fruit Express (not sure of exact name) was biggest refrigerator car company in the world shortly after beginning of 20th century.

    Ability to ship cooled vegetables had a huge impact on California agriculture. Gave impetus to shift away from dry farmed grains and some fruits, like apples, to irrigation projects that by state and feds, and shift to current crops.

    I think freezing was big immediately post WWII as an alternative to canned goods. And I do not see what McArdle has against frozen veggies and fruit, most of it is good, though some things I think are ruined by any processing at all (green peas, for example).

    If vegetables and fruits in produce sections seem ‘fresher’ now than in 50s or 60s, I think due to better understanding of chemistry ripening, and understanding how to keep most produce in a kind of suspended animation with special high nitrogen, low oxygen, low carbon dioxide atmosphere and chilling down to a few degrees above freezing.

    For some produce, the stuff is so green and sits there for an indeterminate time, the packer/processor squirts a little chemical that is the natural ripening enzyme, or hormone, or whatever it is called for the plan, methane as an example. So you can hold the produce in suspended animation for a couple of weeks and then chemically ripen it for a few days before it ships.

    I DO (edit, deleted a bad ‘not’ here) think the new technology for produce preservation has degraded produce. Farmers and packers, knowing how the technology works, pick stuff green, and the whole process produces fruit and vegetables in the store that often seem to be variations on cucumbers.

    Problem is that for all of the tartness, sweetness and flavor, you need to some picked close to ripe. A lot of chemicals needed for full taste are not in there if picked too green, so the flavors can be unbalanced, one dimensional, flat, or cucumbery because missing so much. And some flavor chemicals naturally matabolize away, even with the suspended animation treatment. So you get produce that is simultaneously too ripe and too green in the supermarkets sometimes. I think this effect is especially bad in carrots and apples.

    But I think that suspended animation process is the reason for the very perfect looking fruit as big as your head and with the taste as flat as your feet that you often get in the store.

    This stuff impacts me in CA, since the storage time is often so long, the fruit is messed with even before you consider shipping time. Irritates me a little, that there are good carrots sitting in some warehouse in Salinas, and it will be three weeks before they show up in the local supermarket.

  83. 83
    David Margolies says:

    Let’s see, in the 50 in the DC suburbs:

    1. We had revere ware. McM is right that it was lower quality than todays high end pots, but better than today’s revere ware (used thicker gauge steel) and perfectly usable. Cast iron frying pans — had them then, have them now, as good as any other and cheaper.

    2. We have an electric percolator.

    3. My mother made shrimp salad out of fresh or frozen shrimp all the time (never from canned).

    4. There was (maybe still is) a fish market on the SW DC waterfront selling fresh fish (mmmm shad roe, loved it).

    5. We have a blender and an electric mixer.

    6. She is right that trade agreements and lower transport costs make many things available year round, but local produce is better and there was plenty of local produce (we would go for drives on Sundays to farmers stands in the country). But I am not sure how that contradicts Krugman and Cowen’s point, which is about technology. (As someone else pointed out we got bananas since the 1910s. A trade agreement is good but not technology.)

    7. Frozen veg were and are okay, some better than ok (good frozen peas are often better than fresh because they throw out the starchy ones and the sugars do not convert to starch while frozen).

    8. As long as we are going on about non-technology, meat at regular supermarkets (e.g. Safeway) was much better — all choice, no select — and real butchers who would help you, hamburger ground on the premises, etc. Milk and cream was better, but bread was much, much worse except in some ethnic neighborhoods and San Francisco.

    9. Saran wrap seems to date from 1948. Aluminum foil well before WW-II.

    10. We did not have a dishwasher until the 60s (nor a TV but that was part snobbery), though they may have been available.

    I think K+C are basically right. I would be lost in a 1890s kitchen, but could walk into a 1950s kitchen and start right in cooking. Even today I rarely use the microwave, pretty rarely use the food processor, boil water in a kettle for coffee. I use the stand mixer and the hand mixer a lot, but as pointed out, they are pre-WW-II technologies.

  84. 84
    trollhattan says:

    @redoubt:

    Agreed, I hold him in highest regard. I suspect he’s bit right through his knuckles more than once with something McMegan has written, or perhaps he spares himself the pleasure of the read.

  85. 85
    jl says:

    Forgot to add kicker in the last sentence of my comment

    Irritates me a little, that there are good carrots sitting in some warehouse in Salinas, and it will be three weeks before they show up in the local supermarket {70 MILES AWAY daggummitall).

  86. 86
    racrecir says:

    The Century Of The Self explains the “one egg” cake mix. Housewives had told market researchers that they welcomed these instant products, but they weren’t buying them because they felt guilty because using the products was too easy. So Betty Crocker was advised to add an instruction to the package to ‘add one egg’ to give housewives a sense of participation in the cooking.

    There was an article several years ago about the history of the vibrator that said that vibrators were used by psychiatrists in the late 19th century to calm hysterical women. Apparently, this led to an increase in the incidence of hysterical women.

  87. 87
    Scamp Dog says:

    @Loneoak: A few posts like this internally would probably kill her the poster’s career permanently.

    I’ve developed a deeply cynical attitude about our media climate.

  88. 88
    km says:

    Re: Arundel’s point at 72.

    Yup, the one-egg cake was a fix cooked up by Betty Crocker n the 50s when their “water only” cake mix didn’t sell well because it was considered too easy by most housewives at the time. See Donald Norman’s _Emotional Design_, pp. 55-56.

  89. 89
    RossInDetroit says:

    Commercial cooking has changed more than home cooking since the ’50s. This has been driven by efficiency rather than by quality but that hardly needs saying.

  90. 90
    The Other Chuck says:

    You really have to do a lot of googling to get everything as consistently wrong as McMegan. It’s like she took a good hour or so to come up with such concentrated wrongness. The drunk opinionated asshole at the end of the bar usually calls them better than her.

    On the other hand, some of the food from bygone days was pretty horrifying. Anyone who hasn’t seen The Gallery of Regrettable Food is missing out on some fantastic kitsch.

  91. 91
    Jules says:

    She’s an idiot.

    While All Clad is better then 50’s Revere Ware it is in no way then good old fashion cast iron. I have both and I pretty much use my cast iron cookware everyday.
    I could go on about my collection of stand mixers from the 40’s and 50’s (they are just STILL too easy to come by to have only been an item used by the upper middle class) or how even immersion blenders are nothing more then a remake of an older product that has recently became cool again.

    But this is all about McMegan and her awesome skills and yeah, she and her husband have to have a fucking electric salt shaker/pepper mill.
    Seriously.

  92. 92
    Evolved Deep Southerner says:

    It would be better for both the body politic and the culture at large if McArdle’s fifteen minutes simply dwindled to their inevitable end.

    Fifteen minutes of fame among whom? I always figured the population of this blog probably accounted for 75 percent of all the people in the world who knew she existed.

  93. 93
    andrewsomething says:

    But she said on twitter that she spent all day researching for that post! I kid you not:

    http://twitter.com/asymmetrici.....250873856#

  94. 94
    jl says:

    @Jules: No mayonnaise loaf? Maybe I missed it.

  95. 95
    RossInDetroit says:

    @The Other Chuck:

    We have a small collection of really bad cook books. Some times when I’m down I console myself that at least I’m not at a fancy dinner being served bouillon in suet cups.

  96. 96
    trollhattan says:

    This disappeared in moderation(?) I’ll try again with extra spaces in the link.

    Behold: McMegan’s bridesmaids.

    http://ww w.jitterb uzz.com/apsho/appliance_girls_lg.jpg

  97. 97
    freelancer says:

    You really have to do a lot of googling to get everything as consistently wrong as McMegan.

    http://lmgtfy.com should create a splinter service: lmgtfmmc.com

  98. 98
    Origuy says:

    I love Velasquez. BBC did a three-part show called “The Art of Spain”, which you can find on YouTube in 15-minute chunks. This painting was one of the ones that were discussed.

  99. 99
    Allan says:

    @BGinCHI: I trust you are aware of the recent Tony-nominated play In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play). I haven’t had a chance to see it, but I’m definitely intrigued…

  100. 100
    trollhattan says:

    Hey, that worked. Pic is part of a page of photos from a late 20s-early 30s appliance show. McMegan’s research may have uncovered the unlikelihood that common folk in the depths of the Depression couldn’t afford most of this stuff, but by the ’50s? C’mon.

    http://www.jitterb uzz.com/aplsho.html

  101. 101
    Allan says:

    @andrewsomething: When you tweet her to mock her errors, she smartly replies, Heh. I have had interesting and meaningful exchanges via tweet with Dave Weigel, Keith Olbermann, Roland Martin and many other people who are actually far more famous than she. And smarter.

  102. 102
    Jeanne ringland says:

    @jl: I remember frozen vegetables from the 50s and 60s as kind of awful, and I actually preferred canned peas as a child. Ok, I’m told by my husband that that was weird of me. That was the only thing, though. I wonder if the people preparing the frozen peas we encountered at banquets didn’t know how to cook them correctly. They were always hard and most of the time arrived with overcooked carrots.

    These days we do not eat tomatoes we didn’t grow ourselves, which means we go about 6 months without them.

  103. 103
    RossInDetroit says:

    I’ve seen electric toasters so old that instead of a pronged power plug they had a threaded connector like a light bulb base. Where there were no outlet sockets people screwed them into a light fixture to make toast. I like toast as much as the next guy but…

  104. 104
    Turgidson says:

    @RossInDetroit:

    I think she just comes off as a self-righteous snot straight out of Mean Girls. But that’s just me.

  105. 105
    SBJules says:

    @MonkeyBoy:

    I used a revere ware pot that my grandmother bought in 1949 until the mid 90s when the handle fell off. I bought a new revere ware pot.

    I was around in the 50’s; a kid but I paid attention. Boy did she get stuff wrong.

  106. 106
    trollhattan says:

    @David Margolies:

    I think K+C are basically right. I would be lost in a 1890s kitchen, but could walk into a 1950s kitchen and start right in cooking. Even today I rarely use the microwave, pretty rarely use the food processor, boil water in a kettle for coffee. I use the stand mixer and the hand mixer a lot, but as pointed out, they are pre-WW-II technologies.

    Ever see “1900 House”? Fascinating and yeah, not enough hours in the day to do all those chores.

    http://www.amazon.ca/1900-House/dp/B00004U2K7

    The biggest labo(u)r saver has to be the clothes washer and clothes designed to go into them. I don’t think another appliance comes close.

  107. 107
    And Another Thing... says:

    @MonkeyBoy: My Mom bought a set of “waterless cookware” in the fifties. I have very distinct memories of it because my Dad was really pissed about it when he returned from a 6 month US Navy deployment. We had so much money at the time that we (me and my 5 sibs & Mom & Dad) ate all our meals at a picnic table my Dad built. They didn’t buy a proper table & chairs until at least 5 years later.

    The cookware was heavy, well built stainless steel, which my Dad still uses and which will be inherited by somebody.

    McArdle is demonstrably a serial idiot, and The Atlantic demonstrably is incapable of shame and having professional standards.

  108. 108
    Violet says:

    Well, she’s never going to go away. She warns her boss:

    Warning for @jbennet: if I am ever fired, not only chaos will result, but also rains of frogs, plagues of boils, and probably locusts.

    She thinks she’s being clever, doesn’t she?

  109. 109
    gelfling545 says:

    In her assertion about scarcity or meat protein she has to be mistaken. The home of my childhood was in a (lower) working class area and meat was served in our house and those of the neighbors every day but Friday. Let me reiterate that we were in no way well to do so the price must have been quite reasonable.

    Bread or other starch was added to ground meat to promote tenderness and help absorb the binding liquids (egg, etc.), not to stretch it.

  110. 110
    kth says:

    Birdseye isn’t just the most famous frozen vegetable brand, it’s the name of the guy who invented flash-freezing. He fucking died in 1956, having patented his process back in 1924 and sold out to what became General Foods in 1929.

  111. 111

    Jesus McCardle is incredibly retarded.

    I grew up in a 1960s kitchen, not a 1950s one. But my mother had a meat grinder, a scale, and all sorts of contraptions that I’d never use. No she didn’t have a Cuisnart but she had the gazillion contraptions that the Cuisinart replaced … I mean Jesus it’s not like the home kitchen is representative of anything.

  112. 112
    RossInDetroit says:

    This discussion makes me want to ask my grandmother for her opinions. She’s been preparing meals for families for over 80 years. She also has the sharpest memory for detail of anyone I’ve ever met. Could probably narrate a history of home cooking from about 1935 on and give you the year and month of introduction of every appliance she’s ever used. I’m not exaggerating.

  113. 113
    Steaming Pile says:

    @Jennifer: You win the Thread. Everyone here should read Populuxe, which is the most authoritative coffee table book about mid-20th century culture in existence, hands-down. All this stuff about using Ritz crackers and such in recipes was all about convenience, faux-creativity, and getting people to buy more processes food. It wasn’t about haute cuisine, and it certainly wasn’t about economy.

    Near the beginning of the book, it was like this – the generation preceding the Boomers was stunted in size due to the Great Depression and the Second World War. Madison Avenue carefully considered the problem of too few people chasing too many goods, and decided that if they can’t get people to buy more cars, for example, they’d get people to buy more car. So it was options out the wazoo, chrome all over the place, tail fins, etc. This same mentality spilled out across the economy of the Eisenhower era.

  114. 114
    rapier says:

    Come the revolution, well there will be no revolution, but come the Revolution of imagination, MM would be among the first to the guillotine. Truly, the Marie Antoinette of our age.

    In fact her nick is Marie. Please use it.

  115. 115
    El Cid says:

    The most important point Krug/Cowen were discussing was the notion of fundamental advances in kitchen technology.

    The difference between an electric percolator and a drip coffee maker is pretty much nil on the technological advance level. (Percolators generally make better tasting coffee, though.)

    The difference between a blender and a food processor — also, technologically zero.

    So McAddled is unable to identify and address the major argument. And when attempting, uses trivial and inapplicable examples.

  116. 116
    Svensker says:

    @gelfling545:

    Yes, you are correct. After the War — and remember people had also been going through the Depression before that — high status meat eating became almost a duty of every American. Steaks, roasts and chops were what you ate. For a treat, we’d have spaghetti and meatballs or a “stretched” meat or chicken dish. The only thing that slowed it down was the demand was so high that prices skyrocketed for a bit, until farmers stepped up production.

    McArdle is full of crappola.

  117. 117
    Lesley says:

    I’d classify this post of Meghan’s as ‘Junk Food for Thought’

    Not even close to being appetizing or nutritional.

  118. 118
    JPL says:

    @andrewsomething: That’s funny. She could have stopped 60 somethings on the street and asked about their kitchens as children. Yes, Megan we had stoves and fridges.
    We didn’t have an automatic ice maker or stores that sold bags of ice so for large parties my mother would go to the ice house. lol

  119. 119
    Steaming Pile says:

    @And Another Thing…: I’m sure that I will inherit a vintage, and still operational, hand mixer circa 1961, complete with its original box with price tag – $17.95. In 1961. Move the zero one place to the right to get an idea how much that was in today’s money. Shit was expensive, but it was made in the USA, and there wasn’t anywhere near as much other shit to buy as there is now.

    My earliest memory is of me sitting on the steps in our apartment in Waukeegan. The TV was on, I’ll say it’s sometime late 1964 or early 1965, and The Flying Nun was on. Of course, it was a black and white TV, 19 inches, sitting on one of those tubular steel stands popular in that era.

  120. 120
    RossInDetroit says:

    Cost of domestic appliances is interesting. I repair and sell ’60s tube audio gear. An amplifier of modest quality in 1963 cost the equivalent of $1500. It had typical modern features and produced about 25 watts/channel. They sounded great by the way. Most of my output goes to Asia and a little to Europe and S America.

  121. 121
    jwb says:

    This post triggered very cool cookery ads, so I guess we can be grateful to McMegan for that.

  122. 122
    Woodrowfan says:

    A couple of things.

    1) if McMoran had picked the 1940s she would have had better luck. Ice boxes were still common in the 40s in part because people often didn’t have the money to buy new appliances during the Depression, but after WWII there was such a great consumer boom that people did begin to buy new stuff. Just because the new gadgets were available doesn’t mean that the average kitchen had them right away.

    2) I think the food changed more since the 1950s than the kind of appliances. My fridge is much nice now than the ones we had even in the 70s. Who else remembers those metal ice cube trays? But they were both still electric fridges. But the food! How much more variety is there now in the stores? The big supermarkets built after WWII are now too small to compete, so they either get torn down, expanded, or sold to become smaller specialty stores. There was a store in my hometown in the 60s and 70s named “Woodys” that had all sorts of cool things: a deli, a bakery, a restaurant, all sorts of prepared hot foods. it was unique for the area when I was a kid, but now that sort of thing is expected in even small groceries.

    And then there is the ethnic foods. Who else ever had La Choy “Chinese Food” as a kid? (sings, La Choy makes Chinese food swing, American!) Now I can find entire sections of real Asian spices and foods, even if I don’t go to the local Asian market.

    I’d say a lot has changed even for the real average American in the food they eat since the 1950s, just not the stuff mcMegan claimed.

  123. 123
    muddy says:

    I have some Revere Ware that is modern, well from 1993. I also have some that belonged to my mother, much older. There is no comparison, the modern stuff is not nearly as heavy, and warps on the bottom if you turn the heat up too high. The warped pots are then basically unusable if you have a smooth surface stove, and rock on any burners. Just a warning.

  124. 124
    RossInDetroit says:

    I’ve read that the effect of labor saving appliances has not been to allow people to spend less time at housework but to allow them to do more. The hours consumed by various tasks has not changed much but standards of cleanliness are higher and homes have much more square footage, on average.

  125. 125
    Barry says:

    @Sko Hayes: “When I bought this house 8 years ago, there was a huge chest freezer in the garage that was left behind because it was 50 years old and way too big to move.
    You could hide two or three bodies in there, easily, it’s that big. And it still runs (though probably an energy hog).”

    My parents bought a chest freezer in the mid/late-50’s. It’s still in the garage, and working fine.

  126. 126
    Anne Laurie says:

    But when gastritis broke your calculator once too often, you’d seek a new line of work. You’d go become a shill, perhaps—a time honored retreat into expense account heaven for plenty of hacks who couldn’t hack the hard work of actually getting stuff right … or for whom, as in McArdle’s case, getting things wrong is a feature and not a bug.

    Tom, I believe you underestimate the depths of McArdle’s cynicism (or, as she would say: astute grasp of current employment market conditions.) Not gonna Google, b/c she’s not worth the effort, but IIRC during her ‘evolution’ since she was a not-so-wee Jane Galt blogging about hitting peaceful protestors with 2x4s, McArdle has written at length about how she switched to ‘journalism’ once her class standing made it clear even to her that she’d never get employment as a real MBA (at least in the sort of ‘cutting-edge’ big coastal city in which she felt she deserved to live). She couldn’t — “was insufficiently motivated to” — hack the math to be a financial analyst, so as a good glibertarian she went with her talent set and decided to be a business cheerleader. Her subsequent success proves (at least to MM’s satisfaction) that “shill for whichever corporation is willing to pay” and “journalist” are now overlapping circles on the occupational Venn diagram.

    In McMegan’s eyes, your (our) obsession with “facts” as opposed to “selling points” is merely a marker of how behind-the-times we are. It’s as though we were tut-tutting about those foolish young ladies who show their ankles in public — don’t they realize how it looks to passers-by? — while Megan is advertising her 3-D fully-functional streaming porn avatar on the BJ sidebar.

  127. 127
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @RossInDetroit: I believe I read the same article.

  128. 128
    Mnemosyne says:

    Never mind.

  129. 129
    GeneJockey says:

    The stupidest thing about her whole column is that even she admits at the end that it was entirely pointless:

    I’m not disputing that the improvements from 1900 to 1953 were large, probably even larger than those from 1953 to now.

    Then why in hell did she even bother writing that crap?

  130. 130
    W. Kiernan says:

    The last egg! O nostalgia. Once in the middle of the first of the several national employment crises I’ve endured since 1973, I was waiting for an unemployment check, but there was one bureaucratic delay, and another, and another, and one day I and my girlfriend opened the refrigerator and there was one egg, and we looked at each other.

    True happy ending! We then got in our ’66 Beetle and drove downtown to the unemployment office, and there, finally, was a big check for many weeks of previously unpaid unemployment benefits, enough for two month’s rent and stuff right there! Dinner is served! And just two weeks later I finally landed a job: washing dishes in a Tucson restaurant with live country and Mexican music, pretty and charming waitresses, and all I could eat plus some to take home of the tastiest bar-b-q I ever ate in my life.

  131. 131
    And Another Thing... says:

    @Steaming Pile: ditto

    @Woodrowfan: La Choy? Absolutely. And we LOVED it! As for the variety of foods available now it’s been a quantum leap. Walk through a produce department and easily 75% of those foods weren’t available in the 50’s and probably most of the 60’s. My Dad was transferred from California to Newport, Rhode Island in ’63. Not only could you not find tortillas, you couldn’t find canned chili con carne. My Mom had relatives in California ship us the right grind of corn meal/flour and she learned to make tortillas by hand. On the other hand Newport had these fabulous sandwiches called grinders.

    Food is light years better than when I was a kid.

  132. 132
    jl says:

    @RossInDetroit:

    “but standards of cleanliness are higher” [now].

    No, alas. Too many Swiss Germans in my family, including on the farm. But, I am now balancing things out to the happy medium.

    Edit: note that I did not say that I was the happy medium. I said I was balancing things out… to reach the goal of the happy medium. There are a few people I could name, who almost cleaned a hole in the world, or supervised me in attempt to get the ‘kids do it’.

    None of you poor people know how close we came to a interdimensional inter parallel words cosmic calamity, due to over cleaning, in the 1960s.

    I have to balance it out. Dirty dangerous work, but some one has to.

  133. 133
    jnfr says:

    As someone who grew up often hungry (in the 50s and 60s), and still believes in facts, thank you.

  134. 134
    different church-lady says:

    I’m hoping to get indoor plumbing sometime next year.

  135. 135
    AliceBlue says:

    My mom got a Kitchen Aid stand mixer for Christmas in 1948. It finally died in 1980. It was white, of course. My dad was in the Air Force, so we moved around a good deal; he painted that mixer to match every kitchen. I lost count of how many coats of paint it had on it.

  136. 136
    petorado says:

    Thanks to McMegan for pointing out that we don’t have hide the lack of protein these days with starchy crap. That is such “Depression-era” thinking. Uh-oh!:

    “If you’ve ever had the suspicion that the meat in your Taco Bell Chalupa Supreme might not exactly be all-beef, then friends, your suspicions were correct. According to a class-action lawsuit filed this past Friday, in California, the ‘meat mixture’ that Taco Bell uses in its products ‘contains less than 35 percent meat,’ reports the Associated Press. Advertising the food as ‘beef’ is misleading, say the claimants, and it misses the mark for U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for food labeled as beef.

    “So what’s in this ‘seasoned beef?’ The lawsuit claims it’s mostly binders and extenders such as ‘water, wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent and modified corn starch.'”

    Home economics was the art of making the family budget go further. Today’s corporate food economics is the practice of doing things to the food supply to increase profits that is best not to let the public know about. Shameful. McMegan also seems to have such a shallow memory hole that cast iron pans, which can be passed down for generations, were regarded as “too heavy” by marketing gurus back in the day rationalizing the cheaper cookware she decries. The rise of corporatism brought us more stuff in kitchens, but also more crap.

    BTW Tom – the art is, as always, an inspiration. I look forward to every post of yours, in part, to the art you select.

  137. 137
    birthmarker says:

    @muddy: The copper bottomed Revere Ware is better, at least what I have had. No warping.

  138. 138
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @RossInDetroit: Class A is the shit. I really love the sound of EL84s and an EF86 preamp tube. I’d like to build myself one some day.

  139. 139
    Jay C says:

    ..aside from the privileged few who could afford copper, most Americans were cooking on thin, low-quality stainless steel and aluminum pans that deformed easily…

    Copper? WTF? Copper cookware haven’t been common utensils in American kitchens (if indeed they were ever common) since before WWI — and while cheap, thin cookware has always been around (it’s cheap — duuhhhh!) there have been alternatives available for ages. My mother had a heavy-duty-aluminum stockpot and pan she got as wedding presents in 1940, and used them for, basically, about 50 years (the frying pan got tossed about 1985 after its handle fatally cracked). Which is another point (among what, millions?) McMegan seems to have missed: both simple (pots and pans) and complex (electrical appliances) kitchen “aids” were not only common by the mid-1950s they were (very much unlike today) made to last: preferably for many decades, and repairable if broken, rather than just tossed-and-replaced. But “more” in this case, doesn’t have to mean “better”. Unless you’re “Jane Galt”, I suppose.

    @Southern Beale:

    Jesus McCardle is incredibly retarded.

    No, not really — but his sister Megan probably IS!

    @The Other Chuck:

    Thanks for the link to the Gallery of Regrettable Food; I stopped reading Lileks’ stuff a few years ago after I found myself getting nauseous at the increasingly nasty wingnuttery in his political opinionizing: I had forgotten how enjoyably clever his “cultural” postings were (and apparently still are).

  140. 140
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    I have a Findlay 8 cast iron dutch oven. It’s a century old, and is as good as the day it was made. I used it to make a pork shoulder roast tonight, with onions, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips; a couple of hours in the oven at 300 with the lid on, and fifteen minutes at the end at 400 with the lid off. Seasoned it with garlic, cayenne, cumin, thyme, and tarragon. Threw in a glass full of water to keep it humid. It was awesome.

    Yeah, nobody ever used a crock pot before the sixties. Nobody.

  141. 141

    I lived in a pre-war apartment with an old gas stove that you had to light with a match; the first time I used it, I didn’t realize it had no electric starter and took a little time to find a match. By then, the gas had built up and the resulting fireball knocked me on my ass.

    I think that one dated from the 50s; however, I’ve seen even older ones still in operation. For example, my down-the-hall neighbor in a circa 1938 building had an unrenovated kitchen, with an original gas stove. That thing was AWESOME. It was huge and had doors that opened off to the side and little nooks like warming bays.

    And my grandma had all kinds of cookware and utensils that McMegan thinks weren’t invented until she bought her first one. Granted, some of them had some safety issues, like the pressure cooker that would blow its lid occasionally. My mother remembered that every once in a while, Grandma would come flying out of the kitchen yelling, “RUN!!”, there would be a big boom, and they’d spend the next hour cleaning tomato sauce off the ceiling.

  142. 142
    Batocchio says:

    I will never get tired of seeing McArdle skewered, especially if leads to posts like this. McArdle is sort of a demon muse for good debunk posts.

  143. 143

    McArdle consistently confuses innovation and diffusion. Cowan and Krugman didn’t deny that we are richer than we were. Their interest was invention and not the time when further price reducing development and increasing median income made the product affordable for the median household.

    I mean obviously reduced trade barriers aren’t inventions, and the “aside from the privileged few” means “I have forgotten the alleged topic of this essay.”

  144. 144
    Pangloss says:

    All these appliances can be found on the granite countertops of the Applebee’s Salad Bar.

  145. 145
    Jeanne ringland says:

    @Woodrowfan: I was born in 1950. Dad worked for the gas company, so we had a gas refrigerator that Mom reluctantly parted with in 1963 because it was too small.

  146. 146
    slightly_peeved says:

    Why the hell would someone who advocates himalayan pink salt even drink drip-feed coffee, let alone advocate it as a technological achievement?

  147. 147
    MonkeyBoy says:

    @And Another Thing…:

    Rhode Island in ‘63. Not only could you not find tortillas

    My father (originally from the El Paso region) made enchiladas (stacked not rolled) in the D.C. area around that time. (Corn) tortillas were available: Old ElPaso sold them in cans which he probably bought at a base PX. I used to often see cans of tortillas in grocery stores until they started stocking fresh. [my father thought the recent upsurge in wheat tortillas was for sissies].

  148. 148
    RossInDetroit says:

    @polyorchnid octopunch:

    Class A is pretty inefficient (20% efficiency). By the 1930s everything was push pull class AB1 for more power output (50% or better). Plus you can use negative feedback around a push pull output stage to lower the distortion and reduce source impedance. Class A has too much net phase shift for any useful amount of feedback to work.
    As usual, the design goal was to get the most performance out of the cheapest parts.
    Class A sounds pretty good but severely limits the type of speakers you can use. Have to have a flat impedance curve to avoid response variations due to the interaction with the amp’s impedance. And yur speakers have to be sensitive to avoid running into high harmonic distortion.
    There are ways around the loop feedback problem to get good performance out of Class A single ended. Google around for ‘Schade’ and you’ll find a method for local feedback that linearizes the output stage without compromising stability.

  149. 149
    Jamey says:

    Re: cookware for the masses, pre-1952: http://www.fundinguniverse.com.....story.html

    Took me all of, what, ten seconds?

    As for McM’s assertion that neither Krug nor Cowen did any real cooking, well this is just the LATEST example of the Megan-pot calling everyone else’s kettle black: http://www.janegalt.net/blog/archives/005630.html

    Ten more seconds of searching revealed that stomach-curdling gem.

  150. 150
    RossInDetroit says:

    @Jamey:
    Now we know what she considers cooking. Ick. Runny scrambled eggs with 1/4C milk? No thanks.

  151. 151
    Julia Grey says:

    She just assumes that whatever comes to her mind is a universal truth.

    Peggy Noonan does this, too, without the economic smokescreen. She thinks she’s tuned into the zeitgeist and that her rich Catholic WSJ columnist preoccupations are the preoccupations of the masses.

    and

    I’m reminded of her claiming that her hi-def tv gave her special insight into the 08 election because McCain looked really old on it. Her work has two purposes; to reinforce for her, and her clique, that they are special humans who deserve special things

    Exactly. Or as someone commented SOMEWHERE today, her job at the Atlantic is to comfort the comfortable, and I would add that the thing she has to comfort them about above all else is the way their careless activities and assumptions afflict the afflicted.

  152. 152
    Paul W. says:

    That was beautiful!

  153. 153

    Old refrigerators. Many used ammonia gas instead of freon. There’s an old episode of Andy Griffith where a leaking ammonia refrigerator (freezer?) causes chaos/humor. Not sure on the efficiency of the old units. I’d hazard a guess that the motors aren’t that efficient, but I’m pretty sure the ammonia cycling process was pretty well worked out by the time they shrunk it down for home use.

    I don’t believe that they have gone without fresh produce for six to eight months at a time, as my mother did in her childhood

    I know you folks are quick to pile on to ignorant blather, but don’t you think it’s a bit gauche to gang up on an author who, from the reading of the aforementioned, is likely closing in on octogenarian status?

    Enjoy.

  154. 154
    mush57 says:

    @MonkeyBoy:

    Yes, My mother had a set. Some of which I am still using
    to this day, I’m 68

  155. 155
    Commenting at Ballon Juice since 1937 says:

    If you don’t know how food is produced, transported, or prepared you’re not a real American.

  156. 156
    Meanderthal says:

    @Pococurante:

    That must be wrong. BJ frontpagers pull this crap as well. There’s no more “accountability” for this community either. Why insist on a double standard.

    [Citation Needed]

  157. 157
    300baud says:

    I just had to look it up: the modern stove-top percolator, which my grandmother used well into this century, was patented in 1889. It is just as convenient as an automatic drip coffemaker, although I think the result is better.

  158. 158
    grumpy realist says:

    Oh Megan, Megan, Megan….

    Can someone please hit her over the head with a biography of Ellen Swallow Richards? (first woman at MIT. Domestic Science. remember her?)

    Emphasis on cleanliness, layout of the standard kitchen, standardization of such measuring devices as tsp, TBS, etc. Electricity, running water. Linoleum for counters and floors rather than dirt/wood planks. So in McAddled’s brain, none of this means ANYTHING?

    Well, as we all know, McAddled is an idiot.

    (I also suggest she get one of the early editions of “50 years in a Maryland Kitchen” before she starts smirking about “how old cookbooks taught you to stretch your meat.” Definitely au contraire. The editor of a later edition of this cookbook pointed out the modifications she had made because the original author assumed access to a well-stacked farm larder and no, it wasn’t always necessary to use all that heavy cream and include all those eggs…)

Comments are closed.