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Fashion is often seen as the defining quality of a generation. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that the dinner table can give as many clues over a period of time as clothes. Sweet and savory gelatin foods were as characteristic of the 1960s as bell bottom, go-go boots, and low-waisted dresses. Low-fat diets and farm-to-table foods were as much of the 1970s as peasant smocks, surplus military clothing, and frayed jeans. In the ’80s, aesthetically-obsessed Americans sipped Diet Coke and bought Lean Cuisine on grocery store shelves, all while wearing skin-tight Spandex aerobics, power suits, and eye-catching jumpsuits. Food and fashion really go hand in hand.

Unlike the cyclical nature of fashion, which keeps repeating itself, food innovations tend to build on each other. We probably wouldn’t have the Big Mac if the Whopper hadn’t been released over 10 years ago. Food fortification, which began in the 1920s, continued to advance until the late 1990s, making every generation of Americans a little healthier. And food preservation and safety has gone from a relatively simple state to instant freezing, packaging in a controlled atmosphere, irradiation and even banning certain food colors, evidence of growth over time. decades of both food technology and our interest in what we eat.

To learn about the biggest moments in food history each year between 1921 and 2020, Stacker looked at a variety of media (The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Smithsonian Magazine, Business Insider, etc.), food – specific publications (Eater, Kitchn, Taste of Home, The Daily Meal) and story-driven media (History, Biography). We also looked at notable studies, important food and agriculture policies, and other major changes documented by academic researchers and government agencies. Finally, we read the stories of major food companies like Kraft Food, Pepperidge Farm, McDonald’s, Mars, and The Coca-Cola Company to learn more about their contributions over the past century.

Have a snack, then read on to learn more about the history of food every year since 1921.

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