We love baked ham. Our great-great grandparents loved it, too, but theirs had an extra kick.
If someone mentioned Jell-O, deviled eggs, baked ham and Chicken à la King to you and then asked you what era these foods were most popular in, you’d probably guess the '70s.
Turns out you’d be wrong by about half a century. The above foods were among the most popular in the 1920s. That’s right, a whole hundred years ago! When flappers were flapping and people were drinking bathtub gin and ladies were bobbing their hair and drawing lines up the backs of their legs.
Advances in refrigeration, farming, marketing and technology meant that a full century ago, people were eating in a fashion that really isn’t all that different from what we consume today.
But while the foods weren’t that different, the prep was. It’s estimated that in 1920, people spent 44 hours per week on meal preparation and cleanup. Six and a half hours a day!
Ten beautiful salads from 1923.
via Free Public Domain Illustrations by Rawpixel/Wikimedia Commons
Compare that to 2014 when Americans spent an average of just 37 minutes a day (roughly four and a half hours a week) on meal prep. In 2024, one imagines that number has gone down even more given the ubiquity of meal delivery apps.
Read on for some top foods of 1924 compared to 2024.
Here are 10 of the top foods in 1924 that people still love today.
Spinach dip: Popular in speakeasies, this dip made with sour cream, mayonnaise and thawed spinach was affordable, easy to make, and quietly elegant.
Do we eat it today? We do! Fancy people add artichoke.
Inexplicable '70s factor: 5 out of 5 bell bottoms
Pretzels: Native to Europe, pretzels were a popular appetizer and bar snack in the 1920s.
Do We Eat Them Today? Yes!
Inexplicable '70s factor: 1 out of 5 feathery Farrah Fawcett hairdos
Deviled eggs: Now a relic of potlucks and the occasional too-hip boutique bar, these eggy treats were hugely popular in 1924 because they were easy to make, customizable, and traveled well.
Do we eat them today? Yes, but they’re certainly less popular than they once were.
Inexplicable 70s factor: 5 out of 5 lava lamps
Clam Chowder: This creamy uber soup has been a staple of American cuisine for over a century.
Do we eat it today? You bet your clamshells we do.
Inexplicable '70s factor: 2 out of 5 sideburns
Baked Ham: in 1924, alcohol would be banned for 9 more years but recipes that called for alcohol were popular, perhaps because of the scarcity. Prohibition-baked ham, which was popular at home and at speakeasies, incorporated whiskey or bourbon.
Do we eat it today? Yes, but it isn’t sought after in the same way it was.
Inexplicable 70s factor: 2 out of 3 Charlie’s Angels
Chicken a la King: Another dish served both at home and at restaurants, Chicken à la King involves a cream sauce over chicken and vegetables. It’s served on top of or alongside rice or pasta. Sometimes sherry or mushrooms are incorporated and sometimes tuna or turkey is used in place of chicken.
Do we eat it today? Occasionally, but it’s hardly on every menu like it once was.
Inexplicable '70s factor: 5 out of 5 disco balls
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Derrick Luciano/ Pixabay
Pineapple upside-down cake: Combining pineapples, cake ingredients, maraschino cherries and gravity, this delectable confection has remained one of America’s most popular desserts.
Do we eat it today? Yes, but it feels kitschy and retro.
Inexplicable '70s factor: 5 out of 5 Watergate scandals
Jell-O: In 1924 you couldn’t swing a watch chain without hitting Jell-O. It was everywhere: on dessert tables, in recipe books put out by Jell-O themselves, and even served with seafood.
Do we eat it today? Yes! And if you’ve ever found yourself at a frat party, you know a whole cottage industry has sprung up around clever ways to combine it with alcohol.
Inexplicable '70s factor: 8 out of 10 shag carpets
Devil’s food cake: In 1924 they deviled eggs, they deviled ham and they also deviled cake. Supposedly more sinfully indulgent (hence the “devil”) than regular chocolate cake because it’s made with chocolate squares instead of cocoa powder, this was a popular dessert.
Do we eat it today? Yes!
Inexplicable 70s factor: 2 out of 5 Macrame plant holders
For comparison, here are the most popular American food dishes in 2024 as determined by YouGov.
10. Corn on the cob
9. Southern Style Fried Chicken
8. Fried Chicken
7. Steak and Baked Potato
4. Grilled Cheese
3. Mashed Potato
2. French Fries