What Did People Eat for Dinner in the 1920s?

  • Upside-down cake, 1920s
Upside-down cake, 1920s
Credit: Michael C. Gray/ Shutterstock

Family dinner has been a mainstay of U.S. households since the mid-19th century, when men increasingly began to work and eat lunch — once considered the main meal of the day — outside the home. By the 1920s, the food rationing of World War I was a thing of the past, and the “Roaring ’20s” brought economic prosperity for many Americans. 

When families sat down for dinner in this era, they could expect a menu typically consisting of a meat, a starch, and a side dish. The 1920s also saw an increase in the availability and variety of foods, including canned fruits, as well as innovations such as iceboxes and, later, refrigerators, which began to make their way into family homes over the course of the decade. 

All of these factors played a part in what was served for dinner. From hearty mains to unique salads and decadent desserts, here’s a peek into dining rooms across America in the 1920s.

Credit: Harold M. Lambert/ Archive Photos via Getty Images

Baked Ham

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby focused on the wealthy elite of New York’s Gilded Age, describing buffet tables overflowing with hors d’oeuvres and spiced baked hams. But meats weren’t just for the rich, and in the 1920s, a baked ham or other large cut of meat was a common sight at family meal time, especially during holidays or as the centerpiece of a Sunday dinner

A popular glazed ham recipe involved studding the outside with cloves, canned pineapple rings, and maraschino cherries. With the invention of Wonderbread and the proliferation of sliced bread in the same decade, leftover ham sandwiches were also a lunchbox fixture. 

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