Author Topic: Historical etiquette question - excluding children from desserts  (Read 7426 times)

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snappylt

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{Does a question about mealtime etiquette in the past belong here, or is there a better spot?}

Back in the 1940's, was it acceptable polite behavior to prepare a dessert for a family meal but then deliberately not serve the dessert to the children?

This afternoon I listened to a recording of an old radio show from 1940.  It included a commercial for the sponsor (a brand of gelatin dessert mix that is still sold in the US today).  The announcer asked the listeners to remember how terrible they had felt as children when their families had served dessert at meals but had not allowed them (as children) to eat it.  Well, of course, he suggested that the listeners buy his brand of gelatin dessert because they could serve it to every member of their families, even their children.

Excuse me?

Was this just nonsense written up for an advertising campaign, or was it an accepted, polite behavior for dessert to be served to the adults but not the children at the same meal?

MorgnsGrl

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Re: Historical etiquette question - excluding children from desserts
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2013, 08:56:15 PM »
Maybe the dessert had booze in it? That's my best guess.

Sharnita

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Re: Historical etiquette question - excluding children from desserts
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2013, 08:59:12 PM »
I've never heard of that.  DO you think they were referring to desserts that had alcohol or maybe were considered "too rich" for a young child's sensitive tummy? It also just occurred to me that during part of the 40's sugar and other things were rationed and so dessert in general were rare treats and maybe sometimes were just served to adult guests.

Hillia

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Re: Historical etiquette question - excluding children from desserts
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2013, 09:08:53 PM »
I think that many foods were felt to be too rich for children...things with lots of sugar, cream, slices would make them sick.  This held true for regular foods, not just desserts...children were fed bread and milk, porridge, eggs, etc.

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Katana_Geldar

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Re: Historical etiquette question - excluding children from desserts
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2013, 09:22:12 PM »
Various foods were supposed to give you indigestion. In o elf the Anne of Green Gables novels, one of the children is not allowed shortbread as it was seen as too rich for childrens stomachs.

violinp

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Re: Historical etiquette question - excluding children from desserts
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2013, 10:21:45 PM »
Various foods were supposed to give you indigestion. In o elf the Anne of Green Gables novels, one of the children is not allowed shortbread as it was seen as too rich for childrens stomachs.

POD. In the Elsie Dinsmore books, Horace (the father) bans most refined sugar foods and, I think, red meat from Elsie's diet. Then again, he also makes her live on bread and water while she's grounded (or the 1850's equivalent of grounding, anyway), so I'm not sure if he should be held up as a typical example of mid - 19th century parenting in food choices.
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Twik

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Re: Historical etiquette question - excluding children from desserts
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2013, 11:19:36 PM »
It sounds from the ad as if it were an economic choice - they couldn't afford to give dessert to everyone, so they reserved it for the adults, with higher caloric needs. Most of the parents targeted would have come through the Depression.
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25wishes

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Re: Historical etiquette question - excluding children from desserts
« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2013, 02:37:16 PM »
Before veg. shortening was invented, pies were made with lard (the crust) and were considered very hard to digest and not suitable for kids. Perhaps that is what they referred to.

gramma dishes

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Re: Historical etiquette question - excluding children from desserts
« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2013, 02:50:08 PM »
I was born in 1942. 

The custom back in the forties and fifties was (for most families I knew personally, as well as my own) that NO ONE, adult or child, was routinely served dessert.  Fruit was dessert, sugared or not.  Sugar and other ingredients were in short supply and relatively expensive during the depression and I think this was kind of a carry-over attitude.

Desserts were served for special events only:  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, birthdays, etc.  But I never recall an instance where dessert, when it WAS served, was not made available for all dining participants, not just adults.  [Obviously if you were too young to eat "table food", then you were also too young for dessert.]
« Last Edit: May 24, 2013, 02:52:00 PM by gramma dishes »

camlan

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Re: Historical etiquette question - excluding children from desserts
« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2013, 02:55:04 PM »
It sounds from the ad as if it were an economic choice - they couldn't afford to give dessert to everyone, so they reserved it for the adults, with higher caloric needs. Most of the parents targeted would have come through the Depression.

This is what I was thinking. During the Depression, many people simply couldn't afford dessert. When they were able to have some sweets, maybe they felt it was unhealthy for kids, or that it might make the kids sick.

But I've never seen any reference, in the many old etiquette books, housekeeping books or cooking books that I've read, to keeping children from eating dessert.

I know in the 40s and 50s, when my parents were in their 20s and 30s, dessert was an expected part of dinner. But it was simple--cookies or brownies or fruit. Layer cakes and ice cream and the like were special for Sundays or holidays.
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Outdoor Girl

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Re: Historical etiquette question - excluding children from desserts
« Reply #10 on: May 24, 2013, 03:00:27 PM »
My parents were born in 1930 and 1934.  My brother and I were born in 1963 and 1968.  We rarely had dessert in our house unless it was a special occasion or there was company over, although there was often dessert with Sunday dinner, which was usually fancier than the rest of the week.  But we, as kids, were never served something different from the adults.  If we didn't like what was served, we could quietly get ourselves a cookie but that was about it.

When my brother and I left the house, when we came home for a visit, there would be dessert for at least one meal when we were home.  Now, with my Mom gone, it generally falls to me.  If it is just Dad and I, I don't bother but if my brother and/or nephews are there, at minimum, there will be vanilla ice cream with maple syrup.
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Thipu1

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Re: Historical etiquette question - excluding children from desserts
« Reply #11 on: May 24, 2013, 03:07:09 PM »
I have never heard of children not allowed to eat dessert. 

I was born in 1947 and was never denied dessert.  The dessert might have been fruit salad, a gelatin concoction or a simple cake but it was always there.  My mother grew up with four siblings during the depression. In that household a child would only be denied dessert if s/he had been naughty during the day.   

ladyknight1

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Re: Historical etiquette question - excluding children from desserts
« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2013, 03:07:41 PM »
This is a very interesting thread.

DH's grandparents had lived through the Depression as young adults, and during DH's childhood 1971 - 1990, they had dessert every day. Usually canned pie filling in a graham cracker crust, with vanilla ice cream. Of course, his grandfather had a sweet tooth too, so it may have been a priority for him.

Sharnita

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Re: Historical etiquette question - excluding children from desserts
« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2013, 03:20:37 PM »
I was born in 1942. 

The custom back in the forties and fifties was (for most families I knew personally, as well as my own) that NO ONE, adult or child, was routinely served dessert.  Fruit was dessert, sugared or not.  Sugar and other ingredients were in short supply and relatively expensive during the depression and I think this was kind of a carry-over attitude.

Desserts were served for special events only:  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, birthdays, etc.  But I never recall an instance where dessert, when it WAS served, was not made available for all dining participants, not just adults.  [Obviously if you were too young to eat "table food", then you were also too young for dessert.]

I was a child of the 80s and the same was true in our family.

Margo

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Re: Historical etiquette question - excluding children from desserts
« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2013, 03:42:59 PM »
I wonder if it may have varied depending on class and location.

I think that for a lot of families which were middle / upper middle class it was common for children to eat separately from the adults, and in those cases I think children sometimes got to sit with the adults at meal times but didn't get to eat everything which was served to the adults.

As others have said, there may well have been an element of believing that children should not have rich foods (especially just before going to bed) - I suspect gelatin based desserts would be seen as suitable for those delicate childish stomachs..

I seem to recall that there's a bit in the 'Diary of a Provincial Lady' about the Lady's son wanting to stay up for dinner - the compromise is he gets to stay up but only gets to eat his 'child's' supper rather than eating the same meal as his parents.