About Lettuce Mousse

What’s the deal with this blog?

Lettuce Mousse recreates quintessential American home cooking from 1880-1970, which roughly corresponds with the Industrial Revolution all the way up to the counterculture movement of the 1960s/70s.

Those 90 years were a transformative time for food in America. It was a period of rapid technological and culinary innovation (canning! mass food production! the calorie! the oven! the refrigerator!), and with it came new ways of thinking about the role of the housewife and the food she prepared for her family. Centuries-old family cooking traditions were suddenly and unceremoniously abandoned in favor of new “scientific” meals like Thorndike Potatoes, Pineapple Salad Mousse, and Ambrosia. These weren’t your grandma’s meals—no, it was something new. It was distinctly American.

On this blog, I try to understand how these kinds of recipes came to be, and what life might’ve been like for the women cooking them. I use original sources from the era—magazines, daily almanacs, advertising pamphlets, the backs of old jello boxes, whatever I can get my hands on. I prepare the recipes, and then, for better or worse, I have a taste.

Too long; didn’t read – you think you’ve come to a food blog, but it’s actually a history blog in disguise. Surprise!

 

Who’s this lady?

Hi! I’m Julia. I love food and American history. I’m particularly interested in the stuff that gets sidelined in the history books—the details of the everyday, of what people ate, what they did for fun, what their homes looked like. It’s the next best thing to time travel. I also love to bake—pies and tarts are my go-to. In another life I might’ve learned to be a pastry chef, but in this one I’m a website developer.

I’m a third/fourth-generation American, depending on which side of my family tree you look at. My family emigrated here between 1880-1910—just in time for the birth of the domestic science movement, lucky them. My father’s side were Catholic Ukrainians that settled in the Midwest; on my mother’s side were Jewish Ukrainian-Romanian-Russian-Hungarian-et cetera who settled in New York City. My brothers and I grew up eating kielbasa in our spaghetti, the horror. (We loved it.)

I live in New York City. If you’re interested in seeing the non-vintage food I make (or occasional pictures of nostalgic board games from the ’90s), you can follow me on Instagram at @juliaevk.

 

Two disclaimers

1. If I’m referencing a book or a product, I’ll probably use an affiliate link. A girl’s gotta finance her vintage Jello box collection somehow.

2. I think it will surprise no one that America’s historical attitudes towards women, people of color, non-Christian religions, and non-traditional sexual orientations was comically close-minded at best and bigoted at its worst. Sometimes these views will be evident in the source materials that I upload to the gallery and to relevant blog posts. But since this is a history blog, it’s my responsibility to convey America exactly as it was. No censoring. No whitewashing. Despite its discomforts, this is what we’ve got to do when we study history. As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.

Me, now-ish.
Me and my baby brother’s forehead, with our Manhattan-born great-grandma. Guess the decade.
My Ukrainian-born great-grandmother with my aunts in Ohio, early 1950s.
My grandfather (far right), his brother and sister, and their parents in Pennsylvania, late 1910s.