What did average Americans eat in the 1920s?

Food historians tell us we had a sweet tooth, a taste for the exotic, and a well-developed sense of ordered creativity. Translation? Fruit cocktails, Pineapple upside-down cake and Jell-O molds. Tea sandwiches, fancy salads, and chafing-dish recipes were also "in."

Serving a large crowd? Here are some affordable choices that were popular that decade.

• Molded/fruited Jello-salads, fruit cocktail, sliced pineapples & bananas (maraschino cherry ok)
• Deviled eggs, celery, olives, pickles, salted nuts (almonds, pecans, peanuts, filberts)
• Bread sticks, Parker House rolls, saltine-type crackers, potato chips
• Caesar salad, Waldorf salad
• Finger sandwiches...peanut butter & jelly, ham, turkey, chicken salad, tomato, egg salad, cream cheese
• Fried chicken, baked ham
• Pineapple Upside down cake, angel or devil's food cakes, ice cream & chocolate sauce, chocolate pudding.
• Canned peaches work well.

The 1920s were the era of elegant food and elaborate presentation.

If you are a master chef and/or want to treat your guests to an authentic fare from the times, you may want to consider this lavish menu from the time period.

Appetizers -- Gravlax CanapésShrimp CanapésOysters on the Half ShellStuffed Mushroom Caps
Sides -- Tomato Onion PanadeSmashed Red PotatoesBroccoli and Cauliflower with Garlic and OilRice Pilaf
Main -- Beef Tenderloin with Marinated Walnut SauceChicken AmandineRack of Lamb with Mustard SauceMagret of Duck with Fig and Port Sauce
Dessert -- Vanilla Rice PuddingChocolate Mousse Truffle CupsCreate your own fruit salad

• Another way to create the aire of extravagance is to serve appetizers and desserts that give the appearance of elegance, but not the time-consuming process of making it. Some suggestions: Stuffed Mushrooms, Deviled Eggs, Bruschetta, Strawberry Shortcake, Cheese or Chocolate Fondue, Fruit Salad, Artichoke Dip, Finger Sandwiches.

• Dress up your food -- garnish them with beads, feathers, etc. (See pictures above.)

• Use silver serving trays -- To add class without the price, check out your local dollar stores. We found quite a selection there.

•"Name" your food -- Serve "Speakeasy Cheese", "Flapper Fruit Salad" or "Gangster Guacamole". With the right adjective, any dish can become timely.

• Juice Fountain -- reminiscent of the times and the joint it is named after. You can serve your beverage spiked or not.

No matter what design you want for a cake, one way to make it murderous is to insert a knife into the cake and drip it with red decorating gel or icing. (See right hand picture above.)

Whatever your menu choices, download this menu, input in your foods and print it out.


• Drinks were often served in coffee mugs or tea cups so that if a raid were to ensue, it would be less conspicuous.

• BATHTUB GIN -- Instead of a cooler, use a bathtub to chill your drinks in.


With the advent of cheaply-made illegal alcohol during Prohibition, they quickly became popular, often to cover the taste of the inferior alcohol. Fashionable parties with fashionable drinks.

Not sure what to serve at your Juice Joint? Here's where we found some great recipes for cocktails from that time period.

If alcohol isn't on the menu, consider the popular beverages of the time:

  • Soft drinks garnished with fruit & fruit juices (ginger ale with maraschino cherry juice, decorated with cherries)
  • Ginger Ale
  • Coca-Cola
  • Kool-Aid
  • Lemonade
  • Punch
  • Orange Pekoe Tea

An early type of jazz, in vogue from about 1895 to 1920, usually written out rather than improvised. Most ragtime was playedon the piano. Scott Joplin was the most famous composer of ragtime. Find it here.

The jazz decade saw the emergence of many of the great figures who defined the music for the world. Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Earl Hines, Bix Beiderbecke, Fats Waller, Jack Teagarden, Fletcher Henderson - these giants set the standards for blues singing, big band arrangements, and solo improvisation that are the foundations for jazz. Find it here.

Originated in the early 20's in illegal drinking places during the time of prohibition. The combination of a particular type of jazz music and the highly polished, slippery floors of the Speakeasies gave rise to an in and out flicking of the feet which essentially characterized the dance. See downloadable instructions above. Find it here.

A form of jazz music that developed during the 1920s. Swing is distinguished by a strong rhythm section, medium to fast tempo, and the distinctive swing time rhythm that is common to many forms of jazz. Find it here.


Try your local library for a number of compilations from the time.



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