Archival Imagery of a WWII Poster

This is a poster that was released during the Second World War, to promote the conservation of food amongst American citizens. This image depicts a family at a dinner table surrounded by food, some vegetables, fruit, a salt and pepper shaker, and the focal point being a roasted turkey. The table is set with glassware and decorated cleanly with white tablecloths and napkins, but most importantly, the people sitting at that table are White. The image that the government puts forth to remind citizens and soldiers what they are fighting for is a white family dining together. This obvious lack of representation of other racial and ethnic groups in the United States is highlighted in this image and promotes a singular model of a “typical” American family. This poster does not only have racial implications, but also socioeconomic impacts. The poster displays a large family, but they are all well-dressed and all have access to a plentiful amount of food and expensive-looking dishes. This poster leaves out the many individuals in the United States at that time, whose norm did not include access to the resources that the family in this poster have. Lastly, the grandmother is serving the food at the dining table, while the grandfather is standing at the head of the table observing her and the food. This further adds to the descriptions of image of a family of American citizens that the government out forth: white, wealthy, and patriarchal.  

The food featured in this poster is essential to note as well. The dinner does not include any other cultural or ethnic cuisine, simply a roasted turkey, Jell-O, and produce. The lack of variety of food in this poster causes an aversion to any food that does not fit in this picture that the United States’ government framed to be American. This poster paints a picture of what the United States government imagined its citizens to be, which has large and negative impacts on the individuals who do not look like the family in the poster and do not cook the same types of food as them. While this poster was created or proliferated in the 1940s, it acts as a proxy of how the United States approached the topic of food and decided what was normal and what was not. The absence of individuals and foods from different racial and ethnic groups reveals their erasure within the culinary discussion and offers an outlook on what struggles American people of color had to endure within publishing culinary literature or their overall relationship to food. One impact that this poster could have is a rejection or aversion to one’s culture and cultural foods because propaganda portrayed a specific image, to avoid not fitting within societal norms surrounding cuisine and one’s participation within a private space. By highlighting who and what was featured and accepted in American public discourse, can reveal the voices and cultures that are left out, which relates to my research surrounding Americans of various ethnicities and races, and their participation in literature through the lens and focus of food and cooking.  

Freedom From Want; 1941-1945; Records of the Office of Government Reports, Record Group 44. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/freedom-from-want, October 13, 2021] 

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