Food Before vs During the Civil War

By: Adie Smyth and Anslea Dean


If there is one thing that most middle schoolers have in common, It is a love of food. But many teens rarely stop and think about where their favorite meals originated. Surprisingly many things that we eat today were just made available or popularized right before or during the Civil War.

What Did People Eat Before the War?

What Changed During The War?

Because most money went to the war effort, food became more scarce and people didn't have as many opportunities to buy food. Preserved meat was very important because it lasted longer than smoked. Canned food also made its way to popularity during the war. This was very convenient for the soldiers, since they needed quick accessible food. As the war dragged on, food was so hard to come by that soldiers were forced to steal food and livestock from civilian homes (mainly in the South).

After the war, African Americans weren't allowed to share in the return of lavish meals. The inexpensive, simple meals they ate became known as "soul food". Which is merely fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn products.

So, How Does Civil War Food Affect Your Life?

As stated before, many of the foods we ate today came in to existence during the Civil War. Things like canned food, soul food, baked beans, cobbler, and chowder are just a few examples of such foods. The biggest thing that happened in this time was our transition from pork to beef as the economy got more stable. However, in present day America, pork is steadily rising for health reasons. As our society grows, our cuisine evolves with it.
Another benefit due to the war is the introduction of other ethnic cultures and their food. For instance, the southern half of the Mason Dixon line many Spanish people still lived there and owned restaurants in the few towns. When Union soldiers went to the South, they most likely ate one of these cultural meals, and brought it back to their families in the North. Thus, spreading this throughout the North, and causing more and more people to become intrigued by this food. Now, there are Mexican, Italian, Chinese, etc. restaurants all over the world, and all are popular foods eaten by us Americans.