Why was Eleanor Roosevelt's cooking important during the Great Depression?

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Eleanor Roosevelt was not exactly renowned for her culinary expertise. Throughout her time as First Lady, the White House became notorious for the drab, uninspiring food that it served. The White House's senior housekeeper, Mrs. Nesbitt, was herself not particularly notable for her cooking skills and rapidly gained a reputation for churning out meals that, at times, bordered on the indigestible.

Yet this was a time of severe economic hardship in the United States, and Mrs. Roosevelt felt it incumbent on her to set an example of frugality during this difficult period in the nation's history. To that end, she oversaw a White House menu filled with simple, nutritious dishes that could be made very cheaply. Culinary delights served up during this time included cold mutton, spaghetti with boiled carrots, and prunes.

Though the White House menu drew criticism from many quarters, it did nonetheless have deep symbolic importance for the nation as a whole. Millions of American citizens couldn't afford to eat well, and so they had no choice but to economize on ingredients. By setting an example of household thrift, Mrs. Roosevelt hoped to demonstrate that all Americans were in it together during the Great Depression and that, however hard life had become, it was still possible to eat cheap, nutritious food.

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