The Food Network in 1920’s and 1930’s
Today we begin a look back into the history of Three Meals a Day and how for over 80 years our family has been sharing lessons, tips and recipes in cooking. There was a time not so long ago when we only had radio and print media as our primary forms of communication. It is hard to imagine not having a remote control in hand to surf through the channels to the Food Network, America’s Test Kitchen, Martha Stewart’s Cooking School and many other television shows. So how did the Food Network and others start? Every cooking program has their own story but the foundation to their existence started with food economists exploring new forms of media beyond print in the late 1920’s and 1930’s.
Enter Jessie Read the founder of Three Meals a Day and a pioneer for what has become a billion dollar industry around our gastronomical pleasure we call cooking and eating. Starting with her byline Three Meals a Day column for the Toronto Telegram newspaper it was not long before she started her mass marketing food network enterprise. Miss Jessie Read had been providing popular cooking demonstrations for Consumers’ Gas Company when it was decided radio would reach a greater audience. An agreement was made and Miss Read began to format her cooking lessons for radio.
Jessie Read as seen in this 1931 picture on a Consumer Gas Company sponsored booklet began her radio career with CKCL radio in Toronto. Her focus was “Improving the family digestion” and the show was called the Radio Cooking School. It became a landmark show that was broadcast weekly to wide audience acclaim. Toronto at the time was the second largest city in Canada.
We can only imagine how her audience looked forward to her weekly broadcasts. It would be broadcast on Friday mornings after members of her audience had finished getting the family off to work and school. The kettle had just boiled and a second morning serving of tea steamed in its cup with a biscuit on the saucer. Jessie’s students sat ready to hear her pearls of wisdom on cooking with pencil and recipe card in hand ready for their weekly lesson. By the end of the show they were inspired to try new recipes and fire up that gas oven and stove just as the advertisers planned.
Learning to cook through a radio broadcast will bring back memories for many in Canada and elsewhere in the world. Television has become the dominant form of cooking education today but it all began with radio.
It was Miss Jessie Read and her radio cooking shows that began the Food Network and many other cooking program networks on television. We can’t confirm she was the first to have a cooking radio show in Canada but clearly she was a pioneer in the day. The next time you watch the Food Network take a moment to look back at how it became what it is today. Jessie Read and the many that followed her launched a revolution in what we know as the mass media cooking industry today. Over the next few months we will continue to chronicle her food network enterprise, her recipes, her starring role in the first cooking show on film in Canada and more.