Old San Francisco: Eating Through the Ages

This week I scored big. In addition to finishing off a pint of burnt caramel ice cream, I found a dusty but still strongly bound first edition of Laughter on the Hill, a book about a young woman who moved to San Francisco alone in the winter of 1940.

Sfbooks Grandmothers
Grandmothers, 1955. Courtesy of San Francisco Public Library.

For others who have adopted this city as their home, who have looked over the Bay and its bridges with awe, lived in a drafty dump of a flat that’s very well stocked with wine, or danced in the streets with strangers, this memoir will also strike a chord. It reminded me of other books that capture a special, specific time in the City’s history.

For a taste of San Francisco in years past…

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Japanese Tradition: How to Eat at a Sushi Bar

During a discussion this past week about authenticity, someone asked me what I thought about Japanese restaurants run by Koreans, while another person asked my opinion about the Japanese government’s desperate fight around the globe to save sushi. Continue reading “Japanese Tradition: How to Eat at a Sushi Bar”

How to Talk Like a Maine Lobsterman

lobster_boatNothing evokes special occasions like a lobster with drawn butter, but there was once a time when they were considered poverty fare. Fed to orphans, prisoners and indentured servants, lobsters from the Northern Atlantic did not appeal to early colonists.

It took the canning craze of the 1950s to spread the taste of lobster beyond New England, and since then, the red, beady-eyed crustaceans appear on casino buffets and surf-and-turf menus in every state. There’s debate now about whether the lobster industry is the best it’s ever been or on the verge of collapse, but Maine lobstermen are working closely with marine biologists to develop sustainable practices. It’s the older, more labor-intensive, back-breaking ways of early lobstering that will save the industry.

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Sharing the Sacred: Community Meals at Buddhist and Sikh Temples

It’s been a long time since I’ve worshipped anything beyond dumplings or doughnuts on Sunday mornings, but this weekend I joined Stockton’s Sikh community at their historic temple on Grant Street. The act of sharing food as spiritual devotion has deep roots in many of the world’s religions. At Buddhist temples, serving vegetarian food to the public is a way to raise money for community work. At Sikh temples, offering a meal free to anyone who asks is an act of spiritual generosity mandated by the religion’s founders.
As I research immigrant foodways here in Northern California, I’ve been struck by how temples have emerged as the center of many of these transplanted communities. In the Bay Area, there are many temples where you can experience the intersection of devotional prayers and delicious meals.
Here’s a short list of three worth visiting:
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El Paisa Taco Truck

 Weblog Food Tacqueria 3
I’m still in mourning for the afterhour taco stand that was once wedged in front of Taqueria Vallarta. Huddled outside, bundled against the night air and only slightly buzzed, I’ve enjoyed many a midnight snack. At first, I alternated my orders, enjoying beef and pork, grilled and fried, sausage and offal. Eventually, though, the tender suadero owned me completely.

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