History Through Food

Eighteen months and a dozen estate sales later, here I am. There’s a backlog of material to share, including my first beaded 1920s purse, an accidental eelskin and a rolling wooden bar cart. However, today I’m going to introduce a new series of posts inspired by my husband’s desire to learn everything there is to know about regional American cuisine for R&D. A consistent effort has been made while perusing estate sales & flea markets to take a second look at books. Our collection of regional American cookbooks welcomed 3 new additions this weekend. Well, they’re not precisely “new”, but they are new to us and we are excited about the snapshot in time that they’ll provide. That brings me to the official introduction to this exploration of local palates, regional food systems and the historical context of the creation and propagation of certain recipes. Welcome to History Through Food.

In this series I’ll be looking beyond the copyright date to explore the content at face value while examining the historical climate surrounding that regional publishing. For instance, take a look at this cover-less copy of the American Women’s Voluntary Services Cookbook (c. 1942). A book for wartime living is as applicable today as it was 74 years ago.

A book for wartime living . . .

A book for wartime living . . .

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Summer Traditions: Soda Fountain Stops

In case you live in SoCal & haven’t felt your face melt while running errands or going to work in the last 2 days, here’s another reminder. Its hot out. Excessive heat warning and flex alert hot.

Though I’ve got a window-unit blasting, I’m yearning for some good ol’ fashioned refreshment. No, not beer. I’m talking about soda fountain standards prepared by soda jerks. There are few American traditions in hospitality as intact as soda fountains. Lucky for me, the Pasadena institution known as Fair Oaks Pharmacy isn’t too far off the beaten path.

For the last few years I’ve made a habit out of making a pilgrimage to Fair Oaks Pharmacy during the dog days of summer. Ordering a giant sundae to share somehow seems more reasonable when the mercury is hovering around triple digits. Extending the invitation is also a treat. I mean, who doesn’t perk up when invited out to our own little slice of Americana in the heart of Pasadena?

Fair Oaks Pharmacy first opened in 1915, but it wasn’t until a couple restored it back to it’s soda fountain glory that it was re-introduced to a whole new generation. I’m so glad it’s still around to share sundaes & chats in! Do you have any summer traditions and tricks to staying cool? Share in the comments below!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a sundae to make. (photo courtesy of Sarah Wise)

A classic sundae.

A classic sundae at Fair Oaks Pharmacy, Pasadena, CA.

 

How to Scratch the History Itch: Heatwave Edition

Its been noted by plenty that summers in Southern California’s valleys are not very conducive for outdoor activities. I consider poking around in garages during sales as such an activity (see previous Pro Tip post). Given that the past two weekends have required multiple costume changes due to the weather, its safe to say that peak activity hours have migrated into the cooler, evening hours. Not quite in sync with the usual sale schedule though. There is, however, a way to continue exploring different pockets of the LA Basin without braving the heat.

I recently learned (thanks, LA Curbed!) that the USGS has released a catalog of topographical maps that date back to when the topographical map program started in 1884. This is of special interest to me as I’ve joined in on a couple of orienteering events and I happen to call a 128 year old structure “home”. Last summer I began looking into the basic history about the neighborhood and the city founders. I found the original owner’s family’s name through a historical designation web site and have yet to pull any tax or land records. Though I have a lot of work yet to do, its quite lovely to gaze upon maps from another slice of time. That is especially so when you live in an area that has undergone such a radical transformation within a century.

Looks like I’ll be spending some quality time away from the blazing sun, looking at groovy maps while sipping on mojitos. Because, summer.