San Francisco: A Food Biography

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Product Details
Altamira Press
Publish Date
5.9 X 9.1 X 0.9 inches | 1.1 pounds

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About the Author
Erica J. Peters is the author of Appetites and Aspirations in Vietnam: Food and Drink in the Long Nineteenth Century (AltaMira, 2011). She lives in the Bay Area and is director and co-founder of the Culinary Historians of Northern California.
Part of the Big City Food Biography series, this book examines all that is unique about San Francisco through the development of its renowned cuisine. Beginning with customs of San Francisco's earliest Native American residents whose migratory lifestyle enabled them to sample all existing plant and animal life, Peters tours the Northern Californian food scene through the ages, discussing the influence of immigrant groups as they populate the city. The book examines the contributions of the Chinese, Italians, French, Latin American populations as well as the influence of the bohemian culture. Among the notable individuals, Peters discusses Mary Ellen Pleasant, a black woman who arrived in the early years of the Gold Rush and became one of the first entrepreneurs in the food industry, and Auguste Marinoux and Andre Benadou, who are credited with opening the city's first French restaurant back in 1849. Peters's clear and engaging style of writing eases readers through the evolution of farmer's markets to the rise of the corner grocery store and eventually the prevailing supermarkets. A section on famous restaurants and signature dishes completes this comprehensive work. Photos.
San Francisco's inspired chefs; its markets packed with foodstuffs from nearby farmers, ranchers, and vintners; and its influential food writers have made the city the West's gastronomic capital. In many ways, it serves as inspiration for most all contemporary American cooking. So this history of the city's markets, restaurants, cookbooks, and signature dishes comes at the perfect moment. Piling up often-overlooked details, Peters catalogs how various immigrant groups have contributed to San Francisco's cuisine while giving due credit to Native American ingredients and influences. She describes how the 1906 earthquake upended lives briefly before the city roared back. She relates stories of individual restaurants and food retailers, and she inventories specialties such as cioppino and Rice-A-Roni. Peters' engaging explorations take her beyond the city proper to explain the national influence of Oakland's Trader Vic's and Berkeley's Chez Panisse. Not just for regional collections, this treatise appeals to anyone who savors San Francisco past and present.
Perched on the edge of a continent with connections east and west, San Francisco is both grittily genuine and breezily cosmopolitan. Food historian Peters examines how the diverse factors of geography and culture formed the city's foodways and in turn how the food culture of San Francisco influenced the world. Blessed with abundant natural resources and an excellent climate, the City by the Bay has seen both boom and bust. Well-documented chapters consider foods, the impact of immigrants on cuisine, signature restaurants and/or dishes, and other unique aspects of the city's culinary history, covering topics from the earliest Native American inhabitants through the modern city's rough-and-tumble beginnings in the Gold Rush days and its history as a sort of ground zero for counterculture. VERDICT Scholarly yet readable, this aptly titled 'food biography' of the city traces the development of its restaurants and food culture, reflecting its complex fabric of customs and ethnicities.
In this book, the second in the 'Big City Food Biographies' series (see also New Orleans: A Food Biography by Elizabeth Williams, CH, Aug'13, 50-6732), Peters (Culinary Historians of Northern California) celebrates the history of San Francisco as a culinary destination. Chapters include 'The Material Resources, ' 'Native American Foodways, ' 'Immigrants and Ethnic Neighborhoods, ' 'Food Markets and Retailing, ' 'Famous Restaurants, ' 'San Francisco Cookbooks, ' and 'Signature Dishes.' The food of San Francisco comes alive through visitors' journal entries, menus, recipes, and photographs, as well as an accessible historical narrative. The largest chapter, which focuses on the immigrant contributions to San Franciscan cuisine, is most impressive. Peters leaves no stone unturned in that chapter; she even includes a section on the rise of the gay neighborhood in San Francisco and its well-known restaurants and bars. Anyone who has visited San Francisco or who currently lives there will be impressed by this well-researched, comprehensive survey of this city's culinary history in such a small book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All undergraduate, general, and professional culinary collections and California history collections.
Rarely is history so delicious. Billed as a real urban biography of the 'full food culture of a city, ' San Francisco: A Food Biography - the second in the Big City Food Biographies Series - is a mouth-watering celebration of the City by the Bay's epicurean history, resources, and people as told through its markets, restaurants, dishes, and cookbooks. Author Erica J. Peters, director of the Culinary Historians of Northern California, cooks up a tasty tale that begins with the Native American foodways of the indigenous Ohlone people and ends in San Francisco's celebrated dining rooms and diners. . . .In her role as culinary historian, Peters is the perfect guide to San Francisco's greasy spoons and gourmet grottoes. Whether you're a history buff or a food saveur, whether you're a fan of It's-It ice cream or a Rice-a-Roni junky, San Francisco: A Food Biography is sure to feed the foodie in you.
Peters' study focuses in on America's most dynamic food city from its earliest days, when the Spanish settled missions in the territory through the great migration of Asian immigrants to the port city. San Francisco's energetic self-promotion in the 19th century was stopped short by the 1906 earthquake only for a heartbeat before its neighborhoods developed mini-food cultures enriched by the bounty of the Pacific and the provender of an exploding agriculture that was to feed America. Russians, Italians, Vietnamese are all a part of the story, as well as many dishes, like sourdough bread, crab Louis, turkey Tetrazzini, and cioppino that were part of the ethnic diversity in the Bay City.
There has never been a history of San Francisco cuisine that covers two centuries of our raucous restaurants, floorboard-squeaking saloons, and self-righteous food movements, until now. Erica Peters' book covers the gamut of San Francisco's food history, and makes me proud to call myself a San Francisco native. Peters navigates San Francisco's storied food scene as no other author ever has.
In the rigorously researched San Francisco: A Food Biography, Erica J. Peters shows how food is culture, as lived day to day. From the native inhabitants to the missionaries to waves of immigrants: "In California, the epicureans are not the favored few, but the great democracy." The fixation on local ingredients, the diversity of restaurants, the prejudices --- this book overflows with goodies that will surprise and delight.
For anyone curious about how San Francisco's foods and restaurants became world-recognized icons of American regional cuisine, this book is a terrific place to begin.
Erica Peters takes us on a delightful culinary tour through San Francisco by mapping the city and the larger Bay Area through the flavors, aromas, and histories of its food cultures. This is not merely voyeuristic tourism but a serious and seriously pleasurable encounter with the many people who have made San Francisco home over the past several centuries and whose food traditions have turned the City into a diverse culinary scene that has in turn shaped California cuisine and culinary traditions around the world. This delectable journey is just as satisfying as being able to sample San Francisco's culinary bounties in person.