Culinary History, Not So Obscure After All

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Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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18 Responses

  1. Avatar Damon says:

    Burt,

    Nice post. I’ve been to the El Tovar Hotel. It is a classic and right on the edge of the canyon. Nothing better than rolling out of bed, having a nice breakfast with a view of the canyon, then going for a walk along the rim trail. Or watching the sunset from the same place.

    Try to get one of the 4 “view” rooms if you can, if only for one night. The view is great, and the “balcony” of the Presidential Suite is like 25X25! Kick Ass. 🙂Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Great read.

    What strikes me now is that current foodies would damn Harvey for bringing non-local food to areas like Santa Fe.Report

    • No, most “foodies” would appreciate the fact that they took advanced cooking techniques and blended them with local styles and flavors.

      He hired chefs away from the few quality dining establishments in New York and Boston to learn how to grow produce locally, blending Mexican and western cooking styles with the classical European training the chefs had acquired abroad.

      The “foodie” world is large, so I suppose you are referencing a hardcore 100 mile radius foodie… but in my experience, that is mostly a thought experiment to demonstrate the broken nature of the current distribution system, not a specific “doctrine” that the adherence or failure would put someone outside the pale. Most foodies have a category for mixing improbable ingredients that cross food sheds and/or cultures.Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Marchmaine says:

        I have yet to see anything labeled “Santa Fe-style” that has strawberries or pecans in it.
        I believe the number of people who would associate black cherry cider with New Mexico are fairly few, though it is very common in the mountains.
        My grandma used to make prickly pear jelly when I was a kid, but my favorite was grape jelly. I believe that was “Concord grape jelly” rather than “Santa Fe grape jelly,” if that’s meaningful to any “foodie.”

        Currently, I have mint, flax, and dandelion growing in my yard, in case any “foodie” might be interested in some really indigenous food. Only $35, while supplies last. Squirrel is extra, because they’re harder to catch than mint, flax, or dandelions.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Will H. says:

          I’ve never been to the American southwest, but my mouth was fairly watering at the prospect of a squirrel fricassee with mint, flax seed, and dandelion butter reduction served over a prickly pear succotash (or maybe chutney, depending on what other weeds and tubers you might have lying around). Black Cherry cider sounds delicious… after tasting, I’m sure we could incorporate into either the fricassee or the succotash/chutney.

          I’ll pay the extra for the squirrel, thanks.Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Appetite for America is a great book and it kind of makes you wish that a time machine existed so you could do a brief stop back to the 1890s and eat at a Fred Harvey restaurant. Another great book of culinary history is Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York that covers eating out in New York from the days of old New Amsterdam to the time the book was copyrighted.Report

  4. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    I lived in Barstow for about a year, in junior high. I do not have fond memories. In part that is undoubtedly because no sane person has fond memories of junior high, but it had a distinctly “far end of nowhere, and not even a nice part of it” air to it.

    We then moved to Twentynine Palms. It was immediately obvious that this was a much nicer part of the far end of nowhere. It is more pleasant and more interesting ground, and even has culture, in a small-town-in-the-desert sort of way. It is best known as the main way into Joshua Tree National Park (Monument, back then), and is something of a rock climber Mecca. For those looking for an interesting local-history-ish place to eat and/or sleep, try this: http://www.29palmsinn.com/. I haven’t eaten there in a quarter century, but back then it was surprisingly good.Report

  5. Very nice. One of the “hidden” take-aways is a reminder of just how new the current version of the American West is.Report

  6. Avatar Lyle says:

    Another book with the story of Fred Harvey is Rival Rails, by Walter R Borneman the story of the competition between southwestern railroads in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It has a large section on Harvey. Once the Santa Fe started running dining cars Fred Harvey ran them also. (Super Chief and El Capitan).Report

  7. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    Reading old baseball account, some of the travails of train travel come through. Here is an amusing anecdote from when the New York Mutuals took a Southern tour over the winter of 1869/1870:

    While stopping at Lamar, Miss., between the Canton and Jackson, Captain Jack [i.e. John Wildey] played a rich joke on the passengers. When the train stopped, the conductor told the passengers that if they went anywhere to get their feed they must be careful not to be far off when the locomotive bell rang; for he should leave the moment the Northern train arrived. Those of the passengers who were posted went to a tavern some distance from the depot to get dinner, well knowing that the train could not start for an hour at least; but the Mutual part, not knowing the ropes could not find anything to eat, and so Wildey took his crowd up to the hotel where the others had gone. But when he got there the table was full, and no chance for outsiders. Wildey seeing this, hit upon a plan to get possession of the grub, so he quietly collected his party near the house, and then started for the train, previously telling his boys the moment they heard the bell right to rush for the hotel and take the vacant seats. Jack then got on the engine and set the bell going. Just about that time there was a helter-skelter race for the train from the hotel by the first party and in their haste to be in time the half of them tumbled into a ditch they had to cross, Eggler among the number–a friend having taken him up to dinner with the first party. By the time that their victims had discovered the sell the Mutuals had eaten all the feed at the hotel, and when the other went back they found all gone. The train did not leave for ten hours. Source: National Chronicle January 15, 1870

    Here is a more typical event, from the Chicago Club’s Southern tour:

    The [Chicago] Club arrived in Memphis, after a hot, dusty, tedious ride by rail from New Orleans, and proceeded direct to the Overton House where a suite of elegant rooms were allotted to them. Not one of the party was feeling well, the change of water since leaving home having begun to show its effect in producing bowel complaint. However, a few hours’ rest, a wholesome dinner, and above all plentiful doses of the brandy and Jamaica ginger, with which Tom Foley the general inspector of the club, was largely provided for such emergencies, sufficient to bring about a better physical condition all around. Source: National Chronicle May 21, 1870

    Report

    • I love the quaintness of nineteenth-century medicine (when it doesn’t infuriate me like it did reading about the death of James Garfield.) A few doses of brandy with ginger and all of that “bowel complaint” left over after drinking New Orleans water will be all better. Of course, that jibes with my own experience perfectly! Play ball!Report

      • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to Burt Likko says:

        What struck me on re-reading was in the first piece, where the train is stopped for what might be anything from half an hour to ten hours. This presumably was on a single track, so it was sidetracked at a podunk station until the oncoming train showed up. The problem was partially solved as telegraph lines were improved. The progress of the oncoming train could at least be followed from station to station. I suspect that in this particular instance they were really out in the middle of nowhere. It puts sitting in an airport lobby in perspective.

        I have a reprint of a late-20th century book on trains, aimed at the informed layman audience. I should write about it. It has all sorts of interesting information about stuff like how to schedule trains while keeping the fatality rate within acceptable limits.Report

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    This was a damn good essay, BL.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Thank you sir! In my sabbatical from day-to-day-public-affairs-twitter-bullshit, I’m looking about for more subjects like this to write about. Stretching myself as a writer and as a thinker. Enjoying the different focus. Flexing the figurative muscles of my imagination to think of what the Harvey House must have looked like and smelled like in its heyday was both a pleasure and a benefit, as much a tonic to the brain as a good workout is to the body.Report

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