California is famous for many things, but it doesn't necessarily get credit for all the beloved foods and drinks that were invented here. Today I will showcase the first eight of sixteen foods and drinks that, like me, were born in California.
Foods and Drinks Invented in California
San Francisco Sourdough Bread
I'm starting off the list with my favorite and probably the most famous: San Francisco sourdough bread. Before you tell me that sourdough has been around for thousands of years and was made by ancient Egypits, Greeks, Romans, and more... I know. I'm not claiming sourdough bread was invented in California. I'm saying SAN FRANCISCO sourdough bread was invented in California. "What's the difference?" you may ask. The yeast present in this area gives SF sourdough a unique (superior) taste to all other sourdoughs. Bakers in San Francisco have been using the same culture since 1849 and it is phenomenal. This mother dough was considered so special that it was famously saved by Louise Boudin during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Do not leave San Francisco without trying freshly-baked sourdough bread at Boudin.
Popsicles were created by accident in Oakland, California in 1905 by an 11-year old named Frank Epperson. Frank had made a sugary drink and left it outside overnight with a stir stick in it. Oakland doesn't get a lot of freezing temperatures, but by good fortune, this was a very cold night. The next morning, Frank discovered his frozen drink and was delighted that he could lick it from the stir stick. He called his creation an Epsicle and started selling it in the neighborhood. In 1924, he was granted a patent for his invention, which was eventually renamed the Popsicle. Some sources say that his kids called it Pop's Sicle.
Monterey Jack cheese was invented by the Franciscan friars of Monterey, California, who made it for their own use and called it queso blanco país. It was David Jacks who first sold the mild white cheese commercially. He called it Jack's Cheese, and it was very popular. It eventually became known as Monterey Jack.
The martini was invented in the late 1800's in San Francisco or in Martinez (35 miles from San Francisco), depending on which court you choose to believe. I'm going with Martinez. Either way, the drink, which combines two parts vermouth with one part gin (stirred, not shaken), was definitely born in California.
The mission burrito is a thing of beauty: a tightly-wrapped steamed tortilla, filled like an egg roll with Mexican rice, beans, chopped carne asada or other meat, salsa, sour cream, avocado, and cheese. It is served in aluminum foil to maintain its structural integrity while you eat it. It's an entire meal, hand-held. Depending on who you ask, the mission burrito was born in 1961 or 1969 at a restaurant in the Mission District of San Francisco. Either way, it's undoubtedly Californian.
It came to my attention recently that there are people outside of the San Francisco Bay Area who somehow have never heard of IT'S-IT. That is tragic. The IT'S-IT has been around since 1928, when George Whitney (one of the owners of San Francisco's Playland at the Beach) sandwiched vanilla ice cream between two oatmeal cookies, then covered the whole thing in chocolate. Upon tasting this experiment, he yelled, "It's it!" For nearly 50 years, you could only get an ITS-IT in San Francisco, but since the 1980's they have been widely available in grocery stores. There are now six flavors of IT'S-IT. In my humble opinion, the two best flavors are the original vanilla and the mint. Chocolate is good. I'm not a fan of the other three flavors. And by that, I mean that I would never choose Strawberry over Vanilla, but I'd take Pumpkin (the worst flavor) over no IT'S-IT at all, any day of the week. For the record, I'm a big fan of the Chips-IT and Super Sundae also.
Green Goddess Dressing
Green Goddess Salad Dressing was invented by Executive Chef Philip Roemer of San Francisco's Palace Hotel in 1923. He invented this dressing, made from mayonnaise, vinegar, parsley, tarragon, chives, anchovies, and scallions, to honor the hit play The Green Goddess by actor George Arliss' performance in the hit play, The Green Goddess.
Cioppino is another dish born in San Francisco. It got its name from the Italian immigrant fishermen who would add the catch of the day (Dungeness crab, clams, scallops, mussels, shrimp, and/or squid) to a pot, along with tomatoes and wine. From its humble origins in the late 1800's, it soon became a staple in the Italian restaurants that populated San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood and remains popular today.
Have you tried any/all of these foods? Any favorites on the list? (I could eat San Francisco sourdough bread exclusively for the rest of my life. Bonus points if I could have an IT'S-IT for dessert and an occasional mission burrito.)
Tomorrow I'll be back with eight more foods and drinks that were born in California.