Culinary History

Culinary Historians "Dinner in the Exploding City" Event: Food in Los Angeles Before It Was "L.A."

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Thu, Sep 8, 2011 at 2:00 PM
click to enlarge Speaker, Charles Perry
  • Speaker, Charles Perry

Los Angeles is turning 230 years old. No, really. But what do most of us know about our city's history dating that far back? This is a town that didn't really boom until movies started getting made. Or was it? Perhaps there was life here before film. At least one aspect of that life, the food life, will be explored in Saturday's Culinary Historians event, "Dinner in the Exploding City," a lecture led by food writer, and president and a co-founder of the organization, Charles Perry.

In his lecture, Perry will go back to the days before the 1930s, when Hollywood restaurants began to gain notoriety, to a time when French and Mexican cuisine dominated, and cafeterias and theme restaurants were born.

Perry says of the event:

This city has grown so fast--from a few thousand in 1870 to the second largest city in the country in one century--that there isn't much sense of historical continuity here. Basically, unless it has something to do with the movies, people have little idea what has going on around here before their own lifetime. (In fact, it has to be something to do with the talkies.) That's why I chose the period 1830-1930.

The story I have to tell is of the L.A. of the 1850s when our cuisine was basically Mexican and French (a third of the adult population was French in 1850) through the influx of Americans from back east, along with various immigrant groups: Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Croatian (yes, Croatian), and then the period of a bustling modern city which spawned the cafeteria and the theme restaurant.

The event takes place on Saturday, Sept. 10th at 10:30 a.m. at Mark Taper Auditorium with a reception including themed refreshments following at 11:30 a.m. It is free and open to the public.

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