They say there’s no such thing as “American food” and…well, okay — maybe they’re right (but it’s just a maybe!). But that’s what makes it better! Because we get to enjoy food from around the world! However, just because different cuisines are — perhaps literally — handed to us on a platter, that doesn’t mean we won’t whip up something inspired by these vast cuisines and available ingredients and make it CA-style. In fact, there are foods and drinks invented in California that were based on these culturally-diverse grubs. And there’s a chance you might’ve not known about it!
Popular Foods and Drinks Invented in California:
Popsicles are almost every kid’s favorite treat that they take out from the freezer, and it was originally invented by a Californian kid. In 1905, an 11-year-old Oakland kiddo named Frank Epperson accidentally left his soda (and left his stirring stick with it) in the freezer for too long. The result? Oh, you know, just the classic popsicle!
Frank Epperson initially called it the “ep-cicle” — a portmanteau of the first syllable of his surname and the word “icicle.” Eventually, the refreshing sweet treat was renamed “popsicle.”
Here’s an unofficial fact: Californians LOVE sushi! But we also love our avocados. And if you give Californians the freedom to go to town with inventing new dishes, from time to time, they’ll create a “love child” out of both ingredients. Sure, the conception could’ve been a Frankenstein-esque story, but the California roll didn’t turn out like that. As a matter of fact, it was the opposite!
California rolls are the few things in life that just make sense. If you think about it, the creaminess and fatty oils of the avocado, plus the refreshing flavor of the cucumber? Then, heck yeah, nobody will question whether or not you put real crab meat or the imitation one! — let’s not start with how mayonnaise goes perfectly with it.
Whoever the actual chef was who invented California rolls — because nobody can trace its exact origin, but what’s said is it was invented in Los Angeles — we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
We’ve all burned food at some point and tried to hide it. However, unlike the 16-year-old cheeseburger inventor, we don’t always create a masterpiece out of accidents. (California kids have a way of doing that — if you go back to the #1 entry). Yup, that’s exactly how the cheeseburger was invented. Thanks to Lionel Sternberger who tried to hide the burnt hamburger patty he made with cheese! And it’s been over a hundred years since the Pasadena teen did that. These days, 74% of Americans add cheese to their burgers.
Imagine California during its Gold Rush. Now, imagine how exhausting it was for the miners then — but picture also how you’d want to celebrate the night if you hit the jackpot. Wouldn’t you also want champagne to cap it off? The last thing you’d want to hear, however, is the bartender telling you that your favorite drink isn’t available — and you sure wouldn’t have wanted to get on a lawless town miner’s bad side! And based on the martini origin stories (or legend), that’s what a bartender in Northern California did then — they replaced champagne with a concoction of Sauternes wine and gin; he then called the mixture the “Martinez Special.”
Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing
If Heinz is the brand often thought about when it comes to ketchup and French’s is known for their yellow mustard, with ranch dressing, it’s as though Hidden Valley monopolized this popular dip. Though the inventor was a Nebraska native, Steve Henson started selling ranch dressing when he moved to Santa Barbara. And if you want to know where that hidden valley is, it’s in San Marcos Pass! Fast forward to present day, ranch dressing is one of the most popular American dip/salad dressings.
Culture + Cravings + California = Culinary Climax
One awesome thing about being in the Golden State is the number of delicious foods we have available — and they can be found almost everywhere! We have European, Latin, Hispanic, Asian, and Oceanic dishes ready to be tasted. There are also California drinks and foods that were made based on these widely-available cuisines — but sometimes, some masterpieces are accidentally yet perfectly made.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.