Diversity on the Menu

Earlier this week I gave a talk at the invitation of the Archives Department of the San Diego City Clerk’s Office. It was part of their annual Archives Month program, held every October and featuring stories from historical archives throughout San Diego County. (Thanks again to the Archives Department folks for holding this event and for inviting me to participate.)

The subject of my talk was “Eating Local In the Roaring Twenties.” One of my lecture points was that eating out in San Diego in the 1920s offered a diverse menu of dishes, reflecting the diverse communities growing within the city and county. As an example, here’s a typical bunch of restaurant ads you’d find in 1920s San Diego newspapers, in this case from one page of the San Diego Union’s edition of December 16, 1928:

We see cuisines on offer from Italian to Mexican to Chinese to what some might consider your basic Anglo meat-and-potatoes dishes. I could show you more ads for French, Japanese and Kosher offerings as well. My research indicated that many, if not most of these places were run, at least at the start, by individuals and families who’d immigrated to San Diego from other parts of the world. And their clientele came to cross racial and ethnic borders as well. These places often became popular hang-outs and meeting places for all local residents, regardless of race or ethnicity, as the “Dine and Dance” reference on the ad for the Nanking Café illustrates.

Food for thought, you might say

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