Thursday, September 3, 2009

San Francisco Dining, 100 Years Ago

If you're a foodie, you must head to Librivox and download a fantastic audiobook called "Bohemian San Francisco."

The book, written by Clarence Edwords in 1914, details the author's search for interesting culinary experiences in the beautiful city by the bay. He presses favorite chefs to share their recipes, and provides details for his readers.

He visits Chinatown and laments the her loss of charm after the 1906 earthquake. Apparently pre-earthquake Chinatown was an unbelievable experience for an American, full of mysterious alleys, exotic sights, sounds, and flavors. He barely recognizes the "new" post-earthquake Chinatown, and complains about gentrification and a general watering-down of the culture he remembered.

He spends time sampling Italian fare in North Beach, when Italian was spoken widely in the streets. He and his friends are invited to a lavish Japanese dinner, which is recounted in exquisite detail.

He describes the restaurant scene in the now-extinct Barbary coast, and clues us in to the early Mexican cuisine of San Francisco.

Most interestingly, he describes how he and his friends go "slumming." Then, as now, upper-class folk sought new experiences by traveling into the rougher areas of town for an evening's entertainment.

The stories in the book sound fresh even today, and make you wonder what happened to these long-defunct restaurants of yore. Little is know about Clarence Edwords, but if he were alive today, he'd probably be hosting a show on the Food Network.

Download it and listen for yourself, it's completely free:

Bohemian San Francisco

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