Author Archives: Mark

About Mark

Mark Thompson, who currently resides in Philadelphia, writes about law, history and food, among other topics. American Character, his biography of Charles Lummis, an Indian rights activist who lived in California and the Southwest from the 1880s through the 1920s, was honored by Western Writers of America in 2002 with a Spur Award for best biography. His second book, Vintage California Cuisine, traces the origins of the state's unique culinary sensibility to the earliest cookbooks published in California. Thompson also publishes a web site called, about farmers markets and seasonal produce. He has written for dozens of publications including the Atlantic, The New Republic, the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.

An Early California Vegetarian Fritter

I’ve previously reported on two other fritter recipes from among the selection of 16 early California fritters that I included in Vintage California Cuisine: a sweet potato fritter recipe from a San Francisco cookbook published in 1885 and a carrot … Continue reading

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Old California Almond-Pineapple Chicken Stew

I’ve made several variations of this recipe from Encarnacion Pinedo’s 1898 cookbook, El Cocinero Espanol. This time, I wanted a thicker incarnation of the dish than I ended up with in my previous attempts. In the original Spanish, the recipe, … Continue reading

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Fish Fit for a Playboy British King

Victor Hirtzler amassed quite a collection of recipes in his globe-trotting career as a chef, which culminated in a two-decade reign at the Hotel St. Francis in San  Francisco in the early part of the 20th century. Hirtzler included more … Continue reading

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German Beets from 19th Century San Francisco

I was in the San Francisco Bay Area in early January, visiting my dear friend from way back, Victoria. I wanted an old recipe to try out for a dinner party at Victoria’s, featuring an ingredient that I could buy … Continue reading

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19th Century Californians Learned to Love Chile Peppers

I recently gave a presentation in Los Angeles, sponsored by Culinary Historians of Southern California, titled “How Californians Turned America onto Chile Peppers.” For those of you who missed my talk, this is how they did it. By publishing — … Continue reading

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An Apple-Watercress Salad with a San Francisco-French Twist

I’ve previously written about Victor Hirtzler’s prune soufflé and his strawberry omelette. The flamboyant celebrity chef, who presided over the elegant Hotel St. Francis dining room in San Francisco for two decades early in the 20th century, was also acclaimed … Continue reading

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Curry Comes to California, Circa 1885

When I set out to find 300 recipes from early California cookbooks that showed how a distinctive culinary sensibility began to emerge in the Golden State in the first decades after statehood, I was especially interested in finding evidence of … Continue reading

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From S.F.’s Top Chef a Century Ago: a Strawberry Omelette

Visitors to San Francisco in the early 1900s might have asked locals to name the mayor or governor, or how to get to Chinatown. “But they never ask who is the chef at Hotel St. Francis. They know,” to hear … Continue reading

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How Peruvian Stuffed Peppers Made it into California Cuisine

For a vintage California dinner party at my home in Philadelphia the other night, I made a recipe from the 1903 Landmarks Club Cook Book called Peruvian Albondigas. The word means meatballs – in this case, meatballs of lamb, olives and hardboiled eggs stuffed into peppers.  … Continue reading

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How an 1883 Pudding Recipe Turned Me on to Baked Oatmeal

Who knew? You can bake oatmeal! Okay, lots of people know that, as a Google search for “baked oatmeal” reveals. But it somehow escaped me all those years when my daughters were growing up and I was making oatmeal the … Continue reading

Posted in Desserts, Recipes | 1 Comment