Originally posted by wanderingjew
Originally posted by EliseT
I feel like I must represent, but most of our food in California can be traced back to another place. Offhand I can think of Cobb salad, SF Sourdough bread, date shakes, and Santa Maria style BBQ. We seem to do movements rather than specialties. We have Cal-mex and "California fusion", and the fad of eating fresh and in season started in California. Can any of my fellow left-coasters think of others?
How About-San Diego- Fish Tacos
San Francisco- Cioppino, Hangtown Fry, Original Joe's Special and Crab or Shrimp Louis
Los Angeles- Yogurt, Wheat Germ, nuts fruits and oats
EliseT [et al.],
There's hardly a thing anyone could mention as a regional item that DIDN'T come from elsewhere (or from the influence of people from elsewhere) - "new" foods are invented/concocted/discovered/derived from the new conditions imposed upon immigrants. With each successive wave of immigrants, each with its own dietary preferences & restrictions, conditions have changed for the continuing food history of a region.
Some of what we eat in California is neither unique nor characteristic - but public perception seldom has reality as its foundation. The comedian, Gallagher, captured America's perception of our state with, "What ain't fruits and nuts is flakes!" A great number of people apparently have projected that to mean that that's what we eat[there may still be parts of the country that teach 'you are what you eat' is gospel/literal truth...]. There are all sorts of foods that are unique here because the conditions are unique - we have access to fresh food 24/7/365, we have culinary traditions from all over the planet, and we have a long history of culinary pragmatism - "nouvelle cuisine" was a resonant concept here because we had the luxury to choose. And we chose to eat healthier wherever possible because it was more flavorful.
Any number of foods that I think of as typical for a California region are bound to have defenders elsewhere, but I would still maintain are different here:
Most of our coast - minimally-sauced grilled seafood
Gold Country - pasties [including vegi variations not found in the UP]
Sacramento Delta - sopa (Portuguese kale soup)
San Francisco - the Mission [District]-style burrito is a special case: here's a food that is ostensibly Mexican, mostly made by Central Americans for slackers/Gen-Xers/mods/goths/other young folks in search of a new tribal affiliation - they're commonly as big as your head, and contain everything but the kitchen sink (NOT like anything I remember from growing up near L.A.); about the only SF stand-by that still seems credible [sorry WJ - except for the occasional artisan sourdough, your list has mostly gone tourist-only, along w/ Celery Victor & Chicken Tetrazzini] is Irish coffee.
San Mateo/Central Coast - olallieberry pie, artichoke soup
Santa Barbara/Santa Maria - tri-tip
Los Angeles - French-dipped sandwiches, taquitos w/ green sauce
San Diego/Imperial Vly - date shakes
And, because the US border is such an artificial construct, I'd also add Baja's fish tacos, Caesar salad, & Margaritas [both now ubiqitous].
Here's a current local example: the non-Muslim Bay Area has recently "discovered" halal dining - as more residents tried educating themselves about Islam, they've also taken to educating their palates. Where there used to be a halal butcher shop a few blocks from my office, there are now many places that show being halal on their awnings or in their windows - even a halal Thai restaurant! So it's like the new kosher here.
The main difference between the regional bests in other areas and California? Seems to me it's only a matter of age of the foodstuff compared to the dynamics of the local migration pattern. If there's little change in the local menu, ANYTHING different will be memorable - though not necessarily accepted. Here we have lots of change, all the time. We won't necessarily hold on to some traditional foodstuff just for nostalgia's sake. I don't expect it take long for there to be more mixing of different ingredients (or just different marketing - like selling 'joong' as "Chinese tamales") to create new favorites. And if it's tasty, it'll migrate in a heartbeat! (Then you only have to wait 50 years plus for folks to argue about where it originated & who makes it best/the right way....)