I love this book, and of course I remember the TV spots on our local KRON TV, (where today, 30 years later, one of my girlfriends does the Real Estate spots!) featuring Joe “Cart-a-Groceries”. This well-loved, dripped-on and stained (I am always thrilled to find cook-books in this condition, as it shows they were actually worthy of cooking from) is stamped inside: Compliments of Bay View Federal Savings. Brings to mind an Entirely Different World, where you used to get gifts from the bank when you opened an account! Imagine that! Now, we just get fines.
Anyhow, one of the great things about this book is the introduction, written by Joe’s dad, who lived in San Francisco during The Earthquake, and got into the produce business in 1920. His account of the local produce scene is worth reading in itself if you care for local history, which I am a nut for. I am always fascinated to learn that things we think are new ideas are actually nothing new at all. The modern “locavore” movement, where folks consume only foods originating from within a 100 mile radius, certainly has roots in the regular produce trade, as Peter Carcione records: “Fruits and vegetables were difficult to keep fresh without the modern transportation and refrigeration facilities in use today. But even without modern facilities, at least in the Bay Area, fruits and vegetables arrived at the market within twenty-four hours of the time they were harvested. The farmers and growers in the areas north and south of San Francisco would harvest their crops and bring them by horse and wagon, driving late at night.”
Joe’s book is really lovely in how it is laid out – by season. So if you shop at the Farmer’s Market, for example, he outlines what will be in season, and how to judge if it is fresh. He throws in great anecdotes about selling the various items in his long career at the Produce Market, and the various buyers. The whole thing makes shopping at Safeway, where you can get almost anything, anytime of year, but it will be strange and tasteless, seem, well, flavorless. From the more-expensive-yet-local market, I got some green beans, and I knew I’d find a simple recipe in this cook book. The funny thing about this one is, there is actually NO paprika called for! These were quickly cooked up to accompany pork chops my daughter and I had for dinner, and she liked them because of the sugar. I squeezed more lemon onto mine, and we were both happy.
Green Beans Paprika
1 lb green beans 2 Tbsp vinegar or lemon juice Brown sugar to taste 1 clove garlic 1 bay leaf Dash of allspice
Cut beans diagonally or lengthwise. Cook in very little water 5 minutes, in a covered saucepan. Add the other ingredients, cook 3 minutes longer. Remove garlic and bay leaf. Serve hot or cold. Serves 6 to 8.