Mark Preston is a food writer, a blogger, and the author of California Mission Cookery, a cookbook on the early cuisine of the Californio population, which he discovered while working as an archivist for the UCLA library.
Last October, he got in touch to tell me about his research on ragù, the Italian meat sauce; he wanted the opinion of an Italian on what he had found. This is how we started collaborating!
In this episode, Mark talks about his encounters with Italian cuisine while growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, and how this experience prompted him to travel to Europe, as he says, “just to go to Italy to eat!”
He also analyzes how the popularization of the Mediterranean diet may have caused a shift in preference from Thai to Italian in Los Angeles, where he now lives.
Finally, he reveals his thoughts on what, in the fifties, caused the Americans to go crazy for pizza! A trend which of course goes strong today.
To end the episode, Mark shares one of his best Italian-inspired recipes: Crayfish Simmered Shrimp and Pesto Penne with Cherub Tomatoes, and invites everyone to try making it!
12 thoughts on “[Thoughts on the Table – 53] The Boom of Italian Food in the US, with Food Writer Mark Preston”
Interesting theory. Of course, growing up in an Italian-American family in New York, pizza was *always* a thing. But I can see how Sinatra may have played a role in making it popular in the heartland. I realize that it’s not really on topic for your podcast, but I am curious to know more now about California mission food…
Frank – Thnx for the comment. I spent about 6 weeks, daily, at the Los Angeles Public Library reviewing cookery books, clippings, ephemera and newspapers for early Californio Cuisine. The Cal Mission Cookery is a result of that research. But I say to all reading this that the work was never designed for beginner cooks. Temperatures are often omitted and deliberately so. This is not Betty Crocker.
Sounds interesting! Is it available in e-format as well any place?
I had scanned the pages for GoogleBooks. I had the release of copyright ready for them to publish the book online. Then I got the ‘flu, strep throat and a slipped disk all at the same time. So sitting at the computer, I, in a daze of pain and discomfort, deleted my entire hard drive, in 2 keystrokes. Sadly, I’ve never found time to duplicate that effort. It usually sells on eBay for 99 cents or so. (Final Offer).
Loved this episode, Paolo, Mark. Thank you!
I had no idea that Frank Sinatra was part of the popularization of pizza. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’d ever imagined a time in history when pizza was not popular in North America, but of course, like every food, I guess there has to be one.
Would love to hear more about your adventures in Italy, Mark!
Glad you enjoyed the podcast, Jason – I’ll make sure to get Mark back for another episode soon!
Dumb question. But isn’t the The Silver Spoon recipe authentic?
Hi Francis, the most official recipe I could find is by Accademia della Cucina Italiana which apparently they deposited at the Chamber of Commerce of Bologna in 1982 and which resembles quite closely how ragu` is made in my family, except that the use of milk or cream was sporadic at best.
Thanks Paulo. There is a ragù alla bolognese in the hot sauce section of my Silver Spoon. But, I will cross reference. By the way, I just noticed a lasagna napoletana without ricotta in the Silver Spoon 🙂
*Paolo. Mi dispiace!
Disgraces on the comment thread 🙂
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