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L.A. Really Is a Breadbasket

December 19, 1996

In response to "Department of New Jerkies" (Cookstuff, Dec. 8), I cannot stand by and watch our indigenous California foods constantly being attributed to other cultures. There is a pervasive attitude here in the Southland that there is no local culture, and that is not true.

When I was a child, I enjoyed our road trips to the edge of L.A., where the people that lived in those dome-shaped houses made of tules would sit by the roadside and sell rattlesnake, halibut, trout and beef jerkies. Salmon jerky would begin to appear only a short distance to the north.

During the 1970s, the Board of Health made a concerted and successful effort to rid our culture of all open-cooked foods. People's memories are apparently very short, as most of this tradition has been forgotten. I have always maintained the tradition of making fish jerky in my home.

Although it is true that Japan and other countries share many of the same traditions we do, everything that a person is unfamiliar with is not necessarily from somewhere else.

Here is a brief history of foods from Southern California, off the top of my head:

Monte Cristo sandwich invented in the Coronado Hotel in San Diego; margarita invented at the Tail of the Cock in Los Angeles; burritos are indigenous to L.A. and spread from there; Caeser salad, invented by Cesar Cardini in Tijuana; Cobb salad invented in L.A.; Imperial Valley rolls are aptly named; chipotle pepper is a California rancho food.

Those of us that are from here have to put up with a constant humiliation from the newcomers who believe that there is nothing here save imports from other places. How can you ever belong to a place that has nothing to offer of its own?

IRA RUSSELL

Long Beach

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