Historical Cookery

Even in the Fifties, San Francisco Was a Food-Lover’s Paradise

Kerouac in 1956, the year before <em>On the Road</em> was published.
Kerouac in 1956, the year before On the Road was published. Photo: Tom Palumbo

Always a sensualist, Jack Kerouac frequently mentions food (and lots of drink) in his books. Today, East Bay writer Anneli Rufus points to one choice quote in particular about San Francisco eats from On the Road — which happens to be getting a new film adaptation later this year.

And we quote:

I smelled all the food of San Francisco. There were seafood places out there where the buns were hot, and the baskets were good enough to eat too; where the menus themselves were soft with foody esculence as if dipped in hot broths and roasted dry and good enough to eat too. Just show me the bluefish spangle on a seafood menu and I’d eat it; let me smell the drawn butter and lobster claws. There were places where they specialized in thick red roast beef au jus, or roast chicken basted in wine. There were places where hamburgs* sizzled on grills and the coffee was only a nickel. And oh, that pan-fried chow mein flavored air that blew into my room from Chinatown, vying with the spaghetti sauces of North Beach, the soft-shell crab of Fisherman’s Wharf — nay, the ribs of Fillmore turning on spits! Throw in the Market Street chili beans, redhot, and french-fried potatoes of the Embarcadero wino night, and steamed clams from Sausalito across the bay, and that’s my ah-dream of San Francisco.

So, even back in the late 40s/early 50s when the book was set, an East Coaster could revel in all the various restaurants this town had. Yes, folks, we’ve always been awesome. The end.

Kerouac Was a Comfort Food Freak [HuffPo]

* Quite possibly he’s referring to the hamburg steaks at Original Joe’s, which are still on the menu.

Even in the Fifties, San Francisco Was a Food-Lover’s Paradise