Reading Made in California by George Geary
I’ve long been fascinated with California’s culinary history. So many significant restaurants and fast food spots have originated in the Golden State. In fact, a few years ago my friends and I went on a fast food road trip to visit some old school locations of well known brands like McDonald’s and Baskin Robbins. So when I heard about Made in California: The California-Born Burger Joints, Diners, Fast Food and Restaurants that Changed America I knew it would be a must read. As soon as I had copy in hand I started reading and (spoiler alert) I absolutely loved it.
If anyone was destined to write Made in California it was certainly George Geary. Not only is he the author of one of my favorite books, L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants, but he also was the culinary coordinator of the LA County Fair, a pastry chef for the Walt Disney Company and the man behind the famous cheesecakes on The Golden Girls. The man knows his stuff when it comes to food, history and Americana.
Made in California places the spotlight on 50 different food establishments that originated in our fair state. Presented in chronological order it features such obvious entries as McDonald’s and In-N-Out and some more obscure spots like Baker’s Burgers and Copper Penny Family Restaurants. No matter the size or fame level, each and every business is thoughtfully presented with a full history of its rise to prominence and, occasionally, its fall. In addition, fun facts are presented about each spot and I was happy to learn about the 4 remaining original flavors of See’s Candy and the In-N-Out’ locations without a drive-thru.
As a lover of California history in any shape and form I can’t tell you how excited I was to dive into the book. I purposely didn’t read the list of locations so that I would be surprised each time and I may have emitted shouts of glee when coming across certain entries like Love’s Wood Pit Barbecue. Though there are no remaining locations Love’s looms large in my memory. It was a family favorite and I was excited every time we headed there for a meal. Ribs, steak fries and the world’s best barbecued beans were my favorite things to eat and, to this day, I can still taste them. I was brokenhearted when my neighborhood location closed and coming across it in the book was a wonderful trip down memory lane.
Love’s Barbecue wasn’t the only spot that had me feeling nostalgic. Swensen’s Ice Cream brought back several fond memories (and solved the mystery as to why my local one changed its name overnight) as did Marie Callender’s and Coco’s. California’s food landscape has changed drastically since these establishments were in their prime but I’m happy that some continue to have locations that thrive to this day.
Made in California ends with the year 1966 and the establishment of Peet’s Coffee and, while I was sad my culinary journey had ended, it left me excited for a possible companion edition. There are so many California food spots left to cover! I’d love to learn more about Spires, Ruby’s, Wahoo’s, Johnny Rockets, Rubio’s and more. Regardless of any possible future editions I’m so happy Made in California exists. It’s a nostalgic look at the food companies that shaped California, the US and, often, the world and is a must for anyone’s bookshelf.