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Vintage California Cuisine: 300 Recipes from the First Cookbooks Published in the Golden State


Learn more about Charles Fletcher Lummis

American Character
: A biography of Charles Lummis
By Mark Thompson

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Taste of the States: A Food History of America
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Why Californians Should Eat Chiles

Charles Fletcher Lummis was known to be downright nutty in his devotion to the culture and traditions of the Southwest. The author, editor and preservationist who founded the Southwest Museum now located in Los Angeles’ Arroyo Seco not far from where Lummis lived, was often seen about town a century ago in his Mexican sombrero with a red sash wrapped around the waist of his green corduroy suit.

He was also a founder and president of the Landmarks Club, an organization devoted to restoring California’s crumbling Spanish missions, employing experts in Spanish colonial history and architecture to assure that the jobs were done right. The club was also instrumental in preserving something more mundane but no less important to the historical integrity of Los Angeles, namely "several hundred of the historic street names which were being replaced with irrelevant new titles."

More than two dozen recipes from the Landmarks Club Cookbook are reprinted in Vintage California Cuisine:


Lummis was equally devoted to preserving the culinary traditions of the region, judging from a chapter he contributed to the Landmarks Club Cookbook, published in 1903 to raise funds for the mission restorations. In his chapter, entitled "Some Spanish American Dishes of California, Mexico, Peru, Etc.", Lummis revealed that he had little patience with those who turned their noses up at chile peppers, a staple of the desert Southwest.

"It is a stupid traveler who mocks the ancient wisdom of the country as to what in that country should be eaten," Lummis wrote. Chiles have been eaten in the region now known as California for thousands of years, a tradition that prudent Californians of modern times should heed, he asserted.

Chiles, "both green and ripe, are a "necessity of the arid lands. For anti-bilious reasons [Spanish American cookery] is much more highly seasoned than our own cookery," he explained.

Lummis counseled those who have tried chiles and didn’t like them not to give up hope. "Most Americans do not at first flush like dishes in which they predominate; but it is an easily acquired taste."

Lummis included a number of chile recipes in his chapter. Here are two of them.

Peruvian Albondigas
(Stuffed green peppers; the Mexican Albondiga is entirely different)

Boil mutton till tender. Scald large green chile peppers and remove their thin outer skin. Hash the meat and make it into a stuffing with raisins, stoned ripe olives and hard-boiled eggs minced fine. Fill the peppers with this stuffing and put them in a pot in which has already been prepared a sauce of tomatoes, whole red chile peppers, raisins, onion and a little broth, and heat slowly, twenty minutes, without stirring. Garlic can be added.

Bernalillo Chile Sauce

Twelve large tomatoes, twelve green chiles, twelve medium onions, chop well; three cups sugar, three cups vinegar, two teaspoons allspice, one teaspoon cayenne pepper, two heaping teaspoons salt. Boil all together till thick.

Copyright 2005 Seasonal Chef