Before Alice Waters

In 1898, Sunset Magazine was launched by executives of the Southern Pacific Railroad in hopes of luring Eaterners to move across the country. Next week the publication is issuing a collection of the recipes its published over the years, prompting the New York Times to muse on the kind of food it championed:

BEFORE Alice Waters picked her first Little Gem lettuce and Wolfgang Puck draped smoked salmon across a pizza, California cuisine meant something else.

The other California cuisine was being served on a million patios in the Golden State by relaxed cooks who grilled thick cuts of beef called tri-tip and built salads from avocado and oranges. They used red chili sauce like roux, ate abalone and oysters, and whipped sticky dates into milkshakes. It was the food of the gold rush and of immigrants, of orchards and sunshine.

And always, there was young, easy-to-drink wine that could be paired with salad or Mexican food, two staples of the patio table.

“It was California cooking before chefs got ahold of it,” said John Carroll, a West Coast food writer.

It still is.