Saturday, November 28, 2009

ALTA CALIFORNIA Battles Crime in the City


Few of the historical publications in the Magazine and Newspapers Center microfilm collection have as storied a San Francisco past as the ALTA CALIFORNIA. Initially a reclamation project of publisher Edward C. Kemble and some fellow investors, the ALTA was forged from the remains of what had once been THE CALIFORNIAN and the CALIFORNIA STAR newspapers - victims, as much as anything else, of the Gold Rush itself (and the subsequent manpower shortage resulting from the mass exodus to the hills). The first city daily paper, the ALTA CALIFORNIA (1849-1891) itself shared - and made - much of the vibrant early history and events of San Francisco. It was a time of foundation building (and rebuilding), moralizing, retribution, and not a little sanctification - generated from scratch . . .

The ALTA's Edward Gilbert and associates took some strong editorial stands in their day. Commenting on imports in March 1851, the paper voiced a complaint that San Francisco merchants (amidst growing pains) would only repeat in succeeding years:

"Before, we could not get adequate
supplies from all sources; now we find
our markets broken down with merchandise
from the eastern states . . . ."

Thus addressing the problems of over-supply in imported merchant goods, the ALTA would subsequently foresee a peaking gold production and a diminished growth in mining, and would point (early on) to the need for a more diversified and sustainable economy for Californians.

Dramatic historical events link the DAILY ALTA CALIFORNIA most closely to the phenomenon of crime and vigilantism in frontier San Francisco, for the paper took a strong, outspoken, and active participatory role in the local struggle for the establishment of law and order. The ALTA came down early on crime, beginning on January 1, 1851:

"There are some three hundred thieves in this city, who live by their profession, and prefer to live so rather than work . . . ."

and continuing in this vein in late February 1851:

"No place seems safe from outrage, no person secure, even in his own dwelling . . . the floodgates of crime, which seem opened by the devil's hand and flowing from his infernal abode through our very midst . . . ."

Crime in Gold Rush San Francisco plagued the populace to alarming degrees, in the predominant forms of assault, battery, larceny, criminal arson and murder. The ALTA, as did other local newspapers, blamed Australian (and later Chinese) immigrants at large for much of early San Francisco's rampant vice and lawlessness in the February 25, 1851 issue:

"The state of California has been made the grand rendezvous for the transported felons of Great Britain, who have either managed to escape or have been assisted in their embarkation from the penal colonies."


Friday, November 20, 2009

Collaborative Recipes

When you run a search on Google nowadays, you may discover results from Wikipedia, an online universal encyclopedia where anyone can add, delete, revise, or edit content. Transfer this concept to the world of cooking, and you might find yourself inundated with a whirlwind of ideas in the culinary arts.

With the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approaching, you might want to revisit, sharpen, or even expand your culinary skills. Foodista, a wiki where food afficionados can "find, share and learn about food and cooking," can help you along this path. Enter a term or phrase like "eggs" into the search box. On the right-hand side, you will see your results categorized into related foods, techniques, and tools.

Want to add some spice to your dish? Refer to our blog posting on chile peppers. Have a knack for baking? Then maybe you'd like to review our Cook's Illustrated posting. And of course, don't forget our leftovers posting.

Foodista is an online cooking encyclopedia where anyone edit and add to its evolving content. Discover new ways of combining ingredients, swap and enhance recipes with other online participants, and share cooking techniques with all food lovers and culinary enthusiasts. Read the reviews on this Web site to hear what people are saying about this Foodista.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New York Review of Books - Articles about Newspapers and the Internet

Two articles by Michael Massing appeared recently in the New York Review of Books describing the current state of journalism in newspapers and the Web.
"The News About the Internet"
This article, published in the August 13, 2009 issue, talks about how blogging has developed and how the practice is being incorporated into more traditional mainstream media outlets.

"A New Horizon for the News"
The follow up article, published in the September 24, 2009 issue, discusses the economic issues affecting the operations of newspapers and discusses some new models for continuing journalism.

The New York Review of Books, a long-standing, thought-provoking magazine for well over 40 years, highlights stimulating essays on current topics on literature, culture, and current affairs, lengthy reviews by and about major authors, and original poetry. To read more articles from this eclectic magazine, drop by the Magazines & Newspapers Center.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gourmet Magazine, 1941-2009

Citing a slump in ad revenue, magazine publisher Conde Nast announced recently that it will shutter four of its titles including the venerable Gourmet Magazine.

In much the same way that the success of Nora Ephron's Julie and Julia was an opportunity to reflect upon Julia Child's contribution to American home cooking, the passing of Gourmet offers the chance to reflect on the expansion of the average American's palate. When the first issue of Gourmet hit the stands in 1941, the most "exotic" restaurant in most towns would have probably been Italian; today, it's not unusual for a person in even a small town to be able to choose from East Asian, Indian, or Central and South American eateries, plus creative cuisines that transcend geography. My grandparents considered mayo the default condiment; today, I can usually count on finding salsa, soy sauce, and at least one type of hot sauce in my friends' refrigerators.

I have to suspect that at least some of the credit for the wonderful diversity in food choices in the U.S. should go to a couple generations of adventurous home cooks, many of whom surely conducted their kitchen experiments with a whisk in one hand and a copy of Gourmet in the other.

For a terrific example of the thoughtful food writing that Gourmet published, look no further than the August 2004 issue, in which David Foster Wallace takes a characteristically thorough look at the pesky ethical issues surrounding the practice of cooking and eating lobster. "Consider the Lobster," which was later included in a collection of Wallace's nonfiction writing bearing the same name, is an example of how good food writing can transcend mere recipes and touch on issues of culture, philosophy, and community. This type of writing was common in Gourmet and will be missed by many.

To take a look at "Consider the Lobster" or any other issue of Gourmet between 1946 and 2009, stop by the Magazines and Newspapers Center.