The Surprising History of Rice-A-Roni, The San Francisco Treat

30 07 2008

When I was growing up in Ohio, San Francisco was the place my grandmother loved, the place my parents got that yummy orange spice tea that we brought out on special occasions, and of course, the place that Rice-A-Roni comes from! Pretty much my entire knowledge of San Francisco was the Golden Gate Bridge and this picture. Who knew that I’d end up working for five years just over the hill from this scene, right at the end of the California Street line? My co-workers and I could tell which operator was on shift by the bell clanging, and we’d smugly laugh at the tourists who wore shorts. Honestly! You are NOT in L.A.!

Laughing Squid let me know that NPR’s Morning Edition will feature the history of Rice-A-Roni, that San Francisco treat. Tune in tomorrow, July 31, 2008 to hear all about it, or check the Morning Edition or Kitchen Sisters website if you miss it.

The Birth of Rice-A-Roni

San Francisco, 1948. The worlds of a young Canadian immigrant, an Italian pasta making family, and an old Armenian woman converge in this story of the creation of the “San Francisco Treat.”

After World War II, newlyweds Lois and Tom DeDomenico moved into the San Francisco apartment of an old Armenian woman, Pailadzo Captanian. During the day, while Tom was off working at his family’s Golden Grain Macaroni factory, Lois spent long kitchen afternoons with Mrs. Captanian learning to make yogurt, baklava, and Armenian rice pilaf while listening to the old woman’s dramatic life story — of the Armenian Genocide, of her husband’s death, her separation from her two young sons and her tortutous deportation trek from Turkey to Syria along with thousands of other women and children. Years later, when Lois made rice pilaf one night for dinner, Tom’s brother Vincent looked down at his plate and said, “This would be good in a box. We’ve got rice, we’ve got macaroni.” And Rice-A-Roni was born.


What’s YOUR favorite San Francisco treat?



One response

30 07 2008

It’s-It’s Ice Cream. They used to be made by hand at Playland At the Beach. You can still buy them. The mass produced are not as good as the old hand made while you waited!

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