by Nancy Armitage
I found this great Edwardian Huntington menu called the “Electric Dinner” (from the World’s Fair San Francisco in 1915). It has so many California historical facts related to it. Just what I’m looking for: a historic menu with interesting food, 2 amazing American inventors, at the 1915 San Francisco World’s Fair. The fair was actually called “Columbia Pan Pacific World’s Fair” (Expo) with the date & time. I love menus, they give us so much information about an event, Mr. H. E. Huntington & his Huntington Land & Improvement Co. owned the Electric company in Southern California. I am so happy as a researcher. Let me show you this 10-course fancy “Electric Dinner” menu:
Given in honor of Mr. & Mrs. Thomas A. Edison & Mr. & Mrs. Henry Ford & guests. Pacific Coast managers of the General Electric Company at their exhibit in the Electrical Home of the building of Manufacturers at Pan-Pacific I Exposition [San Francisco, CA] Thursday, October 21,  at 6pm
California Fruit Cocktail
Green Turtle Soup
Lobster Patties, Edison
Noisette of Lamb, Henry Ford
Pancakes, Villa Montfleuri
Piece de Resistance – “America”
Burbank Fruit Pudding, a la Ford with Edison Light Sauce
Wine & Water
Apollinaris Mineral Water
Italian Swiss Colony – Chateau Asti”
Document: Book: The Menu & Recipe Book by Josef Lehner 1915
Was Mr. & Mrs. H. E. Huntington there at this dinner? I don’t know. I do know the Huntington did attend the World’s Fair in 1915. Mr. & Mrs. Huntington “Edwards & Belle” arrived in San Francisco on Wed. June 28, 1915. Mr. H. E. Huntington’s brother-in-law writes in his journal: “Edwards [HEH] & Belle arrived at 11:50 pm via coast line [via Southern Pacific RR] in their car, “San Marino 1” & “San Marino 2″ from San Marino [Ranch] & went to the [Hotel} Fairmont” on Nob Hill. Document: HEH Coll HEH MS 10928 (Burkes Journals 1914-18.) I am not sure if they went back to San Francisco to go to the “Electric Dinner” in the Autumn but its possible.
California Fruit Cocktail
What could have been in this colorful fruit salad? It all depends on the fruit & berries you have on hand. With color in a fruit salad, the brighter the better because it is so attractive with all the different colors. It was a Edwardian thing to add mayonnaise &/or sour cream to a fruit salad, but its really not necessary. In California, one doesn’t need to add anything to the fruit & it will taste flavorful & delicious. A French tradition is to add 1/2 c. white wine with 3 T. orange blossom honey or lavender honey & the zest of a orange. A refreshing addition to Fruit Salad to me, is to add extra minced spearmint leaves. Snip the spearmint leaves (remove from the stem) with a kitchen scissors to get a fine mince on the herb.
A Italian chef taught me this one: If by chance the strawberries are not ripe, (if they are not sweet): In a small bowl, mix 3 t. sugar & drizzle one teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. Add that to cut strawberries, stir until the sugar dissolves & they will taste amazingly delicious! This fruit salad/cocktail would be stunning in a lime green or blue bowl. Or serve the fruit salad individually in a vintage champagne glass or a large martini glass for drama. Place champagne or martini glasses on a saucer or dessert plate, with a doily on top of saucer.
2 c. Strawberries, remove top and cut in half
2 c. Orange slices, chunks
1 Orange, grate the zest from it and squeeze some of the orange juice out of one orange & discard)
1 c. Mango skinned & sliced or chunks
2 c. Crenshaw melon, cubed
2 c. Peaches, skinned & cut into cubes
2 c. Honey dew melon, cubed
1 c. Kiwi fruit, skinned & sliced or chunks
1 basket of Blackberries, whole
1 basket of Raspberries, whole
1 basket of Blueberries, whole
Skin & cut up all the fruit & place in a pretty green bowl or crystal bowl. Pour the berries over the fruit & toss with a large spoon.
This “Electric Dinner” menu was published in a rare book of Mr. H. E. Huntington. It was located at Huntington Library, in San Marino. The cookbook was called The Menu & Recipe Book by Josef Lehner in 1915. This menu & others were compiled as a souvenir type book (for the World’s Fair goers) for the 1915 Pan Pacific 1 Exposition in San Francisco, CA.
There are many menus & recipes in this book that direct related to Henry E. Huntington &/or the Huntington Family. H. E. Huntington often published cookbooks to promote his products (oranges & fruit) or travel (his trains or California). Always with the help of family recipes from his mansion cooks, his wife Arabella, & daughter-in-law, Mrs. Howard E. Huntington “Leslie”. The cookbooks sales promoted his Presbyterian Church, in Los Angeles, like the Ladies Aid Society or the fruit industry, like Sunkist. On Mr. Huntington’s Toucan Orange crate with his name H. E. Huntington; the label informs us that Sunkist Orange Co. was affiliated with Mr. Huntington & the sell of his oranges from San Marino Ranch & other ranches that he owned. Sunkist had a great cookbook, published in 1916; there is a illustration in that cookbook that looks just like Mr. H. E. Huntington in white tie & tails walking into a formal dinner.
So what does the Piece de Resistance “America” mean? Let’s start with the French word “Piece de Resistance”. Oxford Dictionary informs us that it usually “means a reference to a creative work or a meal; the most important part or most remarkable feature” of the meal. “America” is what they called it on the menu, maybe it lite up in a grand way with sparklers? I think it was a grand fantastical kind of dessert of some kind that had the word “America” in lights or electrical bulbs; that would have been a show stopper for this “Electrical Dinner”. What could it have looked like? Is there any photographs recording this great moment??
Cauliflower a la Polonaise
This is a simple vegetable to make with a lovely rich flavorful dark sauce. My son, recently looked Polonaise Sauce up with a origin of Poland. It was more of a lemon-herb sauce with melted butter, chopped boiled eggs, bread crumbs, & lemon juice with the additions of a melody of herbs (thyme, basil & flat-leafed parsley). This mixture is cooked and pour over steamed vegetables (like cauliflower, asparagus and green vegetables.
1 head cauliflower, take white part off stem & cut up steam for 15-18 mins.
2 t. Butter
1/2 c. Fresh Bread Crumbs
1/2 t. Lemon Thyme leaves
1/2 t. sweet Basil, minced
1 t. Flat-leafed Parsley
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1 T. Lemon juice
pinch of salt & white pepper
Sauté butter in a fry pan, add, bread crumbs & brown the crumbs. Add minced herbs & chopped egg with salt & pepper & sprinkle these herbed crumbs over cauliflower.
French Sauce (Savory Brown Sauce):
1 sm. carrot
1 onion, minced
1/2 stick butter
1/4 c. flour
4 c. beef stock
1/4 c. tomato puree
2 lg. garlic cloves, minced
1 celery rib, minced
1/2 t. mixed peppercorns
1 California bay leaf (fragrant)
Saute minced veggies in butter. Add flour and liquify with stock & tomato puree, season to taste. add bay leaf to sauce & heat up for 15-20 mintes. Take bay leaf out of sauce and discard. Place caulifower flowettes in a vegetable bowl and drizzle with lovely sauce over the top of the caulflower. Cover until ready to serve.
So Mr. H. E. Huntington owned the Edison Co. – which is the Electric Co. – which later became the Southern Edison Co. Mr. H. E. Huntington had something to do with planning this special dinner in honor of these two amazing American inventors. Maybe he was on the Pan Pacific committee (I know Archer Huntington was on it in NYC) in San Francisco or donated money to the Pan-Pacific Company that was formed in 1904.
To select the location of San Francisco, CA was a 2-fold reason. 1) for years California cities like San Diego & Los Angeles were hosting parties, fundraisers, & large expositions for Panama Pacific efforts. 2) They had the Pan Pacific World’s Fair in 1915 to raise money to help San Francisco recover from the terrible earthquake /fire o f1906 that destroyed the entire city & build buildings to last. The World’s fair was situated on 636 acres about 1 mile, now known as the Marina District. The world’s fair’s opening was February 20, 1915 to December 4, 1915.
To help to finish the Panama Canal which did actually happen in 1914. The Panama Canal opened to big ships from the Pacific Ocean to Panama City & eventually to Caribbean Sea. At the 1915 San Francisco Worlds Fair, they had a miniature Panama Canal which was made up of 5 miles of water ways & people could ride in little boats through it. The real Panama Canal should be one of the 7 wonders of the world! But its man-made, but it’s truly amazing how there are able to get these gigantic ships thru the locks of the Panama Canal..
A 2015 pamphlet was “written on the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Pan Pacific celebration: that “The 2 friends (Thomas Edison & Henry Ford) traveled west with their families in Fords private rail [road] car to enjoy the Exposition’s Edison Day on October 21…..General Electric promoted the event with an illustration “Edison’s Dream Come True”. It depicted Edison gazing through a window onto a cityscape made brilliant by his invention”. There were many events at the Exposition to honor him as a great inventor. Information: by PPIE100 October 21, 2015
On October 21, 1915, it was declare “Edison Day” at the World’s Fair! There was a advertising sticker looking like a postage stamp; (yellow. purple, & blue). made up to promote Edison & his special day! It says: October 21st Edison Day 36th Anniversary of Incandescent Lighting 1879-1915 Edison Mazda”
In 1915, Mrs. H. E. Huntington (Arabella) was emotional about this train trip from the San Marino Ranch north to San Francisco. She hadn’t been up to San Francisco since 1906, 9 years had passed. We know this by a document written by E. Burke Holladay in his journal. Her life in San Francisco had stopped, 9 years earlier.
In April of 1906, her massive Nob Hill mansion on at 1020 California St. in San Francisco was completely destroyed. It was completely leveled to the ground by the terrible Earthquake/Fire. All her pretty things were destroyed, exceptionally the large master art collection in the ballroom/picture gallery & art work in all of the rooms, French furniture, large collection of fine bone china (Minton and Sevres) & porcelain plates, etc. Her mansion staff were incredible during the EQ/Fire & quick because they were able to remove at least 4 paintings, if not more. We know of Arabella large portrait with the long red dress painted by French artist Alexandre Cabanel was saved; as was the portrait of her husband, Collis Huntington by artist Keith & 2 other ones. On a happy note, during the week in 1915, Mrs. Arabella Huntington decided to donate her property [a whole city block] of her Huntington mansion to the City of San Francisco. A very generous gift indeed.