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What we ate for Thanksgiving...
And how San Francisco became the salami capital of the United States.
Diasporican is for sale almost everywhere books are sold. If you don’t want to purchase from a conglomerate (because they actually discount the book and that low key makes it harder for me to reach the point where royalties kick in) then buy from your local bookstore. Does your local bookstore have it in stock?! No idea! You’d have to ask them. If they say “no,” then ask them if they’d carry it! Where is your nearest local bookstore? I don’t know! I don’t live where you live. But, some people put in some extra steps and found out for themselves, from California all the way to Australia! And I love them so much for it.
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I woke up at 6AM on Thanksgiving to start the last of my prep and turn on the oven. But not before turning on the stove to boil my water that would find its way submerging coffee grounds that come from the foggy mountains of Puerto Rico. Coffee comes first. The oven coils started to glow from inside the contraption and warm up the kitchen. I pulled the turkey out of the refrigerator and let the both of us get our shit together before I shoved it into its inferno of demise. I had forgotten to grab the new container of Mrs. Dash from the trunk of my car. I put on my chanclas and my ratty Old Navy sweater - which I think may be Christmas themed, but unsure since it came from the thrift store - and made a mad dash to the car. As soon as I opened the back door, the frigid air filled my lungs with frost and breath vapor billowed from my mouth as I whispered, “Holy shit.”
It was 33°F, almost a freeze. The sky was icy clear blue, mountain air adjacent. All of the neighborhood’s lawns, usually so neatly manicured and green, shimmered from being covered in ice. And I hadn’t covered any of my outdoor plants like a responsible plant owner. Nor had I covered any of the exposed outdoor pipes with the grey foam insulation like my mom taught me when I was a kid. Ignoring all of these things, I power walked back into the warmth of the house only to find Pavo chittering and being led around the living room by a pincher bug on the hardwood floors.
Back at my apartment in the Bay Area, the building has turned on the boiler and now the radiator hisses a comforting lullaby every night. Unless someone new in the surrounding units hasn’t figured out to turn the knob on theirs and release a little of the pressure. Then an alarming knock! clang! boom! clash! will sound through the walls. Sometimes the clang of the pipes can be mistaken for a nanosecond earthquake that will shake the building. The sudden jolt comparable to the jerk that occurs when someone yanks at your neck when you’re being jacked for your cadena. Much the same, you have no idea what the hell happened and your only source of information is to go to Twitter and see who else is mentioning #earthquakes. Which is also a good way to see some local people you haven’t spoken to in a while and make new friends.
While the Bay Area stays reasonably temperate and mild during the winter, rarely dropping below 40°F, it gets cold in Sacramento and every year I’m convinced that this will be the year it snows in Sacramento again. This is the type of weather I want to hike in. This is the type of weather I want during my holidays. This is the type of weather I want to cook in.
If you’ve purchased Diasporican, then you may have seen Mami’s cornbread dressing with salami. Which is actually my grandma’s cornbread dressing with salami.
During the holidays we get very brand loyal. And one of those brands is Gallo and their hard salame chub. “Who knows how Nana came up with this combination of buttery boxed cornbread mix and salty salami.” Mami attributes nana’s introduction of the Italian charcuterie - usually made by Garde Mangers the world over - to nana’s Italian neighbor, Marie. And it wouldn’t be entirely farfetched to assume that, to a teenage Puerto Rican, it looked like sausage and that sausage is sausage.
The red, white and green paper that held that burgundy-colored hardened chub wrapped in the powdery lactic acid bacteria skin was always included in the Thanksgiving dressing.
Why did nana choose Gallo over the other two? It has everything to do with the industrial innovation of Ernie Gallo.
Interestingly enough, three local companies make a hard salame chub: Molinari & Sons Inc (1896), Columbus (1917) and Gallo (technically 1940s). All are based out of the SF Bay Area, but Molinari can be a little more difficult to find for some.
Louis Gabiati owned and operated a business called Roma Sausage located at Jackson Square in San Francisco in 1910. However, his son, Ercole “Ernie” Gabiati (born and raised in San Francisco), took over his father’s company in the late 1940s. Renaming it Gallo Salame. Instead of wholesaling salamis to delis, Ernie produced, sliced and then ingeniously vacuum-packed the salami at the factory so it could be sold in grocery stores - like Safeway - nationwide and ready to serve. Essentially creating an entirely new business from his father’s foundation.
At the turn of the century, pockets of San Francisco were still dedicated to large Italian communities, like North Beach and the Mission District. You can still see immense evidence of their presence in North Beach. But you’d have to put on your ViewMaster and insert the “Italian” reels in order to see the remnants of the Italian population in the Mission. Golden Grain Macaroni Co. (who would create Rice-A-Roni) was originally located in San Francisco’s Mission District. And it was only 2018 when Lucca Deli closed their 22nd and Valencia location after being in operation since 1929 (and allegedly earned $10 million as a result).
And San Francisco has been called the salami capital of the United States, claiming to make the most salami outside of Italy. If that seems a little braggadocious, it is. The same reason why San Francisco produces some of the best salami, is the same reason sourdough was created in SF and Anchor Brewing placed its cooling pans of California Common on the roof of their original brewery on Pacific Avenue.
San Francisco’s climate.
Gallo’s salami ferments for a few days. Then the salami is taken into an aging room that is primarily cooled by San Francisco’s natural climate; the moist air naturally ages the salami for a month. The white mold forms on the outside of the casing. The mold is imperative because it insulates the salame and helps promote a balanced hardening of the meat.
The same way it was done since its inception by Louis Gabiati in 1910 until his grandson, Ernie, sold the company to Consolidated Foods Incorporated (Sara Lee Corp) in 1979. This is when the company also changed the original salame recipe. Since then Gallo has been absorbed into the Hillshire Brands Company, which became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tyson Foods.
It’s not Thanksgiving if I don’t see Mami using her blunt knife to saw into a near impenetrable cylindrical meat log creating jagged chunks of fermented meat that make my mouth itch for some reason.
It may be time for me to abandon the mission and refocus my attention onto a different brand of salami. The last several years we’ve found it’s become increasingly difficult to track the salame chubs down. Not because they don’t produce them, but we fear more people may be buying them! We’ve also noticed for the last few Thanksgivings that the Gallo no longer comes in the red, white and green paper packaging and it no longer has the powdery white mold coated “skin” or thin casing on the outside of the hardened chub. It’s just raw dogging in a clear plastic bag. I don’t want this. No one wants this.
Where’s my mold?!
And other things we ate for Thanksgiving
A random side dish I threw together because I had a bag of green beans and a half a bag of Trader Joe’s rainbow baby carrots. I cooked both of them down for longer than I normally would, making sure the beans were super soft. Added in a pat of butter. And pan roasted some sliced almonds in the same pan until they were brown, then fully incorporated them with the green beans and carrots. Gonna write this non-recipe recipe down right here so I’ll remember.
In a 12’’ cast iron skillet, over high heat, toss in a tablespoon of salted butter. When the butter is almost melted, throw in washed green beans and baby carrots. Could also use large diced regular carrots. Saute in butter for 1-2 minutes, keeping the mixture moving, add in 1/2 cup water and immediately cover with a lid. Turn heat down to medium high and allow to cook for 5 minutes, or until the carrots are fork tender. Crank the heat back up until the water has evaporated, push the veg to one side of the pan, add in another tablespoon of butter and saute your sliced almonds in the butter until brown, 1-2 minutes. Keep an eye on them. When browned, incorporate into the veg mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a squeeze of juice from one lemon wedge. Thee end.
The older I get, the more I find myself “doctoring” up ingredients like Mami used to do when she was my age. I didn’t make my gravy from scratch like I normally do. Instead, I went the route of using a box of Trader Joe’s turkey gravy. I added the turkey juice and drippings, some leftover evaporated milk, a hefty dose of Mrs. Dash, rubbed sage, soy sauce and a squeeze of lemon. No one could tell the difference.