I recently started writing the Edible Traditions column for edible Reno-Tahoe magazine, a wonderful publication that celebrates local food & food-related traditions. My last regular magazine gig was several years ago, when I initiated a column on local history for RENO magazine (some examples can be found on my writing page) under the direction of then-editor Amanda Burden, who went on to establish edible Reno-Tahoe in 2010. I’ve always loved researching and presenting tasty historical morsels that can help people engage with our community and its colorful past, and coincidentally, I also love food, so voila! A match made in culinary historical heaven.
For Edible Traditions, I’m hoping to share stories that not only illuminate the past, but provide us with food for thought (see what I did there?) about how to deepen our connections to those traditions today.
When brainstorming for the current issue, which focuses on meat, I found dozens and dozens of articles and ads for local steakhouses from the 1940s through 1960s, that heady dinner-and-a-show era of martini madness. And one dish kept appearing in those ads–the mahogany-broiled steak. You can read the full column here, but suffice it to say that researching the background of this delectable dish sent me following a trail of crumbs that included oral histories, such as that of Dick Graves, founder of the Sparks Nugget (among other local establishments), historical newspapers, city directories, and photo archives, such as the treasure trove found in the Special Collections department of the UNR Libraries.
The popularity of this local specialty may have dimmed, but its use of unique local ingredients is echoed in today’s growing preferences for locally-sourced food and farm-to-table preparations. Will mahogany-broiled steak return to fashion? I’ll leave that to the gastronomical visionaries and trendsetters among us. But I’m thrilled to participate in the conversation and illuminate what I can about our shared culinary heritage.