When thinking about California one often thinks about the stereotypical beaches, Hollywood, and the Golden Gate bridge. However, California has much more to offer than that. The state of California is so monstrous and diverse that some believe it should be split into multiple states. The diversity comes not only in the type of people or places that line California’s golden coast. Originally founded as a result of the Gold Rush that began in 1848,California has maintained its ‘golden’ status not as a provider of gold but as a provider of food. California has over 80,000 farms that are able to produce not only two thirds of the fruits and nuts for the United States, but more than 400 various food items as well (Medina). As a result of this, California can be considered a cornucopia and has influenced its unique cuisine.
California is the third largest state in size and home to the largest population. A decent amount of this land, about 225.5 million acres, is farm and ranch land, with an average farm size of 329 acres (Snibbe). Due to this fact it is no surprise that California is able to produce a significantly larger about of food than the significantly smaller states. However, what is surprising is that despite California’s large population about one-quarter of the food that is produced is exported world-wide (Snibbe). When examining the amount of food that California imports and exports it is shocking to see the drastic difference between the amounts. In 2012, California exported a high of 18.18 billion dollars worth of food products , while it only imported 10.8 billion of agriculture and livestock products in 2013 (Medina).
Not only does California produce a plethora of agricultural products but it also has some that is specializes in that produce a significant amount of income. California is also the sole producer of over ten common foods items for the United States (Snibbe). This means that 99 percent or more of these specific crops are produced solely in California. In California the three top producing exports are fruits and nuts, livestock products, and vegetables (Medina). Each of these brought over six and a half billion dollars each in 2012 (Medina). With that being said it is an obvious fact that there is a decent amount of money in food production in California. In fact, in 2015 California’s agricultural cash receipts were not only first in the nation, but twenty billion dollars higher than the second leading state (Snibbe). This included about twenty seven percent of California’s farms generating over one hundred thousand dollars, which is significantly higher than the national average of twenty percent (Snibbe).
One of the biggest reasons that California is able to produce such a wide variety of foods is a result of its large number of micro-climates (Paramapoonya). This number of micro-climates allow for different types of crops to be produced in different areas. Additionally, the warmer weather that California experiences allows farmers to farm year round as opposed to seasonally. All of these foods that are produced in California in abundance are then incorporated in the California cuisine. Since so many different foods are produced in California the California cuisine is extremely broad as it relies heavily on California’s local produce and seafood (Paramapoonya). The cuisine is also influenced by the population diversity of the state. California is home to many Hispanics, Europeans, and Asians and their way of cooking. As a result of this California chefs tend to cook in a style known as “fusion cooking”. This style is when a chef imitates, adapts, simplifies and unites components of several cuisines (Paramapoonya).
Another influence to California cuisine is the health conscience culture that exists. One of the most prevalent ways of seeing this in California is the large use of small-scale farmers instead of large food-service companies in many restaurants (Paramapoonya). In addition to eating from small-scale farmers in restaurants many people flock to the various farmer’s markets that are planted all around the state (Paramapoonya). This not only helps increase the revenue for smaller farms but increases the local produce that is found in the typical California cuisine.
Some of the most popular dishes in the California cuisine are California Rolls, California Style Pizza, and the Cobb Salad. California Rolls are influenced by the Japanese culture and were created by Ichiro Mashita, a Los Angeles sushi chef, instead of having the traditional tuna in them avocado is used as a replacement and then the sushi is rolled inside out because customers did not like the look of black seaweed on the outside(Paramapoonya). California Style Pizza was created by San Francisco pizza chef, Ed LaDou, who madetraditional thin crust pizzas but put things such as artichokes, barbecued meat, goat cheese, chunky roasted vegetables and mustard on top (Paramapoonya). The Cobb Salad was created by a Hollywood restaurant owner, Bob Cobb, when he went into the kitchen late at night and simply threw together ingredients that he found such as hard-boiled eggs, a cold chicken breast, avocados, tomatoes and bacon (Paramapoonya). From these examples of popular dishes it is evident that they all contain ingredients that are locally produced in California. It also comes to light that these dishes can also be considered healthy. While pizza is not typically considered a healthy option by incorporating locally produced vegetables, the pizza can be justified as a healthy dish.
Overall California is truly a cornucopia. This cornucopia is then heavily incorporated into foods to create the traditional California cuisine.
Medina, Jose. Fast Facts on California’s Agricultural Economy. 2014, ajed.assembly.ca.gov/sites/ajed.assembly.ca.gov/files/Fast%20Facts%20on%20California%27s%20Agricultural%20Economy.pdf.
Paramapoonya, Om. “California Cuisine – History, Features and Fun Facts.” Delishably, Delishably, 26 Oct. 2015, delishably.com/vegetable-dishes/california_cuisine.
Snibbe, Kurt. “California Farms Produce a Lot of Food – but What and How Much Might Surprise You.” Orange County Register, Orange County Register, 27 July 2017, www.ocregister.com/2017/07/27/california-farms-produce-a-lot-of-food-but-what-and-how-much-might-surprise-you/.