02 August 2013

San Francisco Markets - A Perspective from 1851

There is no city in the East that can compare with San Francisco in the excellence of its market. It is true, we have not as yet, like them, one building exclusively devoted to this purpose, but still, there are multitudes of private stalls where every variety of delicacy one can conceive of may be had. Game of all sorts is abundant. The mouths of the gourmands abroad would fairly water at the magnificent array that our streets present of deer, elk, duck, bear, geese, ducks, curlew, snipe, squirrels, hares and quails. Fish of every kind and most delicious flavor, are daily brought to our market. There is a company, with every appliance on the most complete scale, that is engaged in fishing in our superb bay and to the Pacific outside the Golden Gates. Their fish are brought in every day, alive, so that no one need abstain from this delicacy for fear of its being stale.

Huge turtles, too, can be seen in our restaurants, and even that most exquisite of all dishes, the oyster. It is small, it is true, but cultivation will improve it as in the East, and we hope to see the day when shell fish may be found in our city, as large, as fat, and as luscious as those we have resigned at home.

There is no lack of the more common and substantial meats among us. Beef as fine as [an] eye ever rested on, is for sale in all parts of the city. Mutton, pork, and lamb are plentiful, and of fine character. Veal we intentionally omit.

In the way of vegetables, California may challenge the world, aye, and beat it. Such grand beets and Brobdignag turnips would make our Eastern friends stare. Potatoes of the finest quality and enormous size, are the product of our soil. Cabbages, lettuce, radishes, in fact every variety of vegetable, are now raised in our State, infinitely superior to anything of the kind we ever saw elsewhere. We have plenty of good milk, too, and fresh eggs; and, in a word, all the delicacies of the season. How vast a change in a few short months. Formerly, the announcement that any establishment had potatoes for dinner would have produced a general rush, and cabbages would have raised a mob. Many in the Atlantic States will think we are a set of barbarians out here, and live on acorns and raw beef; but could they once but look over our bill of fare, and partake of our California dainties, they would never want to return to the common-place fare that they now partake of.

March 10, 1851. New York Daily Tribune 10(3087): 6.