Thursday, July 31, 2008

The San Francisco Treat®

I was listening to Morning Edition this morning, when I heard the Kitchen Sisters do a Hidden Kitchens episode about Rice-A-Roni. It brought back fond childhood memories of watching television, and hearing the clang-clang of the San Francisco Cable Cars on the Rice-A-Roni commercials.

Check out the Hidden Kitchens' Rice-A-Roni episode. It is a compelling story that has drama, love, food, and San Francisco all rolled up into a seamless American icon. This particular story really struck a chord with me.

Most Americans of a certain age probably know (or could at least hum) the Rice-A-Roni jingle, which may be a low comment on American culture. For me, it evokes long summer days in Moscow, Idaho, watching television, and endlessly hearing the commercial. Cable cars were a long ways from Idaho. As far as I can recall, my mother never served "The San Francisco Treat," although we did sometimes eat out of a box.

Mostly, the commercial and the product remind me of summer days that we hoped would never end. Most afternoons, we would trek off to the swimming pool in West Park, which was a couple of miles away. It was a long walk for us since we lived on the very east side of town. We would sometimes play in the neighbor's barn, building forts in the hay. Another favorite activity was to build dams across the little stream that ran along the bottom of the yard. We often had major road construction projects going on with our toy trucks and other heavy earth moving equipment.

Of course, Dad would want us to weed so many rows of green beans in the garden. Or we would have to work on the wood pile. I was always allergic to work; I would rather read or watch television. Sometimes, my twin brother and I and the neighbor kids would get on our bikes and take off into the country. We had a million things to do, and an eternity in which to do it, until parents came home or school began.

I'm still not sure that I've ever eaten Rice-A-Roni, but it will probably make an appearance on our table shortly, or even better, I can fix Pailadzo Captanian's Rice Pilaf, the dish that started it all in San Francisco.