The fab folks from North Beach’s own Kitchen Sisters have produced a radio piece about the history of Rice-A-Roni, the “San Francisco Treat,” that’ll debut during NPR’s Morning Edition on Thursday, July 31.
Personally, I suspect we locals no longer eat much of the stuff now that we live under the iron-fisted regime of Queen Alice Waters of Slowfoodshire. Nevertheless, Rice-A-Roni really was invented in San Francisco, and that infectious jingle practically defines the city for tens of millions of Americans.
The Birth of Rice-A-Roni
San Francisco, 1948. The worlds of a young Canadian immigrant, an Italian pasta making family, and an old Armenian woman converge in this story of the creation of the “San Francisco Treat."
After World War II, newlyweds Lois and Tom DeDomenico moved into the San Francisco apartment of an old Armenian woman, Pailadzo Captanian. During the day, while Tom was off working at his family’s Golden Grain Macaroni factory, Lois spent long kitchen afternoons with Mrs. Captanian learning to make yogurt, baklava, and Armenian rice pilaf while listening to the old woman’s dramatic life story — of the Armenian Genocide, of her husband’s death, her separation from her two young sons and her tortutous deportation trek from Turkey to Syria along with thousands of other women and children. Years later, when Lois made rice pilaf one night for dinner, Tom’s brother Vincent looked down at his plate and said, "This would be good in a box. We’ve got rice, we’ve got macaroni." And Rice-A-Roni was born.
If you miss the broadcast, the recording should be available on the Morning Edition and Kitchen Sisters websites.