I ate a convicted murderers final meal last week in San Francisco. A final meal if it were 1850. The dish is called a “Hang Town Fry,” and it was demanded by criminals about to be put to death in Hang Town, known today as Placerville, California.
Since a man about to be hung was entitled to a final meal of his own choosing, if he were clever, he would choose ingredients that were hard to find in Placerville so that the sheriff would have to take time to find them. In essence, the convicted man was buying time, hoping that while the sheriff was gone buying the ingredients, the man could escape.
Hang Town Fry is a kind of omelet or frittata with eggs, bacon and oysters. There are no oysters in Placerville, but plenty in San Francisco Bay, 128 miles away.
My historic Hang Town Fry was eaten last week in San Francisco at an equally historic restaurant, the Tadich Grill. The Tadich Grill was founded in 1849 and is said to be the third oldest continually running restaurant in America. It is a turn of the century place, with a long counter, private eating spaces and a no reservation policy.
Tadich also serves another historic dish, Cioppino which was created in the late 1800’s in San Francisco by a fish wholesaler Achille Paladini. Paladini served it in his restaurant in the North Beach area of San Francisco.The Cioppino is very good at Tadich Grill and I was told that it is the most popular dish they serve.
It is very likely that William Lewis Manly, the author of “DEATH VALLEY IN ’49” knew about the Hang Town Fry. He might have eaten it when he successfully worked the California gold fields after his death defying adventure crossing Death Valley, California detailed in our Listen2Read audiobook.
Both the Hang Town Fry and the Cioppino were accompanied by a third historical food: Sour Dough Bread –a bread for which San Francisco is famous. The gold miners of Manly’s day carried a yeast starter with them and they existed on sour dough bread to the point that gold miners in Manly’s day were known as “Sour Doughs.”
I was in San Francisco to attend a meeting of the Independent Book Publishers of America. It was an opportunity to meet with my fellow publishers and writers and experience the positive energy these creative people radiate. …and of course to enjoy a delicious serving of Hang Town Fry.