Stockton’s Ethnic Communities and the Early Community Cookbooks

Document Type

Conference Proceeding



Conference Title

Feast for the Eyes: Gastronomy and Fine Print Symposium


The Book Club of California


San Francisco, CA

Conference Dates

October 24-25, 2014

Date of Presentation



In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Stockton was a bustling post gold-rush era city eager to reinvent itself by fostering business and industry, which meant making the city hospitable to workers from many different backgrounds. With a remarkable legacy of cultural diversity, it is no surprise that the city has always had markets and restaurants cater-ing to a wide range of peoples from around the world: Hispanic, Asian, African, and European, as it does to this day. This period also witnessed a proliferation of community cookbooks from churches, the synagogue, and public schools. This paper will describe how ordinary people negotiated the gastronomic landscape either by incorporating and adapting foods from their multi-ethnic neighbors or by ignoring them. Since these were recipes chosen by citizens, they reflect to some extent the dishes they actually ate, or at least, when signed, designate those foods they wanted their neighbors to think they were able to prepare. Exactly what these cookbooks say from a social, political, religious, and ethnographic vantage point will be explored as an illustration of how the city experienced growing pains in accepting diversity through its food. The books themselves will also be discussed as historic artifacts, as some are cheaply made, others are quite elegant, though all were actually published and printed in Stockton.