On Cooking with Oral History

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    The reader can learn about Dr. Alexander J. Chandler, who, in the 1890s, began a ranch in the area of what is today Chandler. In the years 1900 to 1910, Mexican laborers came from Mexico to clear the desert around Chandler and other parts of the Valley; they dug the canal waterways for farming.  In the mid-1900s, African Americans from Oklahoma, Texas, and other states arrived in the Chandler vicinity to settle and work in agriculture. Immigrants from many other parts of the world also came to call Chandler their home.  All these settlers brought with them their food culture, which in their history had important values of uniting family during social or religious celebrations.

    Their food culture as exemplified in their recipes may refer to meals that have a long-standing history as well as a historical significance. For example, Emma Arbuckle, who arrived in Chandler from Texas, brought with her a custom of cooking corn meal bread in the “hoecake” style. She would squeeze off a piece of dough, roll it in a ball, put it in a skillet, and mash it down and browned both sides. Her family ate hoecakes with syrup for breakfast. George Rodriguez’s recipe for Capirotada, a bread pudding culturally observed during Lent (a Catholic observance of penance and atonement), came to Mexico from Spain, and may relate to Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of penance and atonement.

    The echoes of a past life as found in the stories may motivate readers to taste the food to complete the story.  A reader’s own past may contain a similar meal as part of his or her heritage.  Their food culture as exemplified in their recipes may refer to meals that have a long-standing history. Each story and recipe presents a challenge for readers to research and find out about the meals’ ingredients as well as its historical significance.

    Our oral history book can also help bring together a neighborhood or a community by sharing each other’s culture and heritage through reading about the neighborhood life experiences and cooking their recipes.  This attribute adds more value to our Centennial Celebration as readers can have fun cooking with oral history.
    Santos C. Vega
    March 5, 2012

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