June 9, 2016
Another from my bookshelf of vintage oddities: this cheap eats guide to San Francisco. The author, R. B. Read, exhibits a delight in culinary discovery so of-the-moment I had to check the publication date. (Though with a cover like that…) He takes us to an Afghani restaurant in Berkeley for aushak, down to the Peninsula’s Filipino restaurants, and through San Francisco’s Japantown, block by block. Is it really 1969?
But then I kept reading…. While Read revels in nasi goreng, he bemoans the lack of any “underlying rationale” in Indonesian cuisine. Excuse me?
Then I got to this entry on Connie Williams’ West-Indian Cafe, and froze. This was, for years, the place to eat in the Haight-Ashbury, and a favorite of black intellectuals: C.L.R James and James Baldwin visited every time they came to town. (Baldwin worked as a waiter in Williams’ restaurant in Greenwich Village, Calypso, in the 1940s. In The Price of the Ticket, he credits her influence in keeping him hard drug free.) I loved reading about Connie’s Trinidadian hospitality, about her coconut loaves and her chicken pilau. But as someone who actually went to San Francisco in the summer of 1967, with flowers in my hair, I was stopped cold by Read’s description of the impact the influx of hippies had on the neighborhood.
We were so blithely thoughtless.
But here – read it yourself.
This is Connie’s in the Haight.
And Calypso, in Greenwich Village, before it was razed to make way for NYU’s law school:
Categorised in: Vintage Books and Magazines