Bertha Haffner-Ginger, Godmother of the Mexican Food Craze

by Gustavo Arellano
Print Email

From the LA Times

berthaLong before Rick Bayless, the Too Hot Tamales and even Diana Kennedy, there was another teacher and cookbook writer who introduced authentic Mexican food to a wider American audience. Though she is all but unknown today, at the turn of the 20th century a remarkable woman named Bertha Haffner-Ginger not only learned how to cook Mexican favorites but also packed lecture halls nationwide and published a cookbook sharing her knowledge, whetting the country's appetite for a cuisine that wouldn't travel outside of the borderlands in earnest until the 1950s.

And she got her start at the Los Angeles Times.

Haffner-Ginger was hired by the newspaper in 1912 to head the inaugural Times School of Domestic Science, an institute the paper devoted to the art of teaching the region how to cook via test kitchens, classrooms and hands-on training. She lectured weekly on subjects ranging from French techniques to baking, dairy to poultry, in an auditorium in the Times' then-new office building. From there, she took her show on the road, touring the country teaching.

Among her most popular topics: Mexican cooking. "An announcement that my lesson for the day would be Spanish dishes invariably brought record-breaking crowds in any city in the United States," she claimed in the introduction to her "California Mexican-Spanish Cook Book," published in 1914.


Comments have been closed for this piece.


restaurant news

Reel Dinner: Legal Sea Foods
by Kitty Kaufman

legal kendall 0684Come to Boston, eat fish. In Cambridge, Legal Sea Foods is in Kendall Square. In Boston, seek out the Legal that's in Copley Place (near Barneys) because you can nearly always get seated.


Perini Ranch Steakhouse
by David Latt

peronisteak.jpgBuffalo Gap is only a few miles south-west of Abilene. The small town (population 463) has a fascinating Historic Village, a must for any western history buffs.

The jewel of Buffalo Gap is Perini...

One Night in Portsmouth
New England
by Lisa Dinsmore

img 2580On our recent summer "vacation" to the East Coast, we had one day to ourselves. Blissfully alone, with only each other to have to worry about and please. Instead of the unending stream of family...

A Table at Rao's
New York
by Nancy Ellison

raooutside.jpgWe all know the few things in our lives that give us status above and beyond our own reality.

Our dog, Buzz (an apricot poodle that bears an uncanny resemblance to Rod Stewart), always attracts...