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From the California goldfields in the 1840s and following, emerged a heritage recipe unique to the US – and the Judicial System.  If you want to read about a monstrous period in American history, please see .

While this event resulted in the (conservatively estimated) deaths or massacres of 100,000 Native people, it also increased the population of San Francisco from a sleepy mission village- on the Ohlone Tribes ancestral domains – to a boom town of nearly 40,000 in 2 years.  Of course there was every crime and vice imaginable, from genocide to petty thievery.  Local communities and governments took justice into their own hands and doled out punishments of every description, whether they were proportional to the crimes or not.  So of course, many criminals met the hangman’s noose.  One town or another became so rife with lawlessness that it became known as Hangtown, due to the frequent, characteristic administration of capital punishment.  The origins of this dish emerge from legend, when one man was offered his Last Meal before walking up the scaffold.

Because of the turbo economy that was rising in California, and bouying the nation following the end of the Mexican-American War, the US went to the gold standard.  In those hedonistic gold territories, there was skyrocketing inflation- – can you imagine a hamburger for $50, a quart of milk for $75, and fresh eggs $20 apiece?  One unapologetic criminal apocryphally made history by asking for the 3 most expensive ingredients he imagined money could buy at the time:  Oysters, eggs and bacon cooked in a skillet together.  Presumably he met his Maker with his appetite fully satisfied by something like The $1000 Breakfast.

I first learned about this dish when I was reading Evan Jones’ amazing gastromical history, ‘American Food,’ which I briefly reviewed in this blog a couple of years ago.  If you want to try this very rich and delicious dish, even if you’re not planning to kick the bucket, I suggest putting it on your Bucket List.  You already know the 3 main ingredients – this is how I cook it.

For each serving –

1/2 dozen fresh shucked oysters in their liquor

3 strips of bacon

1-2 eggs

Also have on hand:

cornmeal or crushed cracker crumbs to bread the oysters (I used Blue Cornmeal today)

tabasco sauce

black pepper

a little cream to mix with the eggs

oil or butter for frying

Fry your bacon until brown and crispy and set aside on paper towels, draining most of the bacon fat out of a large heavy skillet.  Replace with some vegetable oil or butter and return the pan to medium heat while you bread your oysters.  First whisk an egg with a few dashes of tabasco sauce and season with some black pepper.  Dip your oysters into the egg, and then bread them with cornmeal, cracker meal (or flour or Panko bread crumbs if you like).  Brown the oysters well on all sides, and keep in mind that they don’t require much cooking time – probably just a few minutes.

Now beat your egg with a little cream, milk or water and pour over the cooked oysters and cook, stirring occassionally until the eggs are set but still softly scrambled.

-you can crumble the bacon into the cooking eggs

-you could cook each ingredient separately, making an actual omlette

-you could cook the oysters and eggs together and serve the bacon on top like a frittata

-you could look online and find out probably countless variations of this dish from the deconstructed-highbrow, to the shanty-town fry cook’s original hoosegow no-frills version.  However you decide to approach this little piece of culinary history, it’s easy, it’s truly delicious, and it’s fast…considering that it is actually slow food.


Cookbook Gazette from my bookshelves


Northwest Native Harvest, Carol Batdorf.  A beautiful publication by Hancock House & full of Indigenous food ingredients and approaches to traditional food preparation


I will repeat a reference to:  The Little House Cookbook, by Barbara M. Walker.  This writer & historian has contributed something very important to the story of American Food

Groundbreaking publications (19/20Centuries)

The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (am I repeating myself again?), Fannie Merritt Farmer

Classic American

I’m including The Tassajara Bread Book (Edward Espe Brown) on this list, and if you don’t somehow find a copy, I’ll be mad at you.  This is why god made Ebay.  Any old copy will do, but plan to wear it out.

Comprehensive  Cuisine

The New York Times International Cook Book (I have a 1971 Edition).  A treasure trove of lots of recipes, adapted for American kitchens, and probably popular at your local country club 40 years ago, for all the right reasons.  Very good.  I love Craig Claiborne.


Fast Vegetarian Feasts, by Martha Rose Shulman (her dad a well-known writer) is a book I’ve worn down to a nub.  Lots of wonderful, creative, delicious and informed, do-able recipes.


A World of Breads, Dolores Casella, AND a bonus amazing volume, A World of Baking (1966 & 68).  These are 2 books that inspired me in high school to pay attention to baking- besides the women in my family.

World Food

Himalayan Mountain Cookery:  A Vegetarian Cookbook, Martha Ballentine (1976).  Spiral-bound, priceless)


The Rituals of Dinner, Margaret Visser (ever wonder why you’re should scoop your soup away from you?  or why you keep your knife-blade pointed toward you?  It’s polite.)  My friend Hortensia gave me this book nearly 20 years ago.


Sweet Maria’s Italian Cookie Tray, A Cookbook, Maria Bruscino Sanchez.  So many of my cookbook finds have been in used book-stores.  This is one of them. Classic Italian cookie making.  Great Biscotti recipes.

Food Writers

American Food, Evan Jones.  Paperback, stunning, informative, comprehensive, delicious, historical.


Wild Foods Field Guid Cookbook:  An illustrated guide to 70 wild plants and over 350 irresistible recipes for serving them them up, Billy Joe Tatum.

Okay.  I have reduced my cookbook entries to one per category.  But I’m going to do it again, since I promised I would.  There are more where these came from, and I would marry any one of these books- but that’s impractical.