The great culinary specialties often bear the name of places of origin. How many do you recognize?
Niçoise salad, risotto alla Milanese, chicken Kiev, Tunisian tagine, Florentine eggs, lacquered duck, Lyonnaise potatoes, Pad Thai, Riga eggs, ragù bolognese, Turkish delight, Mountain View veal with eggplant. (Note: not all are equally famous.)
The advertising story of this latter dish involves national and state history, as well as that of Mountain View’s pioneer vineyard in the 20th century. Gemello Winery operated El Camino Real from the 1930s to the 1980s; a district now bears his name.
First, a bit of historical background.
A wine industry in the United States flourished in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but withered after the 18th Constitutional Amendment of 1919 authorized the federal “ban” on alcoholic beverages. Prohibition was an international trend; other countries have tried it, including Russia, Finland, Norway and Canada. All then repealed it, as the United States did at the end of 1933. The California wine industry then began a slow revival and it was not until 1990 that the United States passed its record number of vineyards before Prohibition.
In 1938, recognizing the agricultural importance of wines, California launched a Wine Advisory Council, which worked with an industry group, the Wine Institute, to promote California products. The board created educational materials, initially to counter the prohibitionist rhetoric that wine was just a source of alcohol to get drunk. Long experience in places like Mediterranean Europe has shown that wine can be a healthy part of everyday life, supplementing and improving food. It is not just coincidence that so many influential Californian winemakers have carried names like Bargetto, Franzia, Gallo, Latour, Martini, Masson, Mirassou, Mondavi, Nichelini, Parducci, Pedroncelli and Sebastiani.
In this tradition and in anticipation of the end of Prohibition, in 1933, Italian immigrant John Gemello (1882-1981) opened a winery on 31 acres off El Camino Real, where his family grew fruits and vegetables. vegetables. In the late 1950s, Gemello focused on premium cork-stopper wines; thereafter, major Californian wine books regularly mentioned the winery. In 1983, John’s granddaughter, Sandy Gemello Obester, took over; she and her husband Paul quickly consolidated Gemello with their own Obester vineyard in Half Moon Bay. In 2002 Obester was sold, evolving to La Nebbia.
Gemello Winery has contributed recipes to a series of winemaker cookbooks published by the Wine Advisory Board. Mountain View veal with eggplant appeared in 1965’s “Adventures in Wine Cookery by California Winemakers”.
The dish is frying the veal cutlets and the breaded eggplant slices separately. These are then assembled in a baking dish, a cutlet on each piece of eggplant and a slice of cheese between; surrounded by a mixture of sour cream, tomato sauce and white wine; cooked until tender; and sprinkled with flaked almonds.
Many post-Prohibition California wines were dessert types and fortified sherry-style. So-called table or table wines, typical today, did not dominate volume sales until the end of the 1960s. This story influenced the 1965 cookbook, whose recipes (those of Gemello included ) often specify dessert wines or commercial genres such as California Sauterne. The cookbook also testifies to the greater use at the time of certain ingredients: veal, lamb, offal, a lot of sour cream. But the recipes are diverse; I found great and timeless cooking ideas there. As is the case with many older cookbooks.
For Mountain View’s Complete Dish Recipes and others, used book sellers (including amazon.com) offer inexpensive spiral-bound and pocket-sized copies of “Adventures in Wine Cookery by California Winemakers” 1965. My information on the Gemello family and their winery comes from Mario Gemello’s memoir on the Bennion Trust website tinyurl.com/SCMGemello.