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“Made in California” by George Geary, 255 pgs., full color photos, Prospect Park Books, large-format hardcover, 2021, $42.00.

(review by) Donna McCrohan Rosenthal “Made in California: The California-born Burger Joint, Diners, Fast-Food & Restaurants That Changed America,” begins with brothers Dick and Mac McDonald moving West to break into the movie business. They bought a theater, but soon discovered they could earn more money selling candy than tickets. They transitioned to a little restaurant, then to a slightly larger one under golden arches, where they essentially invented the fast-food industry as we know it today. Like Dick and Mac, Al Lapin went West to break into the cinema game. He had jobs in early TV and making civil defense films about surviving atomic attack before opening International House of Pancakes.

In this fascinating page-turner, author George Geary offers 50 chapters about the California culinary icons that have influenced the way the world eats. Entries provide original names, locations, archival photos, and in-depth and behind-the-scenes profiles including Del Taco, Jack in the Box, Orange Julius, Sizzler Steak House, and Taco Bell, from sit-down to drive-thru to buy-a-pack. For example:

Geary writes that Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance prepared for the “I Love Lucy” chocolate-dipping episode in the See’s kitchen on La Cienega in LA and the woman at the conveyor belt with Lucy actually worked at See’s. Another sweet-tooth mainstay, Marie Callender Pie Shop, started in a rented Quonset hut funded by the proceeds from selling the family Chevrolet for $700. In 1963, A&W became the first chain restaurant to serve bacon cheeseburgers. On high school graduation, classmates voted Robert C. Wian most likely to not succeed. He went on to launch Bob’s Big Boy Restaurants, and famed animator Stan Lee created their first free comic distributed at the cash register, “The Adventures of Big Boy.” 

Throughout, timelines and boxed-item asides reveal fun facts such as Famous People Who Once Worked at McDonald’s: Mark Hamill, James Franco, Sharon Stone, Jay Leno, and Willard Scott.

You can flip through “Made in California” for ideal summertime reading, but by all means, keep it on your home library shelf as well, because you will want to refer to it again and again.

This monthly column is written by members of Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Meetings are held the first Thursday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church and free programs are offered throughout the year. 

Ridge Writers’ books “Scenes from Lives of Service: High Desert Veterans of WWI through Desert Storm” and “Planet Mojave: Visions from a World Apart” are available at the Historic USO Building, Jawbone Canyon, Maturango Museum, and Red Rock Books.