Monday, September 30, 2013

The Ethnic Melting Pot of Southern California: The San Gabriel Valley

Now that baseball season is over, it's time for me to figure out a new mid-week feature to replace the Fields of Dreams until next season.  I don't have to look far.

I am a big believer in the concept that the more you get to know people, the more bigotries and prejudices are starved for lack of oxygen. Yes, I love diversity and I love getting to know the different cultures in our world.

Thankfully for me, a good portion of them can be found within 10 miles of my home...the San Gabriel Valley...just east of Los Angeles proper.

Already becoming well know for it's large Asian population, it's also the home to a lot of African Americans, Latinos, and Caucasians that settled this area. Formerly a part of Mexico, at the time of the Gold Rush, many people migrated here from the eastern half of our country. Beyond the four biggest ethnic groups, there are also dozens more in smaller number.

In the recent past, it was known as an industrial land. Factories, gravel pits, landfills, warehouses and more dot the landscape. There's even a city here that is literally called Industry.

Perhaps, because of this, land prices tended to be lower here in years gone by and many immigrants flowed into this basin. 

Not all of the land was cheap, however. Some of the nation's most expensive real estate is also located here. San Marino has long been home to much of the 1%. Pasadena, San Gabriel, and Arcadia all have some grand homes on leafy streets. The foothills above houses what Forbes called the most expensive zip code in the country, Bradbury...which houses Chinese billionaires, rich athletes, top jockeys and trainers, and the youngest female billionaire, Linsdey Torres, owner of the In 'n Out chain...and sits behind a wall and armed guards at the edge of the mountains.

Mostly overlooked by travelers more intent on seeing Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Hollywood, and Disneyland, the residents here know there are some special places we get to enjoy without the traveling hordes.

Santa Anita is one of the world's premiere horse racetracks. The Tournament of Roses Parade and the annual Rose Bowl football game takes place here. The Los Angeles County Fair takes place at the end of each summer on the valley's eastern edge where the NHRA's two biggest races of the year also take place.

The valley is the gateway to the mountains that many locals use to escape the pressure of the city. Thousands of miles of trails lace the San Gabriel Mountains, which form the northern boundary of the valley.

A two century old mission anchors the heart of the valley and, yes, some of the best and most authentic ethnic food can be found withing its confines, thanks to the rich tapestry of its residents' backgrounds.

A foodie can spend weeks here sampling the fares of the world without driving more than half an hour. Recently, we tried to come up with how many different types of ethnic foods we could identify within our little valley.

So far that is is up to 38.  That's right, almost 40 different and unique ethnic foods...many quite authentic and not dumbed down for American tastes...right here.  Maybe we'll find a few more.

Starting this week, we'll be investigating all those different tastes to be found here in the San Gabriel can call it the SGV for short...and running a new weekly feature, The Ethnic Foods of The San Gabriel Valley, here on Wednesdays.

See you then, come hungry!

Copyright 2013 - Darryl
All Rights Reserved

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