Sun02142016

News

SPLAT targets data, outreach as airplane noise continues

SPLAT targets data, outreach as airplane noise continues


Graphic courtesy of Don Gardner
Activists claim that a new SFO flight path leaves a “sound shadow” that impacts Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Sky Posse Los Altos Team – more simply known as SPLAT – seeks to squelch the noise...

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Schools

Los Altos High student-run charity plans '5 Gallon Gala'

Los Altos High student-run charity plans '5 Gallon Gala'


Courtesy of Lia Evard
Water by Youth members gave Egan students a chance to carry a 40-pound Jerry can, to see how difficult it is to obtain water in developing nations.

Water by Youth, a club at Los Altos High School, is making a splash by pla...

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Community

What would you do with a box of cookies? Local Girls Scouts help Tanzanian orphanage

What would you do with a box of cookies? Local Girls Scouts help Tanzanian orphanage


Courtesy of Alicia Madden
Sales of local Girl Scout cookies support service projects, such as funding an orphanage in the village of Mto wa Mbu in Tanzania.

Girl Scout cookies – whether you think of them as a treat, a tradition or a diet comp...

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Sports

Scoreless spells sink LA boys

Scoreless spells sink LA boys


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos High point guard Nolan Brennan attempts a shot in Friday’s game versus Palo Alto. He scored eight points in the loss.

There have been several games this season in which the Los Altos High boys basketball t...

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Comment

New 'York' values

New 'York' values


Hughes

 

As we have witnessed California suffer through one of its worst droughts in history over the past few years, all of us, I’m sure, have been keenly aware of our surroundings and have done a small part in trying to conserve wa...

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Special Sections

Getting a charge  out of the Volt

Getting a charge out of the Volt


Courtesy of Chevrolet
The 2016 Chevrolet Volt can be driven up to 50 miles on the power stored in its batteries.

Just five years ago, we wondered in this column what the power supply would be for the car of the future. Gasoline, diesel, electric ba...

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Business

Nearing V-Day: Shops stock sweets, treats

Nearing V-Day: Shops stock sweets, treats


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos resident Ella Roosakos, 11, with her mother, Gail, puzzles over which Gourmet Works sweets to buy as a valentine for Ella’s friend.

The gift-buying rush isn’t exclusive to Christmas. It may jump over...

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People

ALAN RODNEY MILLS

ALAN RODNEY MILLS

Alan Rodney Mills, PhD, 83, of Los Altos passed away peacefully on Saturday, January 30th, 2016. He was born in Rochdale, England in 1933 and came to California in 1962. He was a proud alumni of Manchester Grammar in England, University of Liverpoo...

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Stepping Out

PYT 'Gets Famous'

PYT 'Gets Famous'


Lyn Flaim Healy/Spotlight Moments Photography
Renee Vetter of Palo Alto, left, and Megan Foreman of Los Altos star in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Judy Moody Gets Famous.” Performances are scheduled Friday and Saturday.

Peninsula...

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Spiritual Life

A time to prepare: Fasting for Lent isn't limited to food

 

Today is Ash Wednesday, which in the Christian calendar marks the beginning of Lent – the 40 days of preparation for Resurrection Sunday, otherwise known as Easter.

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Inside Mountain View

New right-to-lease ordinance promises relief for renters

New right-to-lease ordinance promises relief for renters


Mountain View Tenants Coalition/Facebook
Residents gather in the fall to protest Mountain View’s rising rents. Rent relief is on the way in the form of a new ordinance.

A controversial Mountain View law requiring landlords to provide lease opt...

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A taste of the past: Museum's "Fandango" brings Los Altos back to its rancho roots


Photo By: Niuniu Teo / Town Crier
Jacqueline Higuera McMahan’s books on local food history inspired the menu for this weekend’s “Fandango” fundraiser at the Los Altos History Museum.

Californians don’t look back often.

Silicon Valley is famous for its thriving start-up culture, technological innovation and progressive thinking – not for ruminating on its historical roots.

Two centuries ago, ranchos covered California’s sprawling, fertile land. Today, it is difficult to recognize the remnants of rancho culture in Los Altos’ paved streets and groomed lawns. But the land that now sits beneath the glass and steel buildings of Arastradero Road once anchored Californian ranchos. Two large land grants from California’s pastoral era covered what is now Los Altos Hills – Rancho La Purisima Concepcion and Rancho San Antonio.

Their history is scheduled to come back to life for a night of music, food and dance 5-9 p.m. Sunday at “Fandango! An Evening in Old California,” a fundraiser at the Los Altos History Museum, 51 S. San Antonio Road.

In addition to feasting on dishes of the area’s agricultural past, participants are encouraged to kit-out in period costume, turning to historical landowners like Juana Briones and Juan Prado Mesa for inspiration.

The History Museum hosts a themed benefit every year – previous themes include a Hawaiian luau and a German Oktoberfest. This year’s theme is based on the history of Los Altos’ own community.

“We’re especially happy about this (event) because it ties to the museum and what the museum is about,” said event co-organizer Diane Claypool.

Claypool’s menu, currently being taste-tested before making its grand debut at the event, includes barbecued beef, grilled vegetables, tortillas and wedding cookies.

The “Fandango” menu draws on recipes from Los Altos resident Jacqueline Higuera McMahan’s cookbook, “California Rancho Cooking” (Olive Press, 1983). McMahan plans to attend the event with her husband.

“It was great to find out that they were going to re-create a fandango in Los Altos, because that’s the biggest celebration,” McMahan said. “A fandango is like pulling out all the stops.”

Memories of rancho life

McMahan’s book mixes personal memoir with cookbook, recounting family meals at Los Tularcitos, their 4,000-acre rancho, as well as traditional recipes. As illustrated in her book, the food-making process and the meals were central components of “Californio” tradition and culture. Recipes were passed along, from mothers to daughters, grandmothers to granddaughters, in a predominantly oral tradition. McMahan’s book is a rare documentation of rancho dining and food culture.

When McMahan interviewed other rancho families about their traditional food, she often received as many as 10 different versions of one recipe.

“Each family adds its own little style,” she said. “It was all by word-of-mouth, and they didn’t write everything down. I found myself re-creating a lot of the stuff they remembered, just from memories.”

Before she settled in Los Altos, McMahan lived with her family on their rancho, in what is today central and northern Milpitas. The rancho was granted to Jose Loreto Higuera, McMahan’s great-great grandfather, in 1821. Members of the Higuera family lived on the ranch for 150 years. Then, when she was approximately 5 years old, the family lost the ranch.

“Ranchos are usually lost because, for (the Californios), the land was endless, so they would sell parts of the land off to get money,” McMahan said. “So they finally sold off too much. It was a family argument, and the rancho was lost, as most of them were.”

An eighth-generation Californian, McMahan hails from a family of culinary aficionados. Despite the loss of her family’s rancho, their recipes continue to make their way down the generations.

“We lost the rancho but kept the food,” she said with a laugh.

The Los Tularcitos adobe is now part of a city park. In “California Rancho Cooking,” McMahan describes a quiet pathway of olive trees – a remnant of what was once paradise for the Californios.

“Long before the turn of the twentieth century, the great days of the California rancho had ended,” she writes. “And we have taken our children into the Lane, the long grove of olive trees planted in 1830, quieted them as we stood on the mulch of twenty years’ carpet of leaves, and told them to listen, as Grandpa told us. And if you listen, there is more than the breeze and the distant sound of a freeway.”

The Californio in us

According to Laura Bajuk, executive director of the Los Altos History Museum, the “Fandango” event aligns with the museum’s new focus on exploring its “impact on the community.”

“Recently, we re-evaluated our mission statement,” she said. “We believe that history inspires imagination and creativity. Our old mission statement was more about collecting and preserving – it was pretty dull.”

The Los Altos History Museum now focuses on its impact on the community it serves – thus, the purpose behind this year’s Fandango is partly to re-familiarize Los Altos area residents with their forgotten heritage.

“We’re trying to teach people about a history of a time period a lot of people don’t really understand,” Bajuk said. “Unless they grew up here, nobody learned about that time period. And a lot of people who are here didn’t grow up here.”

Although few physical traces remain of the once-flourishing ranchos, the legacy of the Californios is sifted, often unrecognized, into the names of local streets, the ingredients in food and the ways the community comes together.

“I really think (rancho culture is) part of our whole California barbecue outdoor dining lifestyle,” McMahan said. “It’s also in the kind of food we like – for example, we all love olive oil, and that’s about as linked to our past as you can get.”

Tickets for the “Fandango” event are $95 members, $115 nonmembers and $40 youth.

For tickets and more information, call Aja Sorensen at 948-9427, ext. 14, or visit www.losaltoshistory.org.

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