The Glorious American Soda Fountain
Technically, the soda fountain no longer exists, but it embodied fundamental traits of our national taste. Beginning as a way of getting a health food — why soda fountains were located in drugstores — it evolved into a gleaming chromed temple of lush pleasure and a theater of gastronomic creativity. There, the banana split was invented in 1910 and spawned 25 major versions within the next decade. Journey back to the days of the hot maple sundae, the Waldorf parfait, the Hoboken (chocolate ice cream with crushed pineapple) and that goblet of perfection, the root beer float. The soda fountain’s spirit can never die. Charles Perry, grandson of a silent film screenwriter and great-grandson of Gold Rush pioneers, is the president/co-founder of the Culinary Historians of Southern California. He majored in Middle East studies at Princeton and UC Berkeley. After a detour as a roommate of a famous LSD millionaire and eight years as a staff writer at Rolling Stone (1968-76), he became a food writer and served as a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times food section (1990-2008). Perry has written widely on Middle Eastern and California food history.