Ask Chris: What Happened to California’s Magnificent Citrus Packinghouses?

Also: Find out if there were consequences for that racy 1989 Cher video aboard a Navy ship and if you can grow edible veg in city parks
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Are any of the big orange packinghouses still around?

The lure and lore of citrus are at the heart of so many great California stories. The nineteenth-century packinghouses where oranges left L.A. were magnificent industrial buildings that often had high ceilings, skylights, and hardwood floors, perfect for converting into an antique mall, shopping center, or food hall, which is what happened to those historic buildings in Whittier, Claremont, and Anaheim, respectively. King Richard’s Antique Center might be the liveliest, with big bands, jitterbug contests, and a 1940s-style ice cream man.

Q: Is it true that the Navy banned filming because of Cher?

A: Cher surprised everyone onboard the USS Missouri when she showed up in little more than her Bob Mackie stockings for the “If I Could Turn Back Time” video in 1989. Aside from the sci-fi action film Battleship and that Tom Cruise picture that made $1.5 billion, most shipside productions these days are documentaries. If the Goddess of Pop ever wanted to come back, “there’s nothing that says we couldn’t do it,” says Navy spokesman Joe Scudella III. The sailor was born a few years after the filming but notes that, today, Cher’s wardrobe “would not be specifically regulated … just for safety.”

Q: Is it legal to plant edible vegetation in a park?

A: Administrators not wishing to see unstable trees uproot sidewalks discourage well-intentioned gardeners from adding any landscaping to city parks. Plants with something sweet on their branches have their own problems. “We’ve had people climb into fruit trees or break the branches to get the fruit,” says city forester Leon Boroditsky. “We have an unwritten policy about edible plants,” he says. That doesn’t mean you can’t find acorns, figs, and English walnuts planted by squirrels and birds or a historical grove of white grapefruit at Bee Canyon. Boroditsky has even seen Chicken of the woods mushrooms growing in Rustic Canyon and Elysian Park. “If I found a species that would taste good, I’d try it.”

Chris’s Pick

Tasting Old L.A.: A new book on the City of Angel’s food

When he’s not judging TV baking shows or teaching cooking classes aboard cruise ships, chef George Geary loves to try his hand at re-creating the famous dishes from L.A.’s historic restaurants. In his new book, L.A.’s Landmark Restaurants: Celebrating the Legendary Locations Where Angelenos Have Dined for Generations from Santa Monica Press, he shares the guacamole from Casita del Campo in Silver Lake as well as main-dish favorites like Chicken Muscovite from the vanished Victor Hugo restaurant. Geary’s collection of recipes offers the promise that we can once again taste the flavors from lost legends like Little Joe’s and the Pacific Dining Car.

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