Taste of History: California Chicken Pie

Taste of History is a limited-run blog series exploring some of the historical recipes found in archival collections. Each blog post will feature a different recipe found in the vault, recreated by staff at the archives with modern ingredients and tools. In this post we’re sampling a recipe that isn’t quite what its name indicates.

This month’s recipe is taken from the 1937 edition of Rawleigh’s Good Health Guide, Cook Book, & Almanac. It appears to be an annual publication and contains tips for maintaining good health, keeping house, and preparing nutritious and appetizing food. Naturally, the recipes in the Good Health Guide feature Rawleigh’s ingredients as much as possible. Rawleigh’s is still in business in Canada and sells supplements, salves, and food products.

My grandma’s Turkey Pot Pie was one of my favorite foods as a child, but we generally only had it once a year, if that, when there was leftover turkey from Christmas dinner. For that reason, the California Chicken Pie appealed to me. It had several of the same components – a pastry topping, cooked vegetables, and a creamy sauce – but with one notable difference. Instead of relying on leftover chicken or turkey, the protein came in the form of tinned tuna.

Preparing the dish was a straightforward process. Both the sauce and the pastry came together quickly while the vegetables cooked. I used two cups of frozen peas and carrots instead of a cup of peas and “1 bunch” of carrots (how big exactly is a bunch?). This strategy seemed in keeping with the spirit of pot pies and other covered dish dinners – disposing of leftovers tastefully and economically, as described in the Good Health Guide. No doubt many a cook used whatever vegetables she had on hand to prepare pot pie.

Though undeniably humble in appearance and ingredients, the California Chicken Pie was surprisingly delicious. My mom and I both took second helpings and were glad to see there were enough leftovers for us both to have another serving or two. Personally I didn’t think it tasted particularly fishy; it had quite a mild flavor, so those of you who don’t enjoy fish quite as much as I do might still be interested in trying this dish. I don’t normally keep tinned meat in my pantry, but this recipe is making me think I might change that so I can make pot pies more often. I’m also plotting a few experiments – maybe it would be good with tinned salmon, or Costco’s tinned chicken.

My only question is – why is it called California Chicken Pie? A quick Google search revealed several recipes for California Chicken Casseroles that also include tuna, but if anyone knows about the origins of this name, we’d love to hear from you!

Please look out for the continuation of Taste of History next month where we will be trying an indulgent chilled dessert, perfect for summer celebrations.

Share this post