Pig ‘n Whistle: The Nitty Gritty

Featuring My Attempt To Make Tapioca Pudding From Scratch

By: Zach Smallman

Pig N Whistle, Where’d That Come From?

Pig ‘N Whistle was established in 1908 by the founder Frank L. Callibotte. Caillebotte opened up the first Pig ‘N Whistle shop in San Francisco, even though there is debate whether the company started in San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Historically, the first shop opened in 1908 in San Francisco as a candy shop. The shop was so successful the Pig ‘N Whistle was on its way to taking over California as the shops branched from Northern California hitting important destinations such as Oakland and Los Angeles. Because of the success the company had with selling candy, they began their quest for a family-style restaurant chain. The first restaurant was in San Francisco, but the second restaurant located in Los Angeles became the company’s Headquarters as it was the most popular. Their Los Angeles location opened up right next to the 1888 City Hall of Los Angeles and the famous Egyptian Theater which was why the Los Angeles Pig ‘N Whistle was their landmark location in 1927. The company baked their own goods in what would now be considered a scratch kitchen, where most of the baked goods, sauces, dressing, etc. are made in-house.

For Pig N Whistle, their popularity granted them to have 3 factories around California that supplied the baked goods for each chain as the company grew more and more. Their menu appealed to all varieties of taste for both adults and kids while providing fresh baked goods, french pastries, and desserts for the kids. To top that off, the company name itself what sold the brand as it was weird for a tea from at the time to be named something so odd. According to the Pig N Whistle menu from the San Francisco establishment in 1939, the name was originally the name of an old inn in England.

As the story is told on both the front and back of the menu, the origin of the name come from the Inn when “the cellar was sent down to draw peg from the cider barrel to fill the jug, he was under orders to whistle during the whole time of drawing the cider in order to prove he was not having a surreptitious drink”.  What also plays a role in the naming of the Pig ‘N Whistle would have to do with British Taverns and their customary lingo. In the late 1800s, British taverns commonly had an alcoholic mix called, “wassail” which was drunk from a bowl, normally called a “pig”. The two words together over time formed the term Pig ‘N Whistle, which is quite an ironic name for a restaurant/tea room that doesn’t serve any alcohol at first. Out of all the locations, the Los Angeles location, or at least the name of the original location stayed the same transitioning from the restaurant scene to easy fast food to finally a bar stayed open till 2021, when the Covid-19 pandemic, unfortunately, shut down the Pig ‘N Whistle and silenced its name permanently. 

What’s On Today’s Menu… From 90 Years Ago

The Pig ‘N Whistle served both lunch and dinner, which is why their menu seems to be lengthy providing a wide variety of meats, desserts, cheese, and more. Not only the length and density of the menu were a surprise to me when looking at the menu for the first time, but the variety of food as well. The menu has Italian, French, English, German, and Spanish influences, creating a whole array of items to be shared when ordering for a family. Items like Chili Con Carne and Tamales were a surprise for me to see on the menu because, at the time, Mexican food in California was not at its height of popularity, especially in comparison to its popularity in California now. Another interesting point about the menu but also the menus of other restaurants from the same time would be how prices were labeled and the price dishes cost. When analyzing the menu, I was confused about the price of the items, as there were no dollar signs to indicate whether it was dollars or cents, but later came to the realization that a peanut butter cold sandwich wouldn’t cost 15 dollars in the 1930s.

That being said, it’s quite remarkable for a family to be able to go out and eat a six-course meal for under 5 dollars for that time, which seems quite absurd when you think how much we pay for McDonald’s and how it numerically is more than the price I could pay for a crab cocktail at the Pig N’ Whistle. At the bottom of the menu, it indicates that there was a 3 percent sales tax at that time, which was also surprising since I didn’t know sales tax began in West Virginia in 1921, but in California in 1933. Other than those unique qualities of the menu, a few dishes stood out to me worth recognizing that I have never heard of before, the first being giblet gravy. I have had many different renditions of gravy, the best gravy I had been from my relatives in Kentucky, but I never had giblet gravy or heard of a giblet gravy to my knowledge.

I know it’s probably similar to any gravy just adding the giblet of a turkey into the cooking process, but the name piqued my interest as to why the gravy itself was titled as a dish on the menu. The second item that was quite rare for me to see would be chilled fruit as a dessert on the menu. At that time fruit with cream and fruit with jello were becoming a popular novelty treat, but to see it listed as a dessert at a restaurant is quite odd when chilled fruit can easily be accessed in a modern-day home. Finally, the last dish that interested me would be the smoked tongue sandwich. For some reason, the tongue part isn’t the weirdest thing about this dish for me, but the fact that the dish is served cold makes me question what the taste was like. It almost is pictured as a Bahn Mi, a Vietnamese dish, with pickled vegetables inside a baguette, but I don’t think the Pig ‘N Whistle was that qualified and cultured to make a Banh Mi at that time. Another concern with that dish would be questioning what type of tongue is it? Most likely cow or goat’s tongue, but still just seeing tongue on the menu without any specification on what tongue is it was something that surprised me but was normal for a restaurant to feature it as. Overall, the menu itself has a lot to be said about it, with how dense the menu is, the variety the restaurant provides, and the rare dishes they had that you wouldn’t see at a restaurant today. 

Preparation for Mission Pudding Perfection

In my efforts to make something I’ve never made before from the menu, I decided to try making something that has a bit of skill but less room for error as trying to make a coconut layer cake or a giblet gravy. That is why I have chosen tapioca pudding as my dish to cook from scratch. Puddings were relatively popular in the 19th century, ranging from regular sweet puddings to rice puddings to prune puddings. As you can tell from the menu, the Pig ‘N Whistle had a variety of puddings to choose from, but for myself, I’ve never tried tapioca pudding, which is why I chose it. When looking for a recipe that upholds the standard of tapioca pudding from the 19th century, I found a cookbook from 1920 in the Noreen Reale Falcone Online Library titled, “Sadies Cooking School Recipes” that had a recipe for German tapioca pudding. In terms of the complication of this recipe, surprisingly the instructions are pretty well detailed for their time and the ingredients of the recipe are limited. The only complicated process of making the pudding will be the scalding of milk. Scalding milk requires patience but also attention because if you scald the milk too long, the milk will burn and your pudding will not taste great. With that being said, I don’t think there’s much left to do other than execute the task at hand, producing pudding. 


The Recipe

The Results

Here is my video of me cooking German Tapioca Pudding for the FIRST TIME! It didn’t come out that great, but at least I had fun while learning the ways of cooking.

References

“Pig ‘n Whistle.” What’s on the Menu?, http://menus.nypl.org/menu_pages/59277/explore.

“Pig ‘n Whistle.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Oct. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pig_%27n_Whistle#References.

“Slade’s Cooking School Recipes.” Google Books, Google, https://books.google.com/books?id=ZSUEAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false.

Whitaker, Jan. “Famous in Its Day: Pig’n Whistle.” Restaurant, 25 Mar. 2016, https://restaurant-ingthroughhistory.com/2011/05/26/famous-in-its-day-pign-whistle/.

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