October 26, 2011

The Lunch Break Times


Artist Sharon Lockhart reflects on the presence of the individual in the context of industrial labor through film, photography, and printed matter. For Lunch Break (2008), she spent a year at a naval shipbuilding plant in Maine, and the exhibition — now on view — examines the workers’ activities during their time off from production. SFMOMA is also distributing Lockhart’s newspaper, The Lunch Break Times, which relates stories about labor and lunch breaks. Every Wednesday, at NOON, we’re posting one of the articles here.………………………….


For many staffers at the Lunch Break Times, lunch is the highlight of the day. Sure, we enjoy dining out. We especially love the grilled skirt steak sandwich at Naked Lunch (504 Broadway), the banh mi at Saigon Sandwich (560 Larkin Street), and the carnitas tacos at the El Gallo Giro taco truck (usually parked near Treat and 23rd streets). And it goes without saying that the chicken Caesar salad at SFMOMA’s own Caffè Museo is unbeatable. But our favorite “San Francisco Treat” is Rice-A-Roni.

When we have to file a story by deadline, we just can’t leave the newsroom. That’s why we always keep the staff kitchen stocked with plenty of boxes of Rice-A-Roni. This product was introduced in San Francisco in 1958 by the DeDomenico family, who had operated a successful pasta factory in the Mission district since 1912. A neighbor, a survivor of the Armenian genocide, taught Lois DeDomenico, the wife of one of the DeDomenico sons, how to make one of her specialties: rice pilaf. Lois served it to her family for several years. Then finally the family had the brilliant idea of transforming the dish into a boxed product incorporating both rice and the macaroni that their company made — a dish that housewives could prepare with ease.

The original flavor was Chicken, which was quickly followed by Beef, Spanish, and Fried Rice-A-Roni. In the 1960s the family added Italian flavors like Parmesano and Fettucine Alfredo. Today there are over 30 flavors reflecting a broad range of international cuisines. The Regional Oral History Office of the Bancroft Library at Berkeley has conducted oral histories with several members of the DeDomenico family. The transcripts are fascinating. To read them, visit ROHO’s website at http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/ROHO.

The following dish feeds four and is a festive addition to any lunch table. And because you only need one skillet, clean-up is a breeze. This recipe, and hundreds of others, can be found at http://www.ricearoni.com.

Chuckwagon BBQ Rice Round-Up


1 pound lean ground beef

1 (6.8-ounce) package RICE-A-RONI® Beef Flavor

2 tablespoons margarine, butter, or spread with no trans fat

2 cups frozen corn

1/2 cup prepared barbecue sauce

1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese


1. In large skillet over medium-high heat, brown ground beef until well cooked. Remove from skillet; drain. Set aside.

2. In same skillet over medium heat, sauté rice-vermicelli mix with margarine until vermicelli is golden brown.

3. Slowly stir in 2-1/2 cups water, Special Seasonings, and corn; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

4. Stir in barbecue sauce and ground beef. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover; let stand 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Reprinted with permission of the Golden Grain Company.

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