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From the Archives: San Diego Desserts from Decades Past

In the '70s and '80s, this magazine considered devouring sweets an X-rated sin


November 1975 and November 1982 issues of San Diego Magazine

There are plenty of sins one could commit—pride, greed, envy, you name it. But in the ’70s and ’80s, San Diego Magazine was preoccupied with what we seemed to think was the most egregious form of debauchery: consuming sugar. We ran three dessert covers in those two decades, and the disclaimer was clear: Your waistline will not be happy.

Unsurprisingly, most of our dessert-themed features ran in October or November, when “bikini season is over and New Year’s diets have yet to commence,” as writer Christine Thurston rationalizes in our November 1975 issue, which features a cream puff from an unnamed restaurant on the cover. That story chronicles “The X-Rated Bakeries,” ones so “sinful” that Weight Watchers might keel over. Included in the feature are the cookies, cake, and cheesecake at Frank’s Sunshine Pastry Shop; a signature Norwegian cake at Fins in “Golden Hills”; and the baklava, saragle, and kourambiedes from Middle East Gourmet.

We had the same idea in November 1982 (center). “It’s the holiday season. What better reason do you need to indulge in pastries like this savarin Chantilly from À la Francaise?” (The magazine was cheeky enough back then to run a cover with a model bearing white cream on her nose, near a cover line that read, “Are we the new cocaine coast?”) But the not-so-subtle sugar guilt trip persisted. “A Seasonal Permission to Sin” reads the article headline, introducing desserts from Del Mar Danish Pastry Shop and The French Gourmet. Writer Clare White favored French-style pastries at the time—think flaky tarts and delicate cream puffs. No Instagrammable milkshakes with overflowing toppings in sight.

In October 1985, The French Gourmet’s mixed fruit tart got the cover. Inside, Maribeth Mellin rounds up 15 of the county’s best bakeries. Her task? “Find the most sinful, X-rated pastries in town.” In her introduction, she admits, “Sure I felt guilty,” and that she gave in to “the sinister spell of sugar’s seduction” with the help of friends who joined her for a two-hour dessert tasting “until the participants were screaming for salt.” The lineup included a strawberry Napoleon from La Jolla’s French Pastry Shop, cannoli at Solunto Baking Company on India Street, and cheesecake at Normal Heights’ The Incredible Cheesecake Company, which appears in our cover story this year, too.

The major difference between this year’s desserts feature and those of years past? We let the guilt trip go. Sure, your dentist and doctor may enjoy the co-pay, but in 2018 we know you can have your cake—or profiterole or pie, or pistachio-rosewater dessert—and enjoy it with balance, too. So eat, enjoy, and if you want, find a local Turkey Trot to work it all off. Happy holidays!

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