Summer is approaching. Culver City children are finishing school - for a three-month summer break. How things have changed.
During the rancho period, the school year was only seven months to accommodate the farm work on the ranchos. Why? The children were active participants in both planting and reaping the harvest.
And in the case of the girls, their school days ended completely with elementary school, which at La Ballona School was considered to be eighth grade. As the boys prepared to go to high school, the girls received a lovely graduation gift, like a gold bracelet.
The next phase of girls’ lives required staying home, becoming more proficient with sewing, cooking, cleaning, ironing, taking care of children and keeping the kitchen garden—generally in preparation for marriage.
In addition to the usual rainfall, water in those days came from Ballona Creek. Pipes were manipulated by an appointed “Zanjero” (water overseer) to carry the water to the ranches. In those early days, the Zanjero, was my paternal grandfather, Mercurial Lugo. He was descended from Francisco Salvador Lugo, a “soldado,” (soldier of Spain) who came to California in 1774 for a better life for his family. He was also one of the grandsons of Agustin Machado, one of the founders of Ranch La Ballona. The Zanjero worked for the Ballona Water Company.
As the crops ripened, ranch families often had corn/vegetable stands, visible from the street. At the Lugo Ranch, where my father grew up as the youngest of the eight children, one of his chores was to man the corn stand and also to deliver vegetables to nearby homes. He was often supervised by his sister, Vicenta.
The women did a lot of cooking and canning. My Auntie Vicenta combined their vegetables in a recipe that comes in very handy at this time of year—especially if you are growing tomotoes, zucchini, and herbs. She called it Colachi:
Auntie Vicenta’s Colachi
In a frying pan, heat:
1 Tablespoon butter or oil (I use olive oil)
Cook, adding in order:
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 zucchini squash, sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
pinch dried oregano
Fresh chiles, chopped or 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup fresh corn kernels
Cook until tender, topping with:
1 cup grated cheese (Colby or Jack cheese gives it the taste she liked). Serve warm.
(If you substitute fresh chopped basil for the oregano, the dish takes on an Italian flair.)
Serves 8. Enjoy.