I’m a huge dork, and being as such, when I first moved to Tacoma I was reallllly excited to find out that 3 products that I sincerely love: Johnny’s Seasoning Salt, Rite in the Rain notebooks, and Almond Roca are from here! Now I like to search for and point out these items in stores, advertisements, and signs, and say, “That’s from Tacoma,” in a know-it-all voice. Here’s a little rundown of each of them so that you too can annoy/impress people around you with fun little facts.
Johnny’s Seasoning salt is delicious. It’s a spice blend with paprika and garlic and secret magic (the ingredients literally list “spices”…mysterious) that goes great on meat, and also pretty much everything. My mom would always smear cream cheese into a celery stick and sprinkle it with Johnny’s. So good.
Johnny Meaker, the son of a butcher, grew up in Seattle and was always interested in cooking. In 1940, he opened Crawford’s Seafood Grill, where he experimented with spice blending and seasoning. Crawford’s success grew, and in 1950 Meaker opened two more restaurants-a second Crawford’s in Seattle as well as Johnny’s Dock in nearby Tacoma. In 1956, he decided to brand the seasonings made famous in his restaurants and created his Original Seasoned Salt produced by his company Johnny’s Fine Foods, which is located in the Dome area of Tacoma. While no longer manufactured in the original building, the marketing and sales offices are still located in Tacoma. The company is now partnered with a Woodinville Company, where the seasonings are now produced.
Rite in the Rain delights me, being what you may call a “paper person”. I’m a note-taker, a printmaker, a real book (no e-books for me!) reader, a library patron. Also, I am a pretty clumsy person. I spill my coffee, I drop my phone into puddles, and I trip over my cats’ water dish at least once a week. So I am particularly impressed by the miracle that is WATERPROOF PAPER.
In 1916, the entrepreneur, Jerry Darling, saw that northwest loggers were in need of a paper product that could be written on in crappy weather. He created a patented coating, and he and his wife began production in their own home hand dipping (!!!) sheets of paper! 100 years later, his company, J.L Darling Co, is still producing (though no longer hand-dipping) archival-quality, recyclable waterproof paper that can be written on with pen or pencil. Rite in the Rain produces notebooks and notepads of all sizes, perfectly suited for taking notes in the field during the hideous and wet Pacific Northwest winters. They also sell super handy printer paper for important travel documents, maps, etc, and their paper doesn’t feel all plastic and dumb. It’s pretty much like regular paper, it just doesn’t get smeary and sloppy when you knock a green tea into your purse. You can find it in bookstores, office supply shops, and also at REI.
And lastly, we Tacomans are lucky enough to call the chocolate crack that is Almond Roca our own! The candy manufacturer Brown & Haley went into business in 1914, and in 1923 the company invented the hard toffee candy covered in almonds and chocolate that we now know as Almond Roca. It was supposedly named by a Tacoma librarian- “roca” is Spanish for “rock”. I personally don’t think calling hard toffee candy a “rock” is necessarily an appetizing description, but “roca” just happens to also mean “happy family” in Cantonese, which may be a reason that it’s crazy popular in China and is seen as a luxury import. Brown & Haley also makes the Mountain Bar, whose packaging features a picture of Mt Rainier and which I have never tried because I am sadly allergic to peanuts. I’m guessing it’s delicious.