News and Updates,  Staff Spotlight

Updates and Introductions: Lynea Wilson

Hello! My name is Lynea Wilson and this is my first semester working with the Panama Canal Museum Collection. I am currently helping to prepare the upcoming exhibition all about food in the Zone. This topic is closely related to my thesis research into capturethe use of food in museum education. 

I’ve spent the last week looking through Zonian cook books, yearbooks, and oral histories and am so interested to learn more about this subject- Johnny Mazetti in particular! I’m looking forward to learning more from this collection and all of you.


  • Robert Dryja

    You may like looking for “Arroz con Pollo” recipe variations that are specific to Panama in the 1960’s. I have not been able to locate such a recipe. I remember Arroz con Pollo as using a tomato sauce/chunks and so being distinctly red in color. The great majority of recipes I see today on the internet use olives and other seasonings that were not readily available back then.

  • Bob Dillon

    if one is to discuss food in the Canal Zone, there needs to be discussion about sources and availability. Unlike here in the USA, contiguous that is, there are 7-Elevens and Circle K’s McDonald’s and Wendy’s and KFC, and in the Canal Zone there was none of that. Here we have Publix, Piggly Wiggly’s and Albertsons and Winn-Dixie Etc. We had the commissary from which to buy groceries. It was a very small store about 2 or so times the size of a Circle K, a big Circle K. I have eaten more canned vegetables than any person should. I have seen brand-new loaves of bread turn completely moldy overnight. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a freshly opened bag of flour or box of instant mashed potatoes be fully involved with The Offspring of whatever creature left the larvae Within. Then again, Dad used to cook the best like a lamb which came straight off the boat from New Zealand. Yum. I remember the first time I ate a Kit Kat bar, my Uncle John had picked it up on a ship he piloted through, the QE2 it was. I must run, but if you could, see if you can dig up some pictures of the Balboa commissary. I have seen one online at the Getty collection from 1970 something that really brings back memories. It was a very small store. It had big giant cash registers that spun out reels and reels of tape. No barcode scanners for us. Dictated but not proof read at least not that much. Grammatical errors and nonsense are attributed to Samsung, Korea.

  • Bob Dillon

    Reading back, I should point out that I meant pictures of the inside of the commissary. There are scads of pictures of the outside.

    Also, two words, sancocho and yucca. Discuss.

  • Carol Meyer

    Sancocho: to me, basically chicken soup or stew using assorted tuberous roots instead of rice or noodles. Also frequently flavored with culantro (flavor similar to cilantro but longer leaves, grew as a weed, both members of parsley family). In the interior you might even see the chicken foot in the soup. In Columbia they apparently make a sancocho from tarpon, supposedly an aphrodisiac! My mother used to make Johnny Mazetti before I ever went to Panama. I don’t know where she got the recipe.

  • Joan Ohman

    Welcome Lynea! Johnny Mazetti or Marzetti originated in Cincinnati, OH from the Marzetti family. A lot of construction day workers were recruited from Cincinnati being a railroad city at the time (my grandfather included). Secret ingredient…Arturo Sauce!

  • Bob Dillon

    When I grew up in late 60’s and 70’s…

    In the Canal Zone, our U.S. Government run grocery stores, vending machines, cafeterias, etcetera were stocked mostly from supplies bought in New Orleans and shipped to the Canal Zone on the Panama Canal Company’s ship (a 4 day trip). Therefore we would see brands specific to New Orleans and surrounding areas. Today I live in Mobile, Alabama and see reminders all the time of those New Orleans brands of foods. Herr’s Potato Chips, “Tahitian Treat” Sodas, “Purple Passion” Sodas, Chee Wees (not Cheetos), and others. I remember buying “Ositos” bubble gum at the Balboa Train Station magazine stands (was a Panamanian brand, Pasqual was the manufacturer).. They were a hard candy covered bubble gum. Closest I’ve seen here is the mini-blow pops w/o the lollypop stick (latest addiction).. They sold Yucca chips and Plantain chips as much as they sell potato chips here in the contiguous States. The Coca Cola and the Pepsi Trucks would come around every Saturday morning through the neighborhood, and one would swap out last weeks empties for refills or return on deposit (returnable wooden cases and glass bottles). I think they had lliter or 2 liter bottles near the end. You could mix and match your flavors, Coke, Fanta, whatever. I think we would get 2 cases a week. There weren’t commercial industries in the Canal Zone. Coca Cola and Pepsi were Panamanian Companies, subsidiaries of the parents, located across the street in the Republic of Panama. They, the trucks, would drive into the Canal Zone and trough the neighborhoods, in spite of the imaginary “Berlin Wall” that fiction authors, revisionist historians and propogandists pretend separated the Republic of Panama from the US Canal Zone. No, there was no wall or fence along the 45mile boarders with Panama. That’s why there are no pictures of the “Panama/Berlin Wall.”. Sorry, had to get that in. Most Zonians ate very much the same as here in the States except we had less access to the variety and freshness of foods as we here in the States. The veggies, meat, milk, cheese, ice cream, chocolate, even the cigarettes are much much better and fresher here, closer to the source. We ate a lot of canned veggies down there, at least in my house. Our selection in the commissary was very limited. You could not use coupons in the Commissary, nor in the R. of P. Too busy to proofread. Please do not grade this.

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