Will you do something revolutionary today?

Revolutionary Bites owner Gennie Truelock in front of her Packing House kiosk. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger

By Lisa Butterworth | Special to the Courier

Suffragists, a pie contest, and the pandemic might seem to have little in common, but they’re all part of the origin story of Revolutionary Bites Bakery, the newest kiosk addition to Claremont’s Packing House. Gennie Truelock, baker and proprietor, isn’t just serving tasty treats with inspired flavors, she’s quite literally offering food for thought.

Each of her baked goods is inspired by a typically underrecognized historical figure and comes packaged with a bit of their story. There is the Revel bar—chocolate ganache sandwiched between two oatmeal-cookie-like layers—named for Hiram Rhodes Revel, the first Black senator elected to the U.S. Congress. Or the chocolate orange concha cookie that pays homage to Jovita Idár, a Mexican-American journalist and activist who championed the rights of women and the Hispanic community in 19th century Texas. Henry Bergh, founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, would no doubt approve of the frosted and sprinkled animal cookies that bear his name.

“I try to be as broad as possible in terms of the stories that are told because people respond to history when they can see a reflection of themselves in it,” Truelock said. “And I don’t want people to feel that this isn’t a space for them to be able to tell their story.”

Some of Revolutionary Bites Bakery’s products. Photo/courtesy of Gennie Truelock

With a history degree and a career spent working in museums, Truelock — currently the programs manager at the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum in City of Industry — has decades of experience making historical narratives enticing to the average person.

The baking element is slightly more recent. Growing up in Riverside, it was Truelock’s mother who was the baker, magically turning lemons from their tree into delicious lemon meringue pie, and never following a recipe. It wasn’t until her mother got older, and Truelock realized she’d like to make some of those desserts herself, that she began experimenting in the kitchen. She decided to put her new skills to the test by entering the competition at the popular Claremont Pie Festival. “I was like, I’ll give it a try and see what happens,” she said. “The first year I entered, I didn’t place, but I asked for tips and pointers, and they were so sweet and very encouraging.” For Truelock, the third time was the charm and in 2019 her honey-lavender custard pie won the competition’s custard division. “I was like, wait, I can do this baking thing. I’m pretty good.

Her love of baking dovetailed with her interest in storytelling in early 2020, while working on an exhibit for the Homestead Museum on the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Sharing her ideas with longtime friend and fellow baker Tim Peckinpaugh, he mentioned he’d read that women would organize for their right to vote in tea rooms, where they “talked revolution over cake.” It was the spark that set Revolutionary Bites in motion — the idea that desserts could not only be a part of social change but could help inspire it too. “It started as a little text exchange joke, funny things that we could name different treats that had a historical bent, like brown Betty Friedan,” Truelock said. “When the pandemic hit, it was like, is there a way to make this more of a reality? Because everybody has conversations over food. Food can start the conversation.”

Truelock perfected the suffragist coffee cake (the classic sour cream version is also available with an espresso and chai streusel) and launched Revolutionary Bites Bakery in 2022. After selling her sweet history lessons at indoor markets, including the Packing House’s Friday night Claremont Gallery Market, she found out one of the alcoves was opening up and decided to take a chance on setting up shop. “I kept hemming and hawing about it,” she said. “But then I was like, am I going to wait until I’m 80? I’ll just take a leap, take the advice of some of these people and just do something because it feels like the right thing to do.”

Other folks honored by Revolutionary Bites include a revered stagecoach driver named Charley Parkhurst (cowboy cookies) — upon his death, it was discovered that this “man’s man” had been born female; Patsy Mink (Hawaiian butter mochi), a Japanese American from Hawaii and the first woman of color elected to Congress; and for June, Gilbert Baker (rainbow pound cake), designer of the pride flag. “A lot of these stories aren’t famous stories, but they’re important stories,” Truelock said. “If I’m able to help keep the stories out there, that feels good. As long as somebody sees it and goes, ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know that’ or ‘I’m so glad this is being talked about.’”

The response, she said, has been great: “There are the history nerds that are just ecstatic about it. There are different community groups that are just happy to have a reflection in some way. Then there are some who might find some of the history challenging and that’s okay. But so far, everybody’s been kind and excited.”

Truelock’s baked goods are now available in the Claremont Packing House every Friday, from 6 to 9 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Hopefully it shows what everyday people can do,” she said. “It isn’t about George Washington or people that we learn about in our history books. Really, history is made of everyday people who are sometimes forced into extraordinary circumstances. That’s what we wanted to celebrate: Will you do something revolutionary today? Nobody plans on it, but it happens.”


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