From the Archives: Vintage Menus

I know that like, half of my posts lately have been recaps of NYTimes articles (sorry, guys! There’s so much that I like about the NYT!), but I really, really wanted to post the links to these vintage menus originally posted in yesterday’s “What We’re Reading.” This 1912 menu (pictured above) features such anachronistic dishes as “Cubist” salad, Fried mush, Chow-Chow, and olive sandwiches. Equally quaint, this 1930s menu includes a section of Health Beverages (hint: they’re all juices), Purity Doughnuts, and a surprisingly large number of ice cream treats.

Scanning the contents of these menus tickled me in the same way that reading older Alice Munro stories does. I love acquiring the smallest historical details. Knowing the fabric content of 1940s undergarments or learning the name of a long-disappeared cleaning solution not only reinforces my interest in/kindles my affinity for everyday details of the past, but it causes me to think critically about what such details of my current life might survive and become quaint to someone 70 years down the line. Will people think fondly of Ritter Sport, of Starbucks and Vitamin Water? Will our children’s children pose the question, “But what is a $5 footlong?”

Beyond their historic and kitsch values, documents like these also make me want to prepare historic foods. I’ve lately been on a kick of reading old-old recipes (this kick inspired, in part, by my reading works by Elizabeth David), and while I’m not keen to replicate dishes involving organ meats, I’d like to prepare Ye Olden Desserts, just to see how they stack up to our modern concept of sweet.

Anyway, give these menus a glance — they’ll brighten your rainy (or…snowy?) Friday. Oh, and happy Friday!

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