Friday, December 30, 2011

New Years Day, 1885

The major news stories in 1885 were about large things—the Statue of Liberty arrived from France; the Washington Monument was finally completed; and the ten-story Home Insurance Building was erected in Chicago, the first "skyscraper" utilizing structural steel. It was also the year that Jumbo the Elephant was killed by a locomotive while crossing the railroad tracks, three years after showman P. T. Barnum brought the beloved circus animal to the United States amidst great fanfare. Bringing in the year of these big events, four menus from New Years Day in 1885 illustrate the social customs and foodways associated with how the holiday was then celebrated, revealing the small details of everyday life in various places across the country.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Great American Delicacies

Washington, D.C. & San Francisco
Christmas, 1890

Two menus from Christmas Day in 1890 reflect regional differences in cuisine at a time when local styles of cooking were not always evident. Despite being held on opposite ends of the country, the dinners also featured some of the same dishes, such as Diamondback terrapin and Canvasback duck. Described as “the great American delicacies” by British novelist Frederick Marryat in his 1839 Diary in America, these classic game dishes were often served at lavish dinners during this time of year, prepared in traditional ways that transcended regional variations and foreign influences.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hopper’s Places

San Francisco, 1940

Working from drawings of ordinary restaurants in New York, Edward Hopper painted Tables for Ladies in his studio near Washington Square in 1930. The photo on the menu below from Chris’s Grill and Coffee Shop in San Francisco is reminiscent of the eatery shown on this large canvas (now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), with the grapefruits lined up in the front of the window display.