Sunday, May 10, 2015

Culinary Interfoliata

San Francisco, 

Interfoliata is the technical term for items found between the pages of a book. These unexpected discoveries can add a fascinating dimension to a volume, such as this reservation book from Bergez-Frank’s Old Poodle Dog in 1908, the year it opened in San Francisco. Interesting in its own right, the book was found to contain eighteen pieces of paper randomly scattered between its pages, revealing small details about the operation of this restaurant and its clientele. 

Bergez-Frank’s Old Poodle Dog was owned and operated by a group of French chefs and restaurateurs who banded together after the Great Earthquake and Fire. The new five-story building on Bush Street was a grand establishment, featuring twenty-one private dining rooms on the floors above the main restaurant. And while it was one of the best places to dine in the city, the reservations were recorded in a standard calendar diary. Rediscovered a hundred years later, the book still had a business card pinned to the front page, one of several it contained from its patrons.

The first reservations appear on Thursday, June 18, presumably the day it opened. One of earliest entries was for a party of five from the Mission High School. They requested a room with a piano. Unlike today’s high-end restaurants, Bergez-Frank’s Old Poodle Dog was patronized by a broad cross-section of society and played an integral role in the city’s social life. 

The book also contains a number of order forms for the kitchen and wine cellar. These improbable survivors may have inadvertently slipped between the pages when the business records were thrown into boxes for storage. Supporting this notion, one of the customer bills is dated May 7, 1909, four months after the book outlived its usefulness.

Although the restaurant was popular, many of the pages contain only a few names, suggesting that people did not normally make reservations except during the holidays. Independence Day, Bastille Day (July 14), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve were particularly busy days.

The dinner reservations for Christmas and New Years Eve are so densely packed as to make them unintelligible. These dynamic notations express the clamor of a crowded restaurant. Intensified by the ephemera it contains, the book is like a conceptual work of art, conveying a vibrant period in the social history of San Francisco.


H.D. Miller said...

This is a fun find, and if you're so inclined a few minutes of web searching and you can come up with something like this..

A San Francisco city directory from 1910, with a listing for Lewis H. Levy, salesman for L. Dinkelspiel company. He's living at 611 Octavia Street.

Jump to Google Maps street view and you can see a row of low older houses. Go to Zillow and you can see that the house was built in 1900, the house of Louis H. Levy, diner at the Poodle Dog in 1908, still stands.

Jeanne Schinto said...

Oh, this is good! So much packed into one ephemeral item.... I think I can remember when you bought this...