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"These records of what men and women absorb with diligent neglect of health and spiritual welfare."
April 19, 2011 5:38 PM   Subscribe

"What's on the menu?", the New York Public Library asks. Cincinnati Ham, Champagne Sauce. Baked Weakfish. Republican Punch. Cup of Beef Tea.

The library's collection of 40,000 menus (1840s to the present) is one of the largest in the world, and was originally contributed by Miss Frank E. Buttolph (1850-1924). As described in a 1906 New York Times article [pdf], "Miss Buttolph is making history for the year 2000 which, should our present carnivorous natures by that time merge into a diet mild and milky, will hold this generation up as an example of brute force that should annihilate all our virtues and leave us in the eyes of our descendants a race of horror and greed, a pack of flesh-eating outcasts remarkable only for our gastronomic endurance."

The NYPL is looking for volunteers to help digitize this unique collection of "horror and greed". Previously.
posted by nev (47 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
"[A]n example of brute force that should annihilate all our virtues and leave us in the eyes of our descendants a race of horror and greed, a pack of flesh-eating outcasts remarkable only for our gastronomic endurance."

nev, I want to thank you for posting this; you've just rendered it unnecessary for me to come up with an original epitaph before my eventual death.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:41 PM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Cincinnati Ham" sounds like something horrible on Urban Dictionary.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:45 PM on April 19, 2011 [14 favorites]


Republican Punch: Right to the solar plexus when you're already reeling.
posted by Daddy-O at 5:50 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Baked Weakfish, I imagine, is Andy Dick after a couple bongloads.
posted by jonmc at 5:56 PM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Previously
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 6:03 PM on April 19, 2011


My all-time favorite menu comes from Springfield Massachusetts' own The Student Prince. The restaurant is great in its own right, because it looks and feels kind of like being trapped in Bavaria, circa 1965, as filmed by David Lynch. But the menu is a standout because it features "Large Pig’s Knuckle, served the traditional German way." I have not yet had the courage to order this; I suspect it might be code for a punch in the face.
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:05 PM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: an example of brute force that should annihilate all our virtues and leave us in the eyes of our descendants a race of horror and greed, a pack of flesh-eating outcasts remarkable only for our gastronomic endurance.
posted by Scientist at 6:08 PM on April 19, 2011


The menus are very cool and there's a certain rhythmic fun to transcribing items, but isn't this something the unpaid interns should be doing?
posted by oinopaponton at 6:09 PM on April 19, 2011


But the menu is a standout because it features "Large Pig’s Knuckle, served the traditional German way." I have not yet had the courage to order this; I suspect it might be code for a punch in the face.

Nah, it's just Schweinshaxe, basically a whole roasted ham hock, skin-on, usually served with sauerkraut and potatoes of some kind. German Google Images has a bunch of pictures. It's a very tasty dish, but best shared since it's a pretty large cut of meat.
posted by jedicus at 6:11 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Weakfish aka Sea Trout is the State Fish of Delaware. Now you know.
posted by unSane at 6:14 PM on April 19, 2011


for the year 2000 which, should our present carnivorous natures by that time merge into a diet mild and milky, will hold this generation up as an example of brute force that should annihilate all our virtues and leave us in the eyes of our descendants a race of horror and greed, a pack of flesh-eating outcasts remarkable only for our gastronomic endurance

Well, so much for that. Little did they know we'd start working on, for example, ways to stuff as many animals inside other animals as we can.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:16 PM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Now selling pre-orders to my new book - The Road to the Whitehouse, 2012: a Race of Horror and Greed, a Pack of Flesh-eating Outcasts Remarkable only for our Gastronomic Endurance, Featuring Baked Weakfish and Republican Punch.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:16 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can only assume that Cincinnati Ham is ham served on a bed of spaghetti smothered in chili sauce.
posted by boo_radley at 6:16 PM on April 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


There is also Senate Bean and Ham Soup.
posted by Danf at 6:17 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


One can only dream, boo_radley. One can only dream.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:17 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fishing for weakfish is pretty popular in and around NY especially near the verrazano bridge. I've got a couple old school bead and spinner weakfish jigs, still haven't caught a weakfish though.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:19 PM on April 19, 2011


I am curious to know about the double pricing in some of the menus. I suppose today we have "market price" or something to that effect but some of those ranges seem fairly large (30 to 50 cents).
posted by ofthestrait at 6:21 PM on April 19, 2011


The Republican House menu also has "Mayonnaise of Chicken," which is probably just chicken salad, but man, way to make chicken salad sound like a dreadful atrocity.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:26 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Double pricing is probably large and small, depending on budget or appetite.
posted by stbalbach at 6:30 PM on April 19, 2011


Weakfish aka Sea Trout

Wiki tells me that weakfish, (which are not true trout,) so named because you can't hook them -- their mouth breaks and they escape. True trout, in their second year, can migrate from fresh water springs out into the saltwater oceans. When they do, they turn into something similar to salmon. These are know as steelheads. And now maybe I know why: the opposite of weakfish.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:33 PM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


There is a Korean restaurant that I go to that serves a beef broth with radish in it. It is so light it could literally be 'beef tea'. I love it so; it's great on a cold evening!
posted by spinifex23 at 6:42 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The menus are very cool and there's a certain rhythmic fun to transcribing items, but isn't this something the unpaid interns should be doing?

The New York Public Library's had enormous & terrible budget cuts - the interns are probably busy doing work that paid workers did in the past.
posted by with hidden noise at 7:12 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Beef tea = Bovril!
posted by Bwithh at 7:12 PM on April 19, 2011


If this interests you, my might also be interested in a few posts I made to my blog a couple years ago ... eaten 99 years and a week ago tonight, The Last Meal on the Titanic (First Class), where I go through the First Class menu and describe what many of the items were; followed up with What the Other Classes Ate That Night; and an investigation into one particular item on the first class menu, What the heck is Waldorf Pudding?
posted by crunchland at 7:15 PM on April 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


I have no problem transcribing menus instead of doing actual writing assignments for courses. This seems like a better use of my time.

And now I'm hungry for oyster pie.
posted by SNWidget at 7:30 PM on April 19, 2011


The House of Representatives also serves a similar (but not identical) bean soup.

Neither of them are particularly good.
posted by schmod at 7:30 PM on April 19, 2011


I love horrific food from times past. My favorite menus are pretty much any of those featured on the glorious shows The Supersizers Go... and The Supersizers Eat.... Oh, Sue and Giles, how I love to watch you struggle through abhorrent, old-timey meals. In that vein, it's also really neat to look at old cookery books from medieval times and beyond.
posted by nonmerci at 7:31 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love the menu divided up by preparation styles

I'll have one from broiled
one from fried
one from baked
and a little neck clam
posted by the noob at 8:45 PM on April 19, 2011


Cincinnati Ham, Champagne Sauce -- wait, Hamm and Bubbly is a real thing? Amazing.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:03 PM on April 19, 2011


"Mayonnaise of Chicken," which is probably just chicken salad, but man, way to make chicken salad sound like a dreadful atrocity

I must protest. This sounds almost as good to me as "butter sandwich."
posted by queensissy at 9:07 PM on April 19, 2011


Now selling pre-orders to my new book - The Road to the Whitehouse, 2012: a Race of Horror and Greed, a Pack of Flesh-eating Outcasts Remarkable only for our Gastronomic Endurance, Featuring Baked Weakfish and Republican Punch.

Didn't Hunter Thompson already write that?
posted by indubitable at 9:09 PM on April 19, 2011


Given the period, it would be funny (in a very sad way) if some of the menus had "Passenger Pigeon", crossed out.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:39 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hosted a Roman dinner party once. It was fun creating the menu and doing the research. I decided against anything involving mice. And apart from - er - interesting attempts at garum (in the end, I wound up using Indonesian trassie as a base - it worked well enough), things were pretty successful. One of the dishes was a warm peppered melon stew. It was delicious!
posted by likeso at 3:05 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Likeso: you can get garum colatura from zinger mans.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:25 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow! Thanks, leotrotsky! (link for other interested parties)
posted by likeso at 7:08 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


And for dormouse recipes, look to Slovenia, where it is still considered a delicacy.
posted by ryanrs at 7:18 AM on April 20, 2011


(Also, a dormouse is more like a squirrel than a mouse. For me, this moves it firmly into the Edible category.)
posted by ryanrs at 7:21 AM on April 20, 2011


I actually work for NYPL and after less than 24 hours of being online, you've blown through the initial batch of menus, completely surpassing our expectations. We were planning a "soft launch." So much for that.

So we're in the process of uploading a whole new set (several hundred) that should be online later today.

In the meantime, if you've got any questions about the project, I'm happy to ask the curators and team behind it.
posted by e1presidente at 7:21 AM on April 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


So e1presidente, I see that you'll be taking our orders today? We'd like larger portions, yes indeedy.
posted by likeso at 7:30 AM on April 20, 2011


Ooooh, this is great, and I'm a scribe! Looks like lots of fun (busman's holiday aside). Thanks for posting this, nev!
posted by kinnakeet at 7:50 AM on April 20, 2011


In my mind, I put the first class Titanic menu alongside the constricting corsets the women were expected to wear back then, and I got mental heartburn.

The steerage menus actually look reasonable, by comparison.
posted by LN at 8:08 AM on April 20, 2011


More chocolate Ovaltine weak beef tea please!!!
posted by slogger at 9:08 AM on April 20, 2011


In the meantime, if you've got any questions about the project, I'm happy to ask the curators and team behind it.

Is there any way you can give a little better guidelines? As in, if there's a set of quote marks under an initial item, do you want those relisted.

For Example

Potatoes Mashed
" Fried
" Steamed

Do I enter "Potatoes Mashed," "Potatoes Fried," and "Potatoes Steamed?" Just something that I noticed as I was going through it last night instead of doing things like sleeping.
posted by SNWidget at 10:02 AM on April 20, 2011


SNWidget: I'm not involved in the project, but would think that since " is being used as a ditto mark you should repeat "Potatoes" as you've indicated. At least, that's what I would do.
posted by orrnyereg at 10:56 AM on April 20, 2011


SNWidget & orrnyereg: your instincts are right on!
If you come across something in a list with quote marks, you treat them as separate entries with the food right above the ditto marks.
So to repeat your example:

Potatoes Mashed
" Fried
"Steamed


Would be entered as:
Potatoes Mashed
Potatoes Fried
Potatoes Steamed

posted by e1presidente at 12:36 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm noticing a lot of people are mixing up the prices. Some menus are set for entering the price in as cents, and others in dollars. And people aren't noticing the difference. On one menu I edited, french fried potatoes cost $15. not $0.15.
posted by crunchland at 3:01 PM on April 20, 2011


I'm also noticing that when people edit things and ignore the case (either using all upper or all lower), even if you go in and try to edit it, it reverts back to the way the original person typed it in. And that includes even after you remove the entry from the menu and re-key it, it'll still revert back to the original mistyped way.
posted by crunchland at 8:29 PM on April 20, 2011


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