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Mid-Nineteenth Century Hotel & Restaurant Menus
September 15, 2012 5:52 PM   Subscribe

Hotel and restaurant menus of the 1850s and 1860s. Via.
posted by Rykey (60 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
These are making me hungry, but I'm pretty sure the food's gone bad by now.
posted by bicyclefish at 5:59 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


You just can't get a nice boiled entree these days.
posted by that's how you get ants at 6:01 PM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


The $3 Chateau Margaux is $65 in today's money. Still not a bad deal.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:05 PM on September 15, 2012


That is a terrible interface, god damn.
posted by ryanrs at 6:08 PM on September 15, 2012 [31 favorites]


MEALS WILL BE PROMPT, AND NO GONG WILL BE SOUNDED
posted by oulipian at 6:18 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Terrible interfaces are synonymous with restaurant menus.
posted by desjardins at 6:18 PM on September 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


The American Hotel menu says "Breakfast from 7 to 10. Dinner from 2 to 3½. Tea at 6." That's pretty different. And the meal in which the bill of fare would be served would be the mid-afternoon dinner?
posted by grouse at 6:21 PM on September 15, 2012


It's high time for a resurgence of Breakfast Wines.
posted by univac at 6:22 PM on September 15, 2012 [19 favorites]


like red ripple for example
posted by elizardbits at 6:26 PM on September 15, 2012


I'm happy just imagining the kinds of mazes, jokes, and coloring pictures that must have been on the back of these. Something along the lines of John Hodgman's WERE YOU AWARE OF IT?, but for the kids.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:31 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


You just can't get a nice boiled entree these days.

This actually threw me off. Did people actually want boiled tongue at a fine restaurant? As much as I find a lengua taco delicious, I can't really imagine a plate of boiled tongue being appetizing.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 6:32 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


mmmm yes, I'll have the Young Pigs with a nice Pale Table Sherry, oh and a ticket for the 7:05 to Toronto, thnx
posted by mannequito at 6:34 PM on September 15, 2012


The American Hotel menu says "Breakfast from 7 to 10. Dinner from 2 to 3½. Tea at 6." That's pretty different. And the meal in which the bill of fare would be served would be the mid-afternoon dinner?

Normal schedule for an American household as well as a hotel. The biggest meal of the day, with the most hot dishes, was in early afternoon. The word "Dinner" always refers to the biggest meal of the day, no matter when it's eaten. "Tea" is really what we might call supper - a light evening meal. This made sense for a lot of reasons in a less industrialized economy.

The bill of fare lists a lot of dishes. But it isn't the same kind of service as we have in the contemporary world. It was basically service a la Russe, in which a huge array of dishes was brought out all at once. As a diner, you didn't eat every single thing in courses; you picked and chose from among what was offered, sort of like a modern buffet.
posted by Miko at 6:42 PM on September 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'll take the saddle of mutton with a flitch of bacon. Calf's head in toulouse sauce on the side.
posted by basicchannel at 6:42 PM on September 15, 2012


It was basically service a la Russe, in which a huge array of dishes was brought out all at once.

I thought that was service à la française. It's what the Wikipedia articles say too.
posted by grouse at 6:46 PM on September 15, 2012


It's high time for a resurgence of Breakfast Wines.

Auguste Escoffier recommends a chilled glass of Sancerre, with freshly picked blackberries, goat cheese, and a piece of toasted bread.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:49 PM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Tongue is incredibly tender and flavourful when done correctly - maybe "boil" doesn't mean boiling in water, but with meat juices and tomato paste and potatoes, more like a slow baste.

You don't need to skin pork tongue, but beef tongue's top layer is quite thick and you have to discard that.

Heart is also quite good this way, too, but I guess it was less popular than tongue, but you have to cut out a bunch of wobbly bits first.
posted by porpoise at 6:51 PM on September 15, 2012


The Forced Meat Balls, please.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:58 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought that was service à la française. It's what the Wikipedia articles say too.

You're right; I mixed them up.
posted by Miko at 6:59 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


maybe "boil" doesn't mean boiling in water, but with meat juices and tomato paste and potatoes, more like a slow baste

It means boiling in water, maybe with an onion and a bouquet garni. See Fannie Farmer and Mrs. Beeton (Google Books, can't link) for roughly contemporary recipes. Also Escoffier.

People liked boiled tongue. They do "skin" the tongue in the recipes above. Also, it was often corned or pickled first, so at least salty.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:23 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah! Mrs. Beeton's boiled tongue recipe. Delicious with Brussels sprouts, which you may remember Mrs. Beeton liked to boil for 30 minutes.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:25 PM on September 15, 2012


Check out the Vegetarian Cafe menu. Love that protose and Nutolene!

I'd love to browse these more, but the interface is too tough. I would only bother with the detail if I were looking for something specific.
posted by Miko at 7:27 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am wrong; Mrs. Beeton thought Brussels sprouts should be boiled "for 9 to 12 minutes" which is actually pretty reasonable for Victorian vegetables. Now I will have to find out who it was who thought they needed 30 minutes of boiling (other than my grandmother).
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:27 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


These are delightful.

Gentleman's Ordinary 2 1/2 O'Clock

So, breakfast at 8, Dinner at 2, and Tea at 6 1/2. And by "Tea" I presume they mean Rye Whiskey. That pretty much describes Thanksgiving and Christmas at Grandma's house, back in the day.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 7:33 PM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Nothing wrong with boiled tongue. Unless it's your own, of course.
posted by unSane at 7:35 PM on September 15, 2012


The mid-day meal is still often called "dinner" in rural Pennsylvania. Lunch pails are called "dinner buckets"
posted by octothorpe at 7:38 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Gentlemen ordering wine without designating the kind or price, will be furnished with Madeira at two dollars per bottle"
posted by octothorpe at 7:40 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The American Hotel menu says "Breakfast from 7 to 10. Dinner from 2 to 3½. Tea at 6." That's pretty different. And the meal in which the bill of fare would be served would be the mid-afternoon dinner?

Growing up in northern England in the 60s-70s, that sounds pretty familiar. 'Dinner' was what we would now call lunch and was the biggest meal by far (hence 'Dinner Ladies', who cooked the food at school, typically boiled meat + veg + potatoes + some kind of pudding. 'Tea' was a bit lighter, but served at 5. Then there'd be 'supper' before going to bed -- anything from cheese on toast to cereal to whatever.
posted by unSane at 7:41 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is fascinating. Thanks for posting, Rykey!

I wonder what restaurant menus will look like in the future. I've already been to one restaurant in Boston that hands diners the menu on an iPad.
posted by The Girl Who Ate Boston at 8:08 PM on September 15, 2012


Excuse me, I'm having trouble deciding between the stewed tripe, the fried fish balls, the broiled pig's feet, or the cold tongue. What do you recommend?
posted by i_have_a_computer at 8:16 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've had all of them, and they're all good. What you think things will taste like, and what they taste like, are vastly different things.

All of them are less ew-making for me than, say, chicken mcnuggets.
posted by unSane at 8:22 PM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Following up on what octothorpe said, my husband's parents call the Sunday post-church meal (usually around 1:30pm) dinner and it is their main meal that day. If they have an evening meal that day, it is usually called supper. They are not from Pennsylvania, but close. I don't know if that's a regional thing or not (my parents did not grow up in the US, so we called our mid-day meal lunch always and the evening meal dinner, never used the word supper).
posted by echo0720 at 8:22 PM on September 15, 2012


It's interesting how really the only starch listed on most of the menus is simply some configuration of potatoes, either boiled or mashed.

I sort of wonder if this was just because of a lack of exposure to cuisine, or because carbs have taken on more importance as of late. The latter seems to be one of the premises of the Paleo diet, for example. But nowadays, we have rice, pasta, and others. Not even bread found a place on any of the menus I read!
posted by eak at 8:40 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Growing up in the American South, the midday meal was dinner and the evening meal was supper. If I were to slip and call the evening meal dinner, my dad would accuse me of putting on airs.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 9:08 PM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Both my sets of grandparents - one with New England roots, one with Texas roots - called lunch "dinner" and it was a big hot meal. My Texas grandparents never changed those habits. My northern grandparents, like most Americans, migrated to the bigger meal in the evening, with the notable exception of Sunday dinner, which stayed a big dinner in the early afternoon and was a bit of an occasion.

A lot of that shift has to do with commuting. When you lived and worked in the same town, if you got enough time at lunch you could go home and sit down to the hot meal your wife had been preparing all morning. When commuting became more of a thing, cities grew and suburbs sprouted, nobody could come home for lunch, and more of the women were working, so the big meal moved to evening when everyone was home.
posted by Miko at 9:10 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mmm, tongue. It's like that videogame trope of defeating your shadow self, but for tastebuds!
posted by oulipian at 9:34 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The idea of eating a huge hot meal at midday seems pretty unthinkable, especially when you live in a hot climate like Southern California. However, I know, intellectually, it's an very old habit-- at least in Northern Europe. Even aristocrats ate dinner in the early afternoon in Elizabethan England. It wasn't until the 18th century that late dinners became more fashionable for the aristocracy.

Interestingly enough, if you go farther back-- to ancient Rome-- dinners tended to be somewhat later, to make room for a siesta and a visit to the baths. They could start as early as 2 PM, but often they started later in the evening, in a way that would be more familiar to modern folks (as opposed to the medieval/early modern Northern European tendency to eat a heavy meal at noon). What goes around comes around, I guess.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 9:52 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Growing up in the American South, the midday meal was dinner and the evening meal was supper. If I were to slip and call the evening meal dinner, my dad would accuse me of putting on airs.


Canadian Prairie here, otherwise as above.
posted by Cosine at 10:13 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, I wish to order the pigs pittiestoes? But without the minced liver? Thank you.
posted by medeine at 10:25 PM on September 15, 2012


The Special Collections at the library our local Colorado College has a menu collection from the 1890s to the present. Fun to look through.
posted by Isadorady at 11:13 PM on September 15, 2012


"Delicious with Brussels sprouts, which you may remember Mrs. Beeton liked to boil for 30 minutes."

Only way to get the Satan out.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:26 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why as a culture did North Americans stop eating mutton?
posted by PinkMoose at 12:05 AM on September 16, 2012


Mutton is labeled "lamb" now in the U.S. Lamb is labeled "spring lamb" or something marketing-y like that. People do still eat lamb, though its never been as popular in the U.S. as elsewhere (partly due to grazing land available -- good for cows -- and partly due to attitudes towards immigrants).

But that's where mutton went ... It aged backwards, Merlin-style!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:38 AM on September 16, 2012


Thanks, I suspected that was the case.
posted by PinkMoose at 12:46 AM on September 16, 2012


I've already been to one restaurant in Boston that hands diners the menu on an iPad.

I love that when clicking through that link I arrived at a menu screen containing .aspx pop-up windows of each item on the menu, complete with pictures... not sized to fit my iPad.

Oh restaurant website design, you never fail to amuse and annoy.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:12 AM on September 16, 2012


It's high time that Relishes resumed their rightful place on the American menu.
posted by the painkiller at 4:11 AM on September 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's interesting how really the only starch listed on most of the menus is simply some configuration of potatoes, either boiled or mashed.

Bah, carbs are for vegetarians.
posted by Rykey at 5:12 AM on September 16, 2012


Why as a culture did North Americans stop eating mutton?

There are a lot of economic reasons as well, and here are some - the decline in the wool industry was pretty huge, and in fact is the reason New England has its second-growth forest today. Also, in the 1930s and 40s people started experimenting with raising and finishing beef on feedlots, which caught on and started the process of driving the cost of beef production down, and the capacity up, that we live with (and its consequences) today in a very extreme version.
posted by Miko at 7:01 AM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Menu History, previously (more links in the thread).
posted by languagehat at 8:01 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mutton is labeled "lamb" now in the U.S. Lamb is labeled "spring lamb" or something marketing-y like that

This is not accurate. Spring lamb just means the lamb was slaughtered between March and October. The actual classifications are lamb, yearling mutton, and mutton. The complication is that they are not graded directly based on age but rather on "evidences of maturity as indicated by the development of their muscular and skeletal systems." 7 C.F.R. § 54.122 [pdf]. Specifically
Typical lamb carcasses tend to have slightly wide and moderately flat rib bones and a light red color and fine texture of lean. By contrast, typical yearling mutton carcasses have moderately wide rib bones which tend to be flat and a slightly dark red color and slightly coarse texture of lean. Typical mutton carcasses have wide, flat, rib bones and a dark red color and coarse texture of lean.
posted by jedicus at 8:07 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd be interested in learning when Canadians and Americans started eating the big meal at the end of the day. I know that, back when Subway's inner decor featured newspaper clippings of the NY subway system opening, there were clippings that said NY workers could now go home for their dinner at mid-day. But in BC, where I grew up, miners just took their lunch in a metal pot - and I think they arrived home later for a big meal. Maybe it varied from region to region, depending on the nature of the work. You weren't exactly going to climb a couple of miles out of the mine and walk several more home just to have lunch.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:28 PM on September 16, 2012


I'd be interested in learning when Canadians and Americans started eating the big meal at the end of the day

It wasn't all at once - it happened as industrialization happened, with the gradual shift from an agrarian/craft economy to a regularized, industrial one, so it happened first in cities and mill towns (giving rise to things like the diner and "lunch carts") and gradually crept outward from there. It was a habit adopted by people employed in the industrial economy, out of necessity, once shift work began and 'business hours' stabilized and laborers who formerly worked dawn-to-dusk, but near home, worked away from home and started obeying the clock instead. That's one reason there are places where the tradition held out until the mid-20th century (the exurban South, Midwest, New England) and places where it was stone dead by 1900.

Though I can't verify it right now, I had a food historian sometime over the last year tell me that the American combination of spaghetti and meatballs actually results from this process. In Italy, to this day, spaghetti and meatballs are two separate courses, the primo (often pasta) and secondo (the heartiest portion, often meat). Once Italians arrived in North America's cities and started needing to take lunch outside the home, the story goes, the two courses were combined in a lunchbox conflating the two Italian courses into one.

Don't have time to search much but I quickly googled up What Time is Dinner? and Lunch: An Urban Invention.
posted by Miko at 2:30 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just because of this thread I'm now slow-roasting a lamb shank in red wine, onions, garlic and tomato. The aroma is so intoxicating, I'm dizzy from the loss of saliva.
posted by Flashman at 3:20 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the vegetarian menu it lists a drink called Panpeptogen. Google knows nothing about this.
posted by unliteral at 5:36 PM on September 16, 2012


Unilateral, this book mentions it, but the interface is wonky on my phone, so I couldn't get it big enough to read. http://books.google.com/books?id=zzU8AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA406&lpg=PA406&dq=panpeptogen&source=bl&ots=jopI8h-Ge4&sig=rK95XjO19Y_ifm4kAi2NHDwbbXw&hl=en
posted by dejah420 at 8:25 PM on September 16, 2012


Unilateral, this book mentions it
Not for me it didn't. Weird.
posted by unliteral at 9:21 PM on September 16, 2012


For me it did. "A laxative remedy of great value." There's also a variant with a hyphen, "Pan-peptogen," which give some more results. How does this link to an ad for it work for you?
posted by Miko at 9:34 PM on September 16, 2012


Nope. Must be blocked in Australia.
posted by unliteral at 9:37 PM on September 16, 2012


You guys probably get enough fiber already.
posted by Miko at 9:39 PM on September 16, 2012


You guys probably get enough fiber already.
I wouldn't be blocked then, would I.
posted by unliteral at 9:48 PM on September 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


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