An Appetizing Archive

By , December 8, 2011 9:23 am

by Kristine Lloyd

Not only is eating right alongside breathing on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, eating has become a national pastime, nay, a sport. When I was a kid it was Hungry Man dinners and so long as the peas didn’t touch the mashed potatoes, I was happy. Now I want duck pâté canapés with huckleberry compote and challah French toast with hazelnut mascarpone. All the better if the huckleberries are artisanal and grown on a commune by a man named Sutra.

It might seem as though our fascination with all things gustatory is the impassioned pursuit of an idle society, but take a look at an old menu, and you’ll see that fine fare has always been on the stomachs and minds of Americans. We may not quite rival the French as epicureans, but nouvelle cuisine isn’t as new-fangled as you might think. Take a look for yourself at the menus of yore, collected at the New York Public Library. The Buttolph Collection consists of menus dating back to 1840 from eateries in the DC area. Delegates to the Central American Peace Conference in 1907 dined on caviar and oysters, along with mignon of lamb with new green peas. More importantly, why isn’t anyone serving clear calf’s head anymore? I predict that calf’s head is a delicacy that will make a comeback. Once again, I am reminded of how cool a profession I’m in, where providing access to ancestral habits is all in a day’s work.

One Response to “An Appetizing Archive”

  1. Barbara Holt says:

    Mmm, larded sweetbreads!

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