Out of the Blue

New York Library Reveals What was on the American Menu 100 Years Ago

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New York Library Reveals What was on the American Menu 100 Years Ago

Thanks to the New York Public Library we can now take a glimpse into American tastes from as far back as the 1840s in a fully accessible digital database of historical American restaurant menus entitled 'What's on the Menu?'

The library has managed to amass more than 40,000 restaurant menus, with about 18,000 of those menus dating from 1851 to 2008, which are all viewable online.

The museum are enlisting volunteers to help in the massive process of transcribing each menu in their archive and tagging the dishes meaning that 'tongue' can be searched for popularity throughout the ages to give a culinary snap shot of what was in vogue at different times in history.

“Coffee and tea are … on almost every single menu we have, but then the third most popular dish is celery,” Rebecca Federman, the curator of the library’s menus project told The Washington Post.

Take a look and slip back in time to an era when alligator pears were avocados, celery was a popular starter and cigarettes were served at your table.

Swing by the New York Public Library to pick out any of your favourite restuarants and see how times and menus change.

This 1933 menu from the Empire State Observatory gives you a flavour of prices at a time when cigarettes and candy also appeared as standard.

Tongue was a particular favourite. This menu has beef tongue, lamb's tongue, sausage tongue:

French influenced menus also shone through:

All images courtesy of The New York Public Library

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