Wednesday, February 15, 2012
For some reason I am always intrigued by old printed menus. I recall visiting the Pennsylvania Railroad museum as a kid and being fascinated by the menu in the old Pullman Dining Car. The line-up of a Club Banquet from 1890 or the fare at Delmonico's in the Roaring 20's tells us things about what people were eating and how much. The multiple courses of a Gilded age White Tie dinner varies greatly from the salad,entree,dessert one may see at a contemporary wedding. Those robber barons seemed to make a science of gluttony and ate enough at one sitting to feed a whole village in Darfur.
I came across this Lehigh University Sophomore Class banquet menu from 1916 while doing some on-line research and was transfixed as usual. The fact that oysters were served to such a large group is notable...that's a lot of shucking. Also of note is the presence of Peas in two forms in tow courses. Planked Shad is something of a Pennsylvania tradition in the days when the Shad ran the Delaware and were plentiful. This was followed by steak and then what they call "Lehigh Roast Chicken"...not sure what that means.These second year College men were packing away some serious chow...and if Lehigh tradition holds true, they were washing all this down with plentiful amounts of beer and spirits. It is also interesting that the tradition of cheese as a last course is maintained. Some restaurants still adhere to this convention...and I certainly enjoy a St. Andre with walnuts and Port after a Holiday meal.An old menu is a peek into the past on a different level and one I always enjoy.