We have a really fabulous book for today’s Bookmarks post.
It’s Menu Design in America, 1850-1985 by Steven Heller & John Mariani and edited by Jim Heimann.
The book charts the history of menu design in America in the 19th & 20th centuries.
The menus featured inevitably incorporate the evolution & development of food.
But they also draw in American and social history, politics, immigration, civil rights, prohibition, social taboos & norms for various eras – some of which can be eye openers.
Fans of graphic design, illustration and typography will also be in heaven!
There’s a broad subject overview at the start of the book, followed by further insightful captions on each page.
They add details for specific venues or menus – artists/designers, who owned/frequented an establishment, its popularity, dates, details about the food – chefs, new introductions, where items may have been sourced etc.
In some cases, there are accompanying photographs of the actual restaurant locations, buildings, interiors and the diners themselves.
The menus are the real stars of this book, of course. There are nearly 400 pages crammed full of fabulous examples. Both the stunning covers and their menu contents will give hours of visual pleasure.
We’ve included lots of images for this post, but even this is only a small portion of those contained within the book.
Art Nouveau to Art Deco, Jazz age to Space age – it’s all in here!
The menus are sourced from hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, diners, steamships, cruise ships, trains & planes.
We know one thing though – after browsing this book for an hour we were starving!
Some of the menus had up to a hundred items from which to choose.
There are familiar dishes such as steaks & burgers (done in a myriad of different ways, of course).
Others have choices that were new to us – ‘stewed terrapin with hominy’, ‘fried smelts with figaro sauce’, ‘calf’s head en tortue’.
There are enjoyable aspects to take from all the menus – our favourites in terms of design & artwork are those dating from the 1930s and the 1950s. There’s a few in this book we’d love to add to our collection.
We started acquiring vintage menus some time ago. In fact, we’ve blogged about the subject before.
We love both the artwork and browsing the dishes on offer. They can be stored in a folder, but also look great framed – and as you can see from the wonderful examples in this book, the designs can be just stunning.
So we were sold even before opening a page, but if you are a newcomer to the subject, this book can be enjoyed as pure eye candy or will provide a fascinating insight into the history of a nation through its culinary culture.
Mouth-watering stuff – we can highly recommend it!
Menu Design in America, 1850-1985 is also available from Hive and Amazon.
[Many thanks to Taschen for supplying this review copy]