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Can We Take Your Order?

January 25, 2011

I love looking at old menus and recipe books. Historically, they can tell a lot about a time period and how people lived (and there is also the yum and yuck factor that can be a lot of fun). We recently catalogued several menus from the restaurant in Hotel Bates, all dating from the mid 1870s. Commonly known at the Bates House, it was considered one of the finest hotels in the Midwest. The Bates House could actually claim that Abraham Lincoln stayed there and even gave a speech from the hotel balcony while traveling to D.C. for his inauguration as president. The restaurant in the hotel was quite the fine dining experience.

The menu and wine list offer a variety of choices but still nicely fits on one sheet, unlike the tomes we get today. Relishes like tomato catsup and French mustard had to be ordered. There is also a distinction between pastries (which sound amazing) and desserts, many of which we might not term desserts today.

MenuWine list

Food tastes have changed over the years (not too many calves brains or knuckle of veal on menus these days). It makes you wonder how menus from today will be viewed a hundred years from now.

Bon App?tit!


Suzanne Hahn is director of reference services for the IHS Collections and Library. She loves helping people find the information they seek and is perhaps the only librarian ever to get shushed for laughing too loud in a library.

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