If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
Ah, yes. J.R.R. Tolkien surely had it right. While thinking of my dinner menu, I came across vintage menu covers, works of art from decades ago when the only people who “ate out” at restaurants were the eccentric and wealthy, well before hot food served on silver platters became, in a sense, democratized, or inexpensive enough for everyone to enjoy. It was in the 1940’s and 50’s when the American economy, right after the war, was chugging along super well. With the building of interstate highways and a new mobility, plus increased income to spend, independent restaurants began popping up all over the country. To gain a sense of identity, a good deal of money was invested in the design of restaurant menus by artists of the day.
I wish I would have been around to dine at A-Sabella’s Fish Grotto in San Francisco. I am a great lover of fresh seafood: stuffed sole with scallops, coconut shrimp with apricot mango sauce. Yum! A-Sabella’s also advertised “Italian Style Spaghetti”, meaning perhaps before the average American household used garlic and olive oil in their kitchens, A-Sabella’s did, and at their tables, you were getting the authenticity of a real Italian red sauce to cover your choice of pasta.
My, oh my. How about the Ritz? This one was located in Moscow, Pennsylvania which today boasts a population of a lick above 2,000. How did it serve up such a lively “night out on the town” with so few people, well before census takers knocked on our doors?
Was the Ritz a well-kept secret in its day?
I love the 1940’s cover.
It reads: “Stop and spend a social hour in harmless mirth and fun. Let friendship reign. Be just and kind and evil speak of none.
And in the interest of providing clients the best in entertainment, food and drinks, this super-classy club is requesting that each person spend at least $1 for the evening.”
Wow! A buck for the whole night? Wonder what that got you besides dancing, naked ladies? Merriment is indeed, harmless.
Could you imagine dining at the Waldorf-Astoria in 1939?
Here’s what they served the Steinways (the famous piano people):
Petite Marmite Henri IV (huh?)
Hearts of Celery (do they beat somewhere in the stalk?)
Crown of Bass Newburg (do they mean just the head?)
Breast of Chicken Montmorency (huh? again)
Black Cherries (I got this one)
New Green Peas (as opposed to old?)
I bet it was the superlative of delicious.
Allow me to ring in the bells with menu as we eat a healthy meal at home. No restaurants to drive to; no traffic, no noise, except the cheesy Christmas tunes we love to play, like Alvin and the Chipmunks:
“Want a plane that loops-de-loop. Me, I want a Hula-Hoop. We can hardly stand the wait. Please, Christmas, don’t be late!”
As of this writing, I remember my immediate family of seven, my parents who have passed on, my brothers and sister who live a day’s plane ride from my home in Alaska.
And I chuckle, thinking of them.
“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years, she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.” -calvin trillin
We never went hungry, though. There was always good food to share. Who needs a menu, really? Sit down with your friends and family and break bread. And have yourself a very, Merry Christmas.