For those of us into food history, the New York Public Library has a fondant of a project: online transcription of their menu collection. Repositories such as libraries and archives are trying to meet the demand for online access to collections, but it is imperative to do it in a meaningful way, based on your users’ needs and collection priorities. And of course, who are you going to get to do all the transcribing and data entry?
Foodiness is consuming the nation. Therefore, a curious and somewhat informed population is primed to transcribe the NYPL’s 40,000 menus. Go to the website, pick a menu scanned by NYPL staff, such as the one from the Hotel St. Regis, October 23, 1905 at the left, and pick a line to transcribe, like Pompano Calcalaise, or Veloutine, Reine. (As a side note, Canvas-back Duck is listed as the most expensive item on the menu at $4.50. The hunting of this popular turn-of-the-century menu item was banned by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918.)
Start typing. Try to stop. There are other fun components to the site, including a blog, raw transcription data (if that’s your bent), and a dish list. Click on any dish, and you arrive at a list of sites at which you may look up the recipe. I searched Mosaique Cake, which I discovered is a dessert of Turkish origins made of broken tea biscuits, suspended in a flourless chocolate cake.
Yum. So as you see, a worthwhile pursuit. Thanks to the NYPL and the National Endowment for the Humanities for this project.
[…] The ICE is express service in Germany. Its cars are downright luxurious compared to even Amtrak’s Acela service. I love the snack trolleys that roll through European trains, selling really wonderful pastries (this is Germany – they are everywhere), coffee, and even dinner. I read yesterday that you can have Dogfish Head 60 Min. IPA on Amtrak now – is it a step back toward what American rail service used to feature – real regional foods? A glimpse at the First Class Menu on Amtrak is on par with a menu at Denny’s. I think I’d rather have the Grand Slam. Check out what American onboard dining used to be like on this Baltimore and Ohio menu from the Royal Blue Line at NYPL’s What’s on the Menu? project (see my post on the project here). […]