Repast: Dining Out at the Dawn of the New American Century 1900-1910
One of my favorite digital galleries on the New York Public Library website has always been the Buttolph Menu Collection. Containing menus from American restaurants and banquets from 1851-1930, the archive began with the personal menu collection of the energetic Miss Frank E. Buttolph. Repast is a delightful, fascinating book focusing on the most represented decade in the collection, 1900-1910.
Lesy and Stoffer take us through a history in food, an examination of the social and cultural changes taking place in America at the dawn of the 20th century. They discuss “Pure Food,” the battles against the adulterated and often toxic foods on the market; “Splendid Food,” those feasts and celebrations of conspicuous consumption; “Quick Food,” the rise of the workday lunch and fast meals; “Her Food,” women’s struggle to find work and then restaurants welcoming her sex; and “Other People’s Food,” the embrace of ethnic restaurants and cuisine.
I enjoyed not only Lesy and Stoffer’s thoroughness and depth of research, but their lively conclusions, all illustrated by menus from the Buttolph Collection. Recommended to anyone interested in culinary, American, or early 20th-century history.