Magazine article The New Yorker

A la Carte

Magazine article The New Yorker

A la Carte

Article excerpt

Consider now the menu: it spins, perhaps, but it does not sow. It simply lies there or, rather, allows itself to be propped up while, like a politician or a winning child, it promises big, and then delivers what it delivers. Yet the menu remains, even after its restaurant has faded, a lovely paper monument to hope, the permeable membrane between the diner's dreams and the market's prices.

These thoughts, and others equally philosophical, may be prodded into being by a new exhibition, "New York Eats Out," at the New York Public Library. Drawn chiefly from a collection of twenty-five thousand menus assembled between 1900 and 1924 by Miss Frank E. Buttolph, the menus tell a small social history of the city. Very French and Very Not French are the two poles between which New York dining styles have perpetually oscillated. If Very French was once Very Very French--at the St. Nicholas Hotel in 1863, diners were expected to know what a Matelotte d'Anguille au Vin de Porto was--Very Not French, surprisingly, was already a genre at the turn of the century. …

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