What’s On The Menu?

Thanksgiving at the Hotel Normandie, Detroit, Michigan. November 30, 1905

Thanksgiving at the Hotel Normandie, Detroit, Michigan. November 30, 1905

With Thanksgiving and winter holidays on the way, are you thinking about food? Planning menus? Would you like some ideas, some inspiration, some…  food for thought? Check out the New York Public Library‘s What’s on the Menu? digital collection, containing thousands of historical restaurant menus.

What’s on the Menu?, recently awarded the American Historical Association’s Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History, is a project of the NYPL Labs with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The New York Public Library’s Rare Books Division houses almost 40,000 restaurant menus dating from the 1840s to the present; over 10,000 are currently available online.

What’s on the Menu? is what is known as a “crowdsourced” project, with volunteers transcribing the menus. As of Friday November 4, 2011, there have been 606,311 dishes transcribed from 10,430 menus. Click on “Dishes” to see a list of individual dishes recently added from menus. Sound interesting? You can volunteer too! Just click on “Start transcribing!” on the collection’s homepage to get started.

Need more ideas? Curious about the history of food preparation? Check out these resources:

And on a lighter note, check out James Lileks’ Gallery of Regrettable Food, which pokes not-so-gentle fun at mid-20th-century cookbooks.

Bon appétit!

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