Food trends come and go. These old menus from dining institutions show that much more has changed in the restaurant world over the years than the prices. Read on to see more forgotten dishes once elegantly presented to diners, from “Stale Bread” to “American Eagle.”
1. American Eagle (On a Pedestal)
It didn’t become illegal to hunt the bald eagle in the United States until the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940, so it appears that in the years following the Civil War, the Manhattan Club served up some kind of monstrous eagle-meat dessert…on a pedestal, no less.
Just kidding! As anyone with a semester of French can tell you, a “glace” is an ice cream dessert. Or it’s ice. (It’s been a long time since our semester of French.) Point being, that menu item is almost certainly a house-prepared ice cream dessert that’s just named after the U.S. national bird, not made of one. Note that we can only say “almost certainly.” The 19th century was brutal.
2. Stale Bread
You might wonder why we didn’t single out “fish balls” from this menu, considering their comic possibilities and all. Well, it’s because fish balls are a super-common food in Southeast Asia, and this piece isn’t so much about what we don’t eat in the U.S. as it is about the old-timey foods that no one eats anymore.
So, people still eat stale bread all the time, just not usually on its own, unprepared, at a fancy hotel restaurant. It strikes us as a weird thing to put on the menu. Did people used to make their own croutons at the table or something?
3. Puree Jackson
At first we were going to mention “piccalilli,” because it’s so fun to say and we had never heard of it, but it turns out that lots of people still eat this chopped pickle relish. Jamie Oliver even has a recipe for it, so it’s not quite forgotten.
Puree Jackson, on the other hand, doesn’t pop up in a lot of contemporary cookbooks. It is also not a forgotten member of the Jackson 5. As far as we can tell, this dish is somewhere between mashed potatoes and cream of potato soup. Here’s the only recipe for Puree Jackson on the entire internet, and it’s from a book that was published in 1899.
4. Calf Sweetbreads, Larded, a la Rothschild
Okay, the sweetbreads we get. That’s just the thymus or pancreas of a baby cow. When you start with what the culinary world euphemistically calls “variety meats,” though, why do you have to add lard?
It’s like the chef at the Grand New Hotel was like, “No, these innards aren’t gross enough. Throw in some melted fat.” Plus, why was everything “a la Rothschild” back in the day? Did someone from the famous Rothschild family spend all day making up recipes like some super-rich, Belle-Epoque Rachael Ray?
5. Jenny Lind
Don’t eat Jenny, old-timey folks! Actually, that’s just the name of a soup. Jenny Lind was like the Katy Perry of the 19th-century opera set, so obviously they had to name a soup after her. It’s like a thick, creamy cheese-type soup.
For a more eloquent description, we can turn to James Joyce. In his epic novel Ulysses, Joyce’s hero Leopold Bloom dreams about a bowl of this stuff in explicit terms: “Jenny Lind soup: stock, sage, raw eggs, half-pint of cream. For creamy dreamy.” Anyway, someday some as-yet-unborn wise-acre is going to make fun of our era’s menus, with our free-range this and our local, organic that, and we’ll all be justified in giggling at the delicacies of yesteryear.