A few months back, the Los Angeles Public Library took to Pinterest to share LA menu art from yesteryear. That seemed to be a cool breeze through graphic design and food trends of the past and there didn’t seem to be anything beyond that. Thanks to LA Weekly, there is a giant Internet wormhole from the LAPL that is available for you to spend a few hours perusing and searching old menus and cookery ephemera of the past. What a great resource!
This works in two ways. The first way is there is their online Menu Collection, an online area dedicated for you to search their “database of menus stored in the Rare Book Room.” You can search by keyword and restaurant and cuisine and date and image. Putting in things like “cocktail” and “oyster” bring a slew of results, ranging form vintage cocktail recipes from Santa Monica’s Georgian Room to hearty dishes from Pasadena’s Cameron’s Seafood. There are a lot of crazy LA items to find but you’ll also discover that there are plenty of non-LA places they have catalogued, too.
The Cookery Ephemera Index is a little more dense and a big resource for you to research anything from advertising arts to cooking practices. It works closer in relationship to the Rare Books Department as nothing is really available online. You can search “salad” and you’ll get a long list of things like Pillsbury’s Soup & Salad Cookbook and Salad Dressings To Suit The Salads, both old rare books you can view at the library. If you find anything you’d like to see, give the people at the Rare Books Department a call and you can arrange to have a visit with the cookery ephemera IRL.
LAPL’s online cooking resource is pretty cool. It’s part history, part foodie engagement tool and is totally ready to be shared online via a little “Pin It” tag at the bottom of each menu page. Smart! Take a little time this afternoon and putz around the site. You’ll surely find some neat menus from decades ago.