Restaurant and hotel menus are windows to the past. When looking at old menus, you can learn about what kinds of foods people used to prefer, what kinds of produce was available, what was considered to be an elaborate dish, and how much people used to pay for food.
The Chung Collection contains hundreds of menus from Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) properties, including their hotels and cruises. The small selection of menus we’ve included below are from CPR’s luxurious hotels, so the dishes listed are probably more reflective of what you would have found in an expensive restaurant during each time period. To maximize your experience when taking a look at the menus, observe:
- The prices – you’ll be shocked!
- How the menu is formatted. Nowadays, menu items are usually given a name and short description, but this wasn’t always common practice.
- The different options of food that were offered, for example the different cuts of meats.
- How the menu design changed over time, from fonts, layout, and number of pages to the material used.
From a 1930 menu: Sauer kraut juice; Half cantaloupe; Figs in syrup; Codfish cake; Broiled calf’s liver and bacon; and Corn muffins were some of the options.
From a 1951 menu: Potted turkey legs with fresh mushrooms, Portugaise; Cold roast pork and ox tongue; Baked sugar cured ham, cider sauce; Puree of hubbard squash; and Steamed Winnipeg goldeye, lemon butter.
In this menu, the “pate de foie-gras, domestic” costs $2 and the “fresh domestic caviar” $2.50. The prices are in cents!
From a 1928 menu: Roquefort stuffed celery; Smoked Norwegian sardines; Ox-tail a l’Anglaise (soup); Braise shoulder of lamb with French frageolets, Bretonne; and Imported goose liver sausage with jelly.
From a 1937 menu: Butterscotch sundae and Coupe St. Jacques.
There is also an “Education tax” of 2 percent listed on this menu, which was probably a tip made to compensate the waiter for having to explain the menu to the guest. We also noticed that the amount shown indicates the price of the complete meal, with the most expensive dish being “Sizzling platter: choice beef sirloin steak” that cost only $1.60.
This last menu from 1941 offered different options for ladies and business men, with ladies having to pay $0.25 more for their meal:
- Business men: beef broth with barley, with choices of: Irish lamb stew with fresh vegetables and dumplings, roast leg of young steer, fried chicken cutlet with mushrooms in cream, etc.
- Ladies: half cantaloupe, English mock turtle soup, with choices of: steamed Alaska cod, parsleyed potatoes, drawn butter, lamb chop mixed grill, etc.
Did you notice what was said in the box at the bottom of the page?
The Dominion Department of Agriculture and Canadian Bacon Board have asked us to assist in reducing the consumption of pork, bacon and ham in Canada so that more bacon may be sent to Britain.
“Please cooperate with us by selecting other meats from this menu”
These menus got you interested? If so, explore our Chung Collection and search for more menus!