À la Carte ~ Crowdsourcing historic PNW menus ~ We need you!

How did restaurants handle the coffee shortage during WWII?
When did the beverage sauerkraut juice disappear from menus?
What was the price of caviar in 1911?

These are some of the questions we need your help to answer!

The University of Washington Libraries Special Collections has launched À la Carte, a project to crowdsource the transcription of the data contained in our historic menu collection.   Special Collections holds more than 700 menus from Seattle and the Pacific Northwest of interest to historians, economists, chefs, scientists, and everyday food enthusiasts.  The trouble is, the menus are very hard to search for the greatest treasures they contain: specific information about dishes, prices, and all the stories they tell about food history and culture.

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To aid in the discovery of these tasty tidbits of history, we’re working to improve the description of the menus in the collection by transcribing the menus, dish by dish.  Doing this will dramatically expand the ways the collection can be researched and accessed.  We built a website that will make this big job pretty easy to do.  This is where you and your friends, who also love food, become part of this crowdsourcing effort.  We depend on you (the crowd) to visit the website, look at a menu, and using the tools on the website, tell us what you see on that menu.  Dishes, prices, menu section, ingredients, and geographical location are the types of information you will be helping us uncover.

Interested? Contact info@uwmenus.org or visit the project website to complete the contact form. We’ll email you with further information about the project and optional summer meet up opportunities.

Don’t miss your chance to take part in this exciting new UW project!

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Project staff:
Anne Jenner, Pacific Northwest Curator
Ann Lally, Digital Curator
Sarah L. Ketchley, Digital Humanities

 

Weekend Menu Suggestion?

Prudence Penny department staff member shopping at Pike Place Market, Seattle, 1939

Fresh vegetables just waiting to be popped into a lovely crisp salad, inspired Prudence Penny to plan a Spring Salad Show for tomorrow’s Bon Marché matinee at 2 o’clock.

Prudence Penny’s telephones are open from 8:30 until 5 with a staff of experts to help with any household questions.  Just telephone Main 2000, the Prudence Penny department will be glad to assist.  Read the daily feature and the Wednesday food pages for up-to-the-minute ideas and listen to the following menus discussed over KOMO daily at 12 o’clock:

SUNDAY: Banana, grapefruit and nut salad with cheese dressing is followed by pig knuckles and pineapple with rice and bean sprouts.  Butterscotch meringue pie is the dessert.

Not an April Fool’s Day hoax, but an actual menu excerpted from one of the Prudence Penny clippings (minus date) found in a John Redington scrapbook.  April 1st coincidentally was the date that Bernice Redington claimed to have begun working at the P-I and also is the anniversary of this blog’s first public post, so I felt doubly compelled to follow up on yesterday’s entry!

And in the don’t-try-this-at-home department, I must confess that in the course of compiling information on Bernice Redington I gave into the temptation of dialing the Prudence Penny telephone number.  No one answered.

Image credit: Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle; All Rights Reserved.

About the Current Banner

I confess. The current image on this blog’s banner is not technically from the Pacific Northwest Collection, but it does come from the Special Collections Division. It is part of a digitized image of the cover of a souvenir menu celebrating the 1940 golden anniversary of the legendary Seattle department store, Frederick & Nelson. That store, alas, closed its doors for good in 1992 (although the downtown Seattle building remains as the Nordstrom flagship location), but its memories linger on in the Special Collections Division.

You can can find this particular menu and 739 other ones in the Historical Menu Collection (PH Coll 617) by perusing the online finding aid. A limited selection of images of other menus from this collection also is available through the Special Collections portion of the UW Libraries Digital Collections site.

In a perfect world, you also would find a corresponding record for the collection in the libraries’ online catalog, but there’s another one to add to the cataloger’s to-do list.

Image credit:  Cover from Frederick & Nelson Golden Anniversary Menu, Historial Menu Collection, PH Coll 617