Menu and Cookbook exhibit
This exhibit is currently physically on display in the Haas Library Atrium until May 2022.
"By the mid-20th century an increasing segment of the menu trade had evolved into a well-defined marketing tool. Designs were produced with the consumer in mind, and food items were strategically placed in a specific hierarchy to attract the attention of the customer and to sell. In the latter part of the 20th century menu engineering became a science, especially when corporations took over a section of the food service industry. The appearance of fast food outlets and chain restaurants tempered the creative menu and at times eliminated it."
Heimann, Jim, Steven. Heller, and John F. Mariani. Menu Design in America : A Visual and Culinary History of Graphic Styles and Design 1851-985. Köln: Taschen, 2011.
The Archive and Special Collections Library at WestConn has a modest collection of menus and cookbooks that are highlighted in this exhibit.
Our menus from all over the United States date from the 1930s through the 1970s but most date from around 1960. As a whole, one is likely to be struck by the "campiness" of the graphics and imagery incorporated in the menus, but while that campiness is a theme that runs throughout, it is often found in equal measure along with elements like racism, cultural appropriation, and nostalgia. We have grouped the menus in these very general categories but many of them embody all these categorical attributes.
In addition, we have a small collection of cookbooks from Connecticut and beyond. While we can't reproduce them in their entirety digitally, we can present links to some of our older and rarer titles.
"...in the spring of 1796, in Hartford, Connecticut, a small volume appeared which is believed to be the first cookbook written … in the United States."
This was Amelia Simmons' American Cookery, or The Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards and Preserves, and All Kinds of Cakes....Adapted to this Country and All Grades of Life.” Since then, cookbooks have become a ubiquitous artifact of our culture.
Longone, Jan. "Introduction to the Feeding America Project." Introduction to the Feeding America Project | MSU Libraries. Accessed November 4, 2021. https://d.lib.msu.edu/fa/introduction#1.
American Cookery, or The Art of Dressing Viands… available here: https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/12815/pg12815.html
Many of the menus in this exhibit are part of the Robert Krejci Menu Collection.