Great Britain has a rich heritage and this is reflected into the design of the Bill of Fare/ Menu. The menu cover artistry could be kitsch, humorous, civic, as well as appealing art and ideas from individuals. Many aspects were portrayed, including attitudes and fashions of contemporary social life woven together into cartoons & illustrations.
At a time of developing world history who were some of the guests that attended these Grand Banquets and Dinners? From famous writers, inventors, explorers to ordinary steerage passengers on the very early liners. Could it have been a celebration of a great achievement like the laying of cable under the sea for telegrams, or the coronation of a King perhaps an important company of the period, or a historical club that is no longer in existence.
But, very importantly the actual foods on offer had to marry with the eating habits and cooking styles pertaining to the event or restaurant at which you were to dine.
This opens an interesting part of our history as well. The actual dining establishment it could be a tavern, ship, airplane, train or a grand architectural building such as the Royal Aquarium or De Keyser’s Hotel, many which have now perished.
So the menu now would be one of the very few surviving, tangible items not only from the occasion but the actual institution, thus creating a much valued record for today.
This surviving ephemera opens windows into the past so much so that the menu should now be recognised as a vitally important testimony in helping preserve Great Britain’s social & culinary heritage.
Menus do more than inform, they set the mood and can generate feelings of pleasure, excitement, conviviality, laughter, love; and of course the anticipation of good eating and drinking.