May I Take Your Menu?

If books document the chef’s research obsessions, his menus are a more personal collection. Blank’s friend Charlie Schneider introduced him to menu signing during the 1970’s. At private dinners, Schneider posted handwritten menus he sometimes invited diners to inscribe. Blank’s continuing practice of passing bills of fare around a table has left behind scrawlings of scientists, celebrities, students, and friends on thousands of menus as a culinary diary noting when, where, what and with whom he has eaten over thirty years.


While books are the chef’s manifest obsession, food menus are a strong passion. His practice of passing menus around a table to be signed has built a more personal collection that annotated when, where, what and with whom he has eaten over thirty years. His efforts to secure those menus have not always been above the table. When Blank wants a restaurant’s menu and is rebuffed by cost-conscious staff, he may slyly acquire a copy anyway: “Up the back of my shirt is how I usually do it.”


Serving Time

Though petty larceny does not drive most menu acquisitions for Blank, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has left its mark on his collection. Bundles of its menus arrived sporadically through the mid-1990’s from the Somerset State Correction Institute where a former Deux Cheminées dishwasher who knew the chef’s collection had been assigned to kitchen detail as a prisoner.


In 1999, Blank sent out a call for menus marking the turn of the millennium to complement his collection of holiday menus. Pouring in from hotels, airlines, restaurants and private homes, the largely personal and intimate menus commemorate how people from around the world celebrated with breakfasts, brunches, dinners and cocktail parties.

 

On the Road

Abbreviated pocket menus have proliferated wherever tourists and travelers congregate. Recently, these menus have been insinuating themselves into Blank’s collection as acquaintances return with samples from their travels across the United States.

 

Few menus printed on silk survive from the 19th and 20th centuries, but they were once common souvenirs in more expensive hotels and restaurants.

 

 

An Evening with Beethoven at Deux Cheminées.
Menu. Philadelphia, PA: 1996.

Julia Child’s 80th Birthday.
Menu. Houston, TX: The White Hart, 1997.

Jessica Blank’s Disney Menu.
Menu. Walt Disney World, FL: Coral Reef Restaurant, 1996.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Dept. of Corrections.
SCI-Somerset Weekly Menu.
September, 1995.

New Year at the Savoy – 1994/95.
Menu. London, England: Hotel Savoy, 1994.

Millennium Menu – The End of the Century!
1999/2000.

Lyons, Cheri and Weissman, Carole.
New Years Eve Menu.

1999/2000.

Bober, Phyllis.
New Year’s Day Menu.

Menu. 2000.

Selection of Pocket Menus.

Two Silk Menus.
No date.

Menu in Honor of Edwin E. Fleisher, President of Symphony Club.
1915.
Gift of Mrs. E. Howard Bedrossian to Fritz Blank.

Fourth of July.
Menu. Coronado Beach, CA: Hotel del Coronado, 1935.

New Year Dinner 1937.
Menu. Coronado Beach, CA: Hotel del Coronado, 1937.

Mardi-Gras at Shepheard’s.
Menu. Cairo, Egypt: Shepheard’s Hotel, 1924.

Thanksgiving U.S.S. South Dakota.
Menu. Mare Island, CA: 1914.

Thanksgiving U.S.S. Prometheus.
Menu. Mare Island, CA: 1915.

Home | Exhibit Introduction | A Chef and His Library | Someone's in the Kitchen with Fritz | Standing in the Stockpots of Giants

Great Composers | Victus Populi | A Fine Mess | My Dear Heinrich | Cattail City | May I Take Your Menu? | Guten Appetit

Acknowledgements | Fritz Blank Biography

© 2002 University of Pennyslvanian Library Trustees