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Menu Design in America, 1850-1985 Hardcover – August 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the School of Visual Arts MFA Designer as Author Program. For 33 years he was an art director for The New York Times, and currently writes the "Visuals" column for The New York Times Book Review. He is the author of 120 books on graphic design, illustration, and satiric art.

John Mariani is food and travel columnist for Esquire Magazine, wine columnist for Bloomberg International News, and author of The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, America Eats Out, The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink, and How Italian Food Conquered the World.

Cultural anthropologist and graphic design historian Jim Heimann is Executive Editor for TASCHEN America, and author of numerous books on architecture, pop culture, and the history of the West Coast, Los Angeles, and Hollywood. His unrivaled private collection of ephemera has been featured in museum exhibitions around the world and in dozens of books.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Taschen (August 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 383652662X
  • ISBN-13: 978-3836526623
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 1.7 x 12.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Robin Benson on August 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I hope no other publisher is thinking of doing a book on menu design because Jim Heimann's wonderful collection in this Taschen title can't be beat. With almost eight hundred covers and nicely, many showing the insides so you can see what was available when your folks ate out decades ago.

It's the inside meal listings that I found intriguing: the Palmer House in Chicago, on May 17, 1885, offered Fried frogs, a la Crapotine; when the Iowa Register and Tribune papers had their banquet in 1917 they could tuck into Dross smothered in onions; United States Lines SS America on Monday June 9, 1930 listed a dessert called Blanc mange; the Sea Cave in Oakland, California, had thirty-three oyster dishes and claimed `We open our oysters daily'.

Little snippets of information pop up everywhere. The 1943 San Diego Red Sails Inn menu said 'We are closed on Tuesdays', because of wartime regulations required meatless Tuesdays. The Disney Studio in 1942 had very low prices for breakfast, in the staff canteen, to prevent their workers going of the lot. Many of the menus before 1940 have daily dates printed on them, presumably they were frown away when the places closed at night. All the up-market menus used a mixture of French and English though the swanky New York Colony in 1954 had every thing in French and handwritten, too.

The menus included aren't just restaurants but from anywhere that provided cooked food, the Colony to Bob's Big Boy and everything in between, no early McDonalds though. The covers come in all sorts of sizes and shapes, a few shown include location maps and I found one that featured photographs of the meals.

The book is the usual well designed Taschen format. Good page layouts and printing with a 150 screen.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David K. Mayer on August 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the most beautifully produced books I have seen. Lavishly illustrated and intelligently written. I would recommend it as a great gift idea.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By MadMacs on March 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Students of graphic design, fans of Americana, and anyone appreciative of cultural history will find this tome invaluable.

An outstanding reference covering the period from the mid-1850s thru the early 1980s - a full century of changing tastes, technical advancements, and even social maturation; revealing our love of and history with dining out.

The coverage is surprisingly deep, with menus representing the most elite haute cuisine to what we now call the 'Three Ds' - diners, drive-ins and dives; providing a fascinating look into the past, glimpsing concepts and ideas about the meals and beverages that were offered from culinary trained chefs to roadhouse slingers.

As usual, some of the most compelling aspects for me personally was discovering food options that are no longer mainstream. A couple of examples: Having to look up the term "Shirred Eggs", which made regular appearances during the early part of the twentieth-century. And "Tongue Sandwich", a common working person's lunch and breakfast item of the period which is, in my opinion, self explanatory as to its current exclusion from menus today.

My only criticism would be that, while I absolutely loved the massive full-color images, there was something to be said about the lack of editorial content. Simply: There just wasn't enough of it. Primarily due to the fact that space for the written word was gobbled up by the application of three different languages for each comment, wiping out the potential for additional insight. Unfortunate, as I would've loved more background - both factual and anecdotal - for many of the menus on display.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jill Bonar Satterfield on December 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I received this book as a gift from my sister today. It is such a beautifully produced book. From the cover to the binding to the paper it's printed on. The content is wonderful, too. I am sitting here marveling at it. It is lovely to hold and page through. Lovely images and color throughout. Definitely a must-have for graphic designers or just anyone interested in menu design.
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Format: Hardcover
As a dilettantish graphic designer with a restaurant in an art deco building from the 1930s, I find this book completely necessary. I can't believe that I've suffered these past years without it. This book, which I bought yesterday and have since spent hours studying, tells me to be more ambitious. Menu designs of the past completely eclipse those of the present, which is upsetting because our tools are now much easier to use. I will aim higher.

Furthermore, this book is an unrivaled socio-historical document in regards to how we've eaten. I finally know how all of those 'relish trays' that pop up at thrift stores were used. Baby radishes, heart of celery, and jumbo green olives. I now want green turtle soup, badly... just to see what the fuss was about. The more I study this book, the more revealing it is because menus capture an entire network of social, cultural, and economic information.

I ordered this from a local retailer the second that I heard about it and it will literally change my life. It's the most important book that I've bought since I stumbled across Jane Jacob's Death and Life of Great American Cities 15 years ago. Six stars.
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