Looking through the Thanksgiving menus in the LAPL menu collection was oddly comforting. There are more than 60 Thanksgiving menus, dating from the very early 1900's on up through today, and while there are variations here and there that point to the trends of the times, the basic fact is that on Thanksgiving, we eat very similarly to the way our ancestors did 50 and 100 years ago.
The menu to the right is from 1924, and is an advertisement taken from the Glendale Evening News for a restaurant called the Chateau de Qualitie in Glendale. For $1.50, you could have roast young Antelope Valley turkey with cranberry sauce and chestnut dressing, steamed brussel sprouts, and apple and pumpkin pie. Sound familiar?
Of course, there are dishes on this menu that have gone out of style, such as Nesselrode pudding, a frozen chestnut dessert that was named for a 19th-century Russian diplomat who ate quite lavishly (here's a recipe for the pudding).
Judging from the menus, it became stylish in the 20's and 30's to eat out at hotels and private clubs for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving menus seem to drop off after the 1940's.
But they show how regional American cooking has been preserved by this very American holiday. While TV dinners and packaged foods eclipsed our country's home cooked meals in the 50's and 60's, we still cooked for the holiday, and those recipes have survived as a result. Just another reason to give thanks.
See below for a selection of Thanksgiving menus from the collection.