Wednesday, February 14, 2018

SearchResearch Challenge (2/14/18): How much did this menu item cost?

Far be it from me to critique... 

... the food choices of different people at different times and places.  After all, I've eaten roasted grasshoppers (chapulines) in Oaxaca, smoked eel (rauchen aal) and blood sausage (blutwurst) in Germany, along with haggis in Scotland.  

Moo.  "Eat more fish," says Bossie.  

But I hadn't appreciated how much our commonplace and customary dishes have changed over the past 60 years.  Haven't we always been a land of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?  I recognize that it's very common to eat boiled soybeans (edamame) these days, and it's easy to find sushi in your local grocery store.  That's a big shift over the past couple of decades.  

So I was surprised when I happened to discover that a few popular dishes from the 1950s were broiled liver pudding and boiled calf's head with brain sauce, which seem a bit over the top.  (Although I do admit that my father enjoyed scrambled eggs and brains, so go figure. I didn't inherit that dietary preference.) 

Fascinating.  And this leads to today's Search Challenge:  

1.  If you were in New York City in the mid-1950s, how much would you expect to pay for a good meal of broiled liver pudding or boiled calf's head with brain sauce 
2. (Open ended)  WRT the place you live, can you find something that was commonplace to eat in the 1950s or 1960s, that is very rare now?  Or vice-versa (something common now that was rare back then)?  

In all cases, you have to tell us (A) how you found the prices, and (B) some evidence that a food item was rare (or common) in the time-frames we're interested in.  (For instance, evidence might be an advertisement in a newspaper from 1959 in your locale.)  

Search on! 



  1. Hello Dr. Russell and everyone. Happy Valentine's Day!

    1. If you were in New York City in the mid-1950s, how much would you expect to pay for a good meal of broiled liver pudding or boiled calf's head with brain sauce?

    ["meal of broiled liver pudding" New York 1900..1970] and ["boiled calf's head with brain sauce" New York 1900..1970]

    [NY Food restaurants price 1950]

    HISTORICAL USA RETAIL FOOD PRICES: SOURCES, SURVEYS & DATA Very Interesting data. Like the price of Oreos! Source for this price mentions: “ProQuest's Historic Newspaper database”

    Porterhouse Steak 95 cents lb Maine 1950 Lamb Chops 49 Cents per pound New Hampshire 1950

    TWO CENTURIES OF RESTAURANT MENUS REVEAL NEW YORK’S EVOLVING CULINARY & CULTURAL HISTORY Shows menus from different times. Interesting to read the prices. I have to say not all of them very clear.

    Restaurant prices in the 19th century (followed by 20th, below) “1912 A typical restaurant in San Francisco’s Little Italy: 50¢ for Soup, Fish, Entrée, Roast, Salad, Dessert, Fruit and a Demi-Tasse “Here you get Italian pastes in perfection, ravioli, tagliarini, spaghetti, or green lasagne, and tempting fritto misto, each delicately fried tiny roll of batter containing a different surprise – an artichoke heart, a piece of chicken liver, a bit of brains, or some other tidbit. For dessert, zabaione and fried cream are their specialties.”

    [Ny Food restaurants price 1950 intext:brain]

    What Hamburgers and Milkshakes Cost at McDonald's in 1955

    What A Very Old Menu Tells Us About The Price Of Steak Site mentions: “The New York Public Library's archival menu collection “

    Also interesting: What America Spends On Groceries

    We’re transcribing our historical restaurant menus, dish by dish, so that they can be searched by what people were eating back in the day.

    ["boiled calf's head with brain sauce"] With the site also tried this way of searching


    broiled liver pudding price Ctrl-F “Liver”

    1900: boiled calf's head with brain sauce Ctrl-F “Brain”

    1. I was just reading this article in Spanish
      Molly Amazonas that made me remember about previous SRS Challenges.

      Also searched for Judith's [Limburger Cheese] very interesting.

      About question 2, I am still thinking about that. One change is that now, it is very common to eat now and it wasn't before is fast food. And, talking about dishes is different. I will keep searching.

    2. Related to previous SRS Challenges 'Loneliest tree' records human epoch Remmij this shows also the many atomic bombs test you have mentioned in other Challenges comments.

    3. thanks for the point Ramón - hope they don't kill the pine studying it…
      "The Sitka spruce in Campbell Island
      The individual Picea sitchensis in Camp Cove is also known as ‘the Loneliest Tree in the World’ and located at 52.55°S, 169.13°E (c. 3 metres above sea level)41. Planted in open scrub sometime prior to the 1940s and possibly as early as 1903"

      so lonely, no street view
      location, south of South Island, NZ
      "In this study, two cores from a large lateral branch were taken in 2013 during the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013–2014 (, and a further four cores were taken during fieldwork in late 2014, demonstrating continuous growth from at least 1941 up to present day with no evidence of missing rings or a slowdown in growth"
      Campbell Island
      THE 2013-2014 AUSTRALASIAN ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION, the Spirit of Mawson
      Intrepid Science
      video - of the Sitka - taking of a core… worth reading the description, as well as watch
      google doodle involvement
      a Mawson account - Professor Chris Turney

    4. Good Morning!

      Thanks Remmij! Very interesting links and the video is fantastic.

      Out of topic, yesterday watched a show about hotels and the episode was about Another Island it looks like a place Dr. Russell and his friends could enjoy. I wish I could visit some day too.

  2. The first thing that came to mind for the 50's and 60's is Limburger Cheese. My dad loved that stuff and it must have been easily available because we lived in a small town in Western Pennsylvania and only shopped at the A&P. When I searched Google Shopping only one site came up, a place in Wisconsin that claims to be the only U.S. manufacturer.

    1. Oh yes! There's been a huge change in cheese preferences as well. Limburger is now difficult to find. On the other hand, I didn't have fresh mozzarella until I was in my 30s!

  3. 1. Searched [ new york city restaurant menus 1950...1959 ]. The Search Engine Results Page (SERP) gave a link to What's on The Menu by the New York City Public Library. It's a large collection of menus for many different years.

    I first tried looking at menus in the 1950's and that was going to take too long but learned how their filters worked and found I could search. I searched [ liver pudding ] and found a menu from February 10, 1955 for Restaurant Haussner that served Broiled Liver Pudding for $1.50.

    2. This one is going to take some time.

  4. 1. If you were in New York City in the mid-1950s, how much would you expect to pay for a good meal of broiled liver pudding or boiled calf's head with brain sauce?

    [historic new york menus] finds ny public library has massive collection some transcribed. So search by [ liver pudding 1955] finds amongst others, Restaurant Haussner 1955 has broiled liver pudding for $1.50

    Similar search for the other item [ calfs head brain sauce 1955] don't see that right away but I do see similar at The Blue Spruce Inn for $2.75 in 1955 and here it is 1957 RMS Queen Elizabeth Calf's Head and Bacon, Brain Sauce for ? there is no price for it on the Luncheon menu.

    . . . too nauseous to continue

  5. Under the Influence S7E6 CBC radio

    Listen here: then tune in at 12:40 to learn how exotic innards were marketed to housewives in America during World War 2. The troops got the steaks and roasts.

  6. What has changed at the dinner table? I have a copy of Edith Adams Thirteenth Prize Cook Book, 1950. Price 35 cents.
    Under the guidance pages describing how to handle formal/informal meals is what we want. The informal one is pertinent; it says in part, "Cigarettes are on the table throughout the dinner." Not anymore. jon

    1. Yow!! So glad that went away, at least in the US...

  7. Replies
    1. Hi Remmij. Still visiting your links. My screen got pink so now I am checking in tablet and is not as easy. About the earthquake, here is how it felt in Newspaper Office

      Searching and thinking about question 2, I have found and remembering about places that I used to visit and no longer exists. Some even don't have photos

      This place was so near to our home. I can even remember when my ice-cream felt and the clerk told me don't worry, here is another one The black and white photo. Then site was a bank, restaurant and others. It was not the same. People still remember the Oasis.

      Also searched and found with [fotos antiguas piramide cholula]
      Some photos. Not year mentioned

      Train and Pyramid

    2. Thanks Remmij! I agree with you. Mistakes cause deaths of innocent and that is bad.

      We adding more earthquakes Today 6 one and the video is impressive. Also read that the early alert app (SkyAlert) will start in California this year. And also hopefully ShakeAlert by USGS and CALTECH among others.

      I agree fast food is a good pick and Jon's timeline is also interesting. And in more about food.
      Chicken chaos

    3. About Bossie's comment and related to food. In the weekend watched Mission Blue by Dr. Sylvia Earle. Her work is amazing and learned a lot watching it. Among other things how Jacques-Yves Cousteau helped to create Scuba Diving. The show is also very sad to watch. We catch millions of fishes that are not eaten and we ending life in ocean. So she created Hope Spots (worldwide network of marine protected areas)

      Dr. Russell, have you visited one of those zones? In your diving trips have you noticed changes. Good or bad through the years in the ocean and marine life?

    4. I have visited a few... but I worry that it's not going to be enough. (And, FWIW, I was lucky enough to dive in the Dos Ojos cenote with Sylvia Earle last summer. That was a treat!)

    5. I am sure it was. I am very happy you both enjoyed the experience. I am sure Dr. Sylvia also was happy to dive with you. Both of you are stars!

      I agree with you and hope that her work helps others to join and save the oceans and marine life. At least now governments are doing more. Ocean Refuge the Size of Great Britain Announced The new conservation measure will protect Seychelles from illegal fishing for generations to come.

      About Pinterest, I have found good possible results. However, I don't like that you need to register in order to see. That wall never allows to see and read details.

      I like a lot the answer and all the links shared here and in the answer. I'll try the Newspapers site to find more information.

  8. [popular foods after 1950] finds this gem: Has foods used thru the decades of the last century. Its sources are actually referenced and pertinant is all typed in. F'r instance there is a huge amount there from Gourmet magazine Sept 1955. Thank goodness for CTRL-f

    From my experience Fast Food was almost non-existent in Vancouver BC in the 50s. I think all there was, was Nat Bailey's White Spot Drive In of which there were several locations. Quite a thrill to not even get out of the car and nice young man brought whatever you wanted. A tray was stretched across the front seat window to window with all your stuff on it. So, a White Spot burger and milk shake in your car was a big deal back then. There were lots of Chinese places back then. For me, sushi is newish. My mother made curry many times a week in those days. j

    1. I thought about fast food -- that's a big cultural shift since then. Nice idea.

    2. Ah.. Nanaimo bars.. sugar, cream, chocolate, coconut... what could possibly be bad about them?? (Thanks to my Canadian friends from BC for turning me on to these treats that I enjoy once a decade!)

    3. Dan, you may have to indulge more than once a decade to cover all - or some - of the N'bar bases… need jtU to advise.
      …scratched the N'bar surface a little — wOw… they LIKE their bars!
      fakelore… before fakenews, but tastier
      "Aside from this, the internet and gray literature search turned up a great number of rumours, but no verifiable origin. Determining the exact origin of a food item is difficult; in the place of documentation, one often finds what Andrew Smith calls fakelore (2001). Food creates strong memories, and can often create a fictional past (Holtzman, 2006). Smith (2001) points to particularly robust fakelore that occurs in cases where stories sound true, address a mystery, or are objects of local boosterism. As he notes, “much of what has been written under the rubric 'culinary history' has been collections of twice-told myths” (p. 259). T"

      Mental Floss research —
      in MN, 'prayer bars'
      BC/Laos/N-bar nexus - video
      food may be a virus…
      pretty as a picture - Nanaimo w/ latte - Joma bakery - in Laos on the 150th C Day, 6/30/17
      "A federal statutory holiday, it celebrates the anniversary of the July 1, 1867, enactment of the Constitution Act, 1867 (then called the British North America Act, 1867), which united the three separate colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into a single Dominion within the British Empire called Canada."
      Joma blog, also in Vietnam & Cambodia…
      …somebody probably makes them in Hong Kong too… & Beijing?

      "Despite Newman’s research, the mystery of the Nanaimo Bar endures. For now, when asked where the Nanaimo Bar comes from, all we can really say with conviction is: Canada. (Probably.)"
      1952 Women’s Auxiliary of the Nanaimo Hospital Cookbook

      city of Nanaimo

      "In 1986, Nanaimo Mayor Graeme Roberts, in conjunction with Harbour Park Mall, initiated a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo Bar Recipe. During the four-week long contest, almost 100 different variations of the famous confection were submitted. The winner: Joyce Hardcastle."
      the Joyce Hardcastle version…
      Medium… Tanya’s Nanaimo Bars - has video…vegan butter

      a baked - sorta - version
      base mods
      a black & white, or sorts
      White Chocolate Key Lime Nanaimo Bars:
      a trail worth following
      Nanaimo Museum fb
      in the museum

    4. Nanaimo, is indeed not far from here. I have always found NB to be too sweet, too cloying. Much more to my/our taste is Sex in a Pan. We searched for quite awhile back in the day for this bakery treat recipe, from Nanaimo, only to to find that a dear friend of my wife knew exactly how to make it. We still have the pan but not the . . .

  9. Deb for Deb and Anne here. I'm not sure I'll get to all of the questions so I'm going to start with question #2) when I saw that question it got me thinking. I was sure I had seen a database like this from our local county library. Went to their website and sure enough there it was. It was a project one of the librarians had taken on a database that compiled recipes from local cookbooks starting in 1900.

    Looking at 1950-59 I see some very familiar items - jello salads! OMG everyone served jello salads! You couldn't go to a party without this being on the menu. Who has jello salad now? I haven't seen it in years. Another dish I see that I never hear served anymore is tuna casserole. My husband told me he hated tuna casserole (despite liking tuna) but I had a great recipe from a church cookbook which he did like. So what didn't we eat back in the 50's? I don't remember anyone eating tuna that wasn't out of a can! And sushi? Never heard of it!
    Now on to the 60'the recipes I see from this time that stand out - fondue (I still have my fondue pot that was given to me as a wedding gift in 1982- fondues were still strong into the 80's and it's in harvest gold a color that was the rage back then). I also see loads of casseroles. Everyone had their favorite casserole dish for potluck suppers.
    This database is a treasure trove and has great tidbits about food availability and prices.

  10. Another item that I don't see any more and while it wasn't common you could find on the menu was fried chicken livers usually served with fried onions - not the onion rings you see today but onions that have been caramelized. I loved this dish. Can't imagine any young person eating this now but sushi is no problem!
    The big differences are the number of fast food choices back in the day were very limited. I remember a few burger places that were around in the 60's pre McDonalds or maybe at the same time, but most of them are gone now. And can I just say I miss HoJo's and their 28 flavors of ice cream! Loved their fried clams and their mac and cheese. This challenge is seriously making hungry! And Horn and Hardart's that was a huge treat. I think my mom took me a few times but only remember going once. Seems to me we went after going to see Santa at Macy's (and for those of you who didn't grow up near NYC this was the real, actual honest to goodness Santa. The santas in other stores were fake Santas). I wanted a doll carriage for christmas when I was 4. I actually didn't really believe in Santa at this point - I was quite precocious! But when the doll carriage arrived on Christmas morning I believed! Getting back to H&H's these were automated cafeterias where you put your food in a slot by the item you wanted and the door opened and you reached in and got your food. It was quite good!
    Here is picture of menu from 1959 Look what $2.25 gets you! And Chopped steak was also something that was on most menus. Don't see it very often now. This one is from Wilmington Delaware but pretty sure NYC prices would have been close- maybe a little more expensive that other places.

    1. Nice examples! (I also should talk about searching Pintrest one of these days. That's a great resource!)