To all the Menus I’ve Loved Before

oyster1So you’re rolling through life, grasping for those goals, career and otherwise, doing a bit of travelling maybe, treating the world like it’s your oyster (what does that mean anyway, are you the oyster in the shell, or is it actually my oyster in that it’s mine and you can’t have it…and who would want it?) raising a kid or two or more, in my case running through several loves and a couple of husbands, and one day you wake up and you’re fifty. No lie –you younger set — this really does happen. Eeeerk!!! Skid…what the f…?

And you look back on stuff. Now it is important to still define yourself by your future, not your past, but so many times you refer to events now by saying, “I have a story about that.” (This is in lieu of, “When I was your age…” or “Back then…” ) It’s a delicate walk to be the interesting older person versus the “good old days whiner.”

Not only do you look back on stuff, you’ve probably thrown away some stuff too. I mean, how much stuff can you hang onto over half a century? I’m proud to say I still have the  wrap-around skirt I sewed at age fourteen. Silky black fabric with a scattering of little pink roses. I wear it once a year maybe and I love it! It doesn’t take up much space and it always feels timeless when I wear it. I’m also proud to say that I’ve been good about getting rid of stuff. Grown kids are good for that. My daughter has my leather couch and my record albums, a framed Gumbo Festival poster from 1987 and probably other stuff I’ve forgotten about.

Sometimes you make mistakes with your stuff and here’s where we arrive at today’s topic: WHY DID I THROW OUT MY MENU COLLECTION????

ARNAUDs-Restaurant-Menu-French-Quarter-Bienville-New-Orleans

My gone menus would now be construed as “vintage.” And now that I’m blogging and writing about my life (Mis en Place-Memoir of a Girl Chef) wouldn’t those menus come in handy? Wouldn’t they spark some walks down memory lane?

Sometime during the out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new cloud under which I had lived, out they all went into the garbage one day. Menus I had surreptitiously shoved into my purse after a fine meal. Or just snagged when I worked at a place. Hawaii, Portland, Seattle, California, New Orleans, Vancouver, Australia, Florida. The culinary map of my life, cool culinaria, gone.

I rely on memory now:

Most notable in the Seventies “Continental” fine dining realm: the Marketplace restaurant below Lewis and Clark College where I’d ride my bike in the cold drizzle after classes to work the line. The menu was peach-colored and listed Steak Diane, Chateaubriand, Pompano en papillote and Chateaubriand for Two, which I do remember was the exorbitant cost of $9.50.

Pompano en Papillote

Pompano en Papillote

There was a quaint little café in Surfers Paradise, Queensland Australia in 1988, where my soon-to-be second husband and I sat outside in the comfortable dusk. The menu arrived rolled like a parchment and when I pulled the satin ribbon, elegant cursive tickled my senses. We had an appetizer of grilled lime leaves filled with herbed goat cheese, a smoky and citrusy manna I will never forget.

I had a plethora of Vancouver menus, as I was sent by my World’s Fair boss to do market research in the town before Expo ’86 to plan our European menus for our five restaurant outlets.old_bavarian_haus

I loved my Hawaiian menus with all the wonderful fish names: mahi mahi, ono, ahi, aku and Tako Poke and all that Pacific Rim stuff that was hot in the eighties.

My favorite menus were the little paper ones I pilfered from small chef-owner street cafes, when pomegranate seeds, spinach, quiches and crepes were edgy.

Although these fine gems have gone by way of coffee grounds, my urge to “collect” menus hasn’t left me. Once day in 1999, I was in California on business and wound up meeting up with an old friend at a local Hollywood restaurant. My chef days were behind me so I didn’t need to do any menu market research. But I wanted that menu badly so I folded it into squares and shoved it into my purse.

Now it’s on my wall, this menu art representing all the menus I threw away before.

Trader Vics at the Beverly Hilton

Trader Vics at the Beverly Hilton

 

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