I don’t know anything about the history of national or community competitions for ‘best recipe’ or ‘best menu’– is it a topic crying out for a PhD student? – but I came across a nice example of the latter the other day, and I thought I would share it with you.
The front page of a book called One Hundred Prize Dinners, or, how to provide a good dinner for four persons for one dollar, published in 1889, states that it was ‘compiled from the columns of the New York Press, the publishers of which offered a prize of $100.00 for the best Bill of Fare offered.’
Bill of Fare No. 4 was the winner of the $100 in gold, and here it is:
Bill of Fare No. 4
Oysters on Half Shell.
Breaded Lamb Chops (five or six).
Lettuce Salad. French Dressing.
Twenty-four oysters, 24 cents; soup, 9 cents; chops, 32 cents; potatoes, 6 cents; salad, 8 cents; charlotte-russe, 16 cents ; coffee, 5 cents.
Let one half can tomatoes and one half pint of water come to a boil. Rub one heaping table-spoonful of flour and one of butter, with a little tomato. Stir into the boiling mixture, season with one half teaspoonful of salt and one half teaspoonful of sugar. Boil ten minutes. Rub through a sieve, and serve with toasted bread. (Cut the bread in thin squares, butter, and place in a hot oven.)
Dip in one beaten egg and fine crumbs, seasoned.
Mix one saltspoonful of salt and one half saltspoonful pepper in a cup. Add one table-spoonful of
oil. When thoroughly mixed, add one table-spoonful of vinegar and two more table-spoonfuls of oil.
Made with pieces of stale sponge cakes and flavored whipped cream, piled in the centre; or they
can be bought for four cents apiece.
To make mashed potatoes look, as well as taste, deliciously, buy a potato-masher that is full of fine holes, through which the potato or any vegetable is easily pressed, and it looks like vermicelli.
Filtered coffee is much better than boiled coffee.
Quotation for the Day.
Never serve oysters in a month that has no paycheck in it.
P. J. O'Rourke