My friend Denny and I have been talking about menu collecting as of late. I love conversing with him about food and music. It might be fun to take the titles of the almost 400 ‘A Word On Food’ shows I’ve done, put them in one of those lotto spinners, take out say … the first 20 words, and then try to make a menu utilizing those. Or it could be chaos!
Menus have been discovered dating back to the Song dynasty in China. In the larger cities of the time, merchants found a way to cater to busy customers who had little time to prepare an evening meal.
As a design motif my late, great friend and brother Charlie Trotter hung menus from his travels in his the elegant townhouse restaurant in Chicago he operated for 25 years. Those menus were touchstones to the vision Charlie perfected as he was an ardent fan of the chef-authors of those menus. I was grateful that he hung one of mine alongside luminaries like Fredy Girardet, Joël Robuchon and one from New York’s groundbreaking restaurant, “The Quilted Giraffe’ by Barry Wine.
After speaking with my friend Denny about menus a few nights ago I suddenly recalled the way I first learned of the Chicago restaurateur Gordon Sinclair who subsequently hired me which led to me to changing the entire trajectory of my life was via a ‘Menu Magazine’ of sorts of all of the ‘loftier’ restaurants in the Chicagoland area. I bought I studied it for the places that intrigued me the most via their menus. There was little more than the menus in that magazine. They stood for themselves.
Now it’s time to hit the ‘Listen on WLRN’ button at the top to hear the remainder of my show. ‘A Word On Food’ airs on WLRN every Saturday around 8:30 a.m. at 91.3 and also 91.5 on the radio. I want to thank so many of you who tell me in person how much you are enjoying the show! Please check out my Instagram photos and my new IG TV cooking videos @normanvanaken