U of T acquires collection of 10,000 Chinese restaurant menus
You likely have a couple of them lying around your house. But, you probably didn't realize that those take-out menus might have value — both monetary and historical.
"[Harley] was living alone in New York City," Daniel Bender tells As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. "He started collecting the menus pushed under his door and then it became a passion and really almost a profession for him."
"Wow! It's a big stack of boxes right now," Bender explains. "That's the hard work that the library is doing in just getting these ready for use by scholars and really by the public."
"It really turns a piece of paper just into a fantastic artifact," Bender explains. "It really shows that a menu is not just a list of something for sale. It's something that gets passed back and forth from waiter to customer, from customer back to the waiter, back to the cook, to the owner — it's the evidence of a relationship, of a conversation."
Bender says the collection provides snapshots of who might have been going into the various restaurants, why certain dishes were on the menu and how that reflects the evolution of the cuisine.
Bender says the menus track the fusion of Asian and North American food and suggests they provide a record of how Canadians have come to define their cuisine.
After the collection is fully processed, Bender says it will become available online and hopefully displayed as a public exhibition on campus.