Saving…Menus?

I was watching Jacques Pepin: Heart and Soul tonight and it was the episode called “Menu Memories” – beyond a delicious looking coffee panna cotta that I might have to try a version of, the episode ended with Jacques surrounded by several journals of menus he’s done for events, as well as family dinners. Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, and parties – he’d illustrated most, but at the very least, he’d written them all down, with the occasion and date.

The NY Times has a small gallery of some of these menus: http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2015/10/21/t-magazine/the-menus-jacques-pepin-drew/s/21tmag-pepin-slide-PP5M.html?_r=0

It really struck me as a cool idea. I know from what my Grandma has told me that my Great-Grandmother kept a recipe box (which my aunt has – I’d love copies of what’s in there) which had her recipes, but also has a card for every dinner party she threw. Each card has a drawing of the plate and a complete list of everything that was served. That way, she never repeated herself and always had a record.

I’ve only recently started to keep better track of writing down my recipes when I make a meal we really like. But I can honestly say I’ve never written down when I’ve hosted Thanksgiving or any other special occasion.

Once we get in this new house, this is going to be one of my goals. I’m going to get a blank, unlined journal, and for every party, holiday, or other occasion we deem “special” I’m going to write the menu, maybe even so that it could be displayed, and then maybe even take a photo of what the table looked like, so I can print it out and paste it in later. So many memories with family often involve holiday meals or parties with friends, it just seems like a great idea.

Is this something you’ve ever done?

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5 thoughts on “Saving…Menus?

  1. I used to keep holiday menus written on scraps of paper shoved in cookbooks (usually the ones I used for holiday meals). Then one of my girlfriends gave me a beautiful book meant to be used to record all the details of dinner parties, including guests and the menu (and wine!). So that is now my official record of all holiday meals I cook (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve and New Years Day) as well as the desserts and cookies made. Another friend of mine keeps a journal of what she prepares for dinner every night and I’ve tried to do that, but I just can’t keep up. Holiday meals (I don’t cook Thanksgiving dinner, otherwise I would include that) I can keep up with. I also keep note of new recipes when they work, who ate with us and where I sourced things like the ham (I’m very particular about getting the little bit of meat that we eat directly from farmers that we know.) That book is also where I keep the old copy of my friend Jenny’s cranberry pistachio biscotti recipe that I only make at Christmas and used to spend a good hour every year trying to figure out which cookbook I’d stashed it in. Now I know, it’s in the Christmas menu book.

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    1. Wow! I admire your friend’s dedication. I want to try that, but I feel like I’d just be with you – eventually that would be too much. Maybe I’ll try it anyway – but at the least, I think the holiday and special occasion meals will definitely happen. Was the book something she made, or just a journal? (Was it made specifically for that type of recording?)

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      1. To be fair, that friend is a food historian, now retired, with grown children, so I think it’s easier to keep up with.
        As to the book I have, it’s made specifically for dinner parties, with one page for the menu, wines and reason for the event and another page for guests.

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  2. I have a journal for everything, including menus. It started out as a way to make sure I never forgot anything when preparing for a dinner, but ended up as a wonderful reminder of what I served. I make notes after the dinner as to if something went wrong or if someone clearly didn’t like something. I also make notes by guests if I find out they have allergies or anything else important to remember. I have also been working on a scrapbook to hand down to my daughter that has recipes from my grandmothers along with pictures of them with the food if I have them. The book also includes pictures of me making the recipes and any changes that I might have made to them. Included in the menu journal I have are also menus I’ve comprised for potential dinners. As I try new recipes and come across ones that go well together, I’ll write up mock menus so when the opportunity presents itself I can just go to the journal and pick a ready-made menu. I don’t think a menu journal need be elaborate. Start simple and find what works best for you.

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    1. I like your method – and that you write in it afterward about how it went! The allergies thing is important too – my brother has some serious milk issues, and we think my husband is allergic to some sort of North African/Middle Eastern spice (that’s the cuisine we keep trying and he keeps getting ill) This would help narrow things down more than just trying to remember! I love the idea of making a scrapbook for your daughter. My grandmother brought me a big folder of family recipes, some of which are probably over 100 years old. I’m trying to type them all now. She really didn’t think anyone would want them, but that if anyone would it was me. I about had a heart attack when she said she was going to throw them out! I am going to look for a journal this weekend, and I think the best time to start is with our new house. Honestly, we’re eating weird things to empty the cabinet right now, so writing it down would look REALLY weird. lol.

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