Jennifer and I were enjoying the opening festivities of Autumn Splendor at the Elmhurst Art Museum, sipping on wine, nibbling on finger food, chatting with old friends and acquainting new. We wandered into the galleries and the Richard Koppe Exhibit. As we entered the gallery, a display case caught my eye. Actually, something in the display case caught my eye. A book. It’s always a book with me, it seems, even in a renowned art museum. The book, to be precise, was a cookbook. I looked down and squealed “I have this book” .
As others were observing the large surrealistic works of Koppe, I was chewing on a cookbook.
Several years ago, I came across the very same cookbook in a second-hand store. “The Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places”. A more charming than practical compilation of recipes from famous restaurants throughout the United States, it is divided by regions, and illustrated with stylistic paintings of each restaurant, a recipe from the restaurant, and a short description. The books were sold by the Ford Motor Company in the heyday of US road travel in big cars and fine dining along the way as many veterans returned home from war, bought houses that were springing up all across the country, bought their first car . . .
. . . I snapped up the book faster than a filling station attendant once rushed out to fill up the tank, clean the windows, and check the oil!
In subsequent years, I came across several other printings of the book, with some new recipes and new restaurants as original ones closed. A small cookbook collection ensued. When in the mood for nostalgia, I’ll pull one of the Ford Treasury books out, then all of them, and browse through the regions, admire the illustrations, and reminisce over featured restaurants I have actually eaten in.
As I looked into the display case at the EAM, I recognized one of the printings of “The Ford Treasury . . . ” . The book was opened to page 159, with a painting depicting the interior of the once famous Well-of-the-Sea restaurant in the Sherman Hotel in Chicago. Neither the restaurant, nor the hotel, still exists, but, the mural in the background of the illustration does. When I was though swooning over a cookbook, I looked up to see Koppe’s surrealistic mural generously covering a wall of the gallery. While not my favorite artistic style, I could not help but be impressed at the “real deal” and the vibrancy of the colors and textures.
Back home, I pulled out my treasury of mid-century finds, and there it was, page 159, in the North Central region. The Well-of the-Sea. I wandered about the pages of several Treasuries, finding restaurants I recognized, even some I have eaten in, across the country, getting hungry for food – and for hitting the road.
Here are a few I found that I have visited: The Wayside Inn, MA; Williamsburg Lodge, VA; Antoine’s, LA; New Salem Lodge, IL; Plentywood Farm, IL; Don the Beachcomber, HI.
Do you have a dining “treasure” you would like me to look up in these books? Let me know. I would love do a future post showing a page of your remembered restaurants.
This book jacket opens up to a map “. . . to decorate your kitchen or game room”. I think I’ll just keep this one on the book.