Jessica Helfand | Observer Quarterly

Tonight’s Specials

My late husband was an inveterate collector, insatiable when it came to design and particularly helpless when that design was complicit in the delivery of some kind of broader narrative. Our home library held what might be considered certain improbable volumes: an intricate remapping of the city of Reykjavik, for example, and an illustrated book on the finer details of liver disease. Occasionally, it spilled out into even loftier territory (a 1936 book on the thermodynamic properties of steam, with charts). But he collected some things just because they were beautiful—mesmerizingly so, in the case of the menus on the following pages, a small but fascinating collection that now resides in the graphic arts collection at Princeton University.

For a skinny guy, Bill loved to eat, the more exotic the temptations, the better. When we traveled he went native—foie gras one night, grilled gizzards the next—and while the occasional gastrointestinal consequences were not always pleasant (I was there, so I would know), he remained consistent and undeterred, always on the lookout for the exotic discovery. Perhaps these menus kept him sated in between la grande bouffe. I'd like to think so.

To see more of William Drenttel's menu collection and read more about the intersection of design + food, buy a copy of Observer Quarterly Number 3.

Posted in: Arts + Culture

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