Ostensibly in pursuit of material to support my research on the foodways* of the Pacific Northwest, I collect old restaurant menus. One of my most treasured acquisitions is a tattered carte from the State Cafe of Huntington, Oregon. Huntington is located at the confluence of the Snake and Powder Rivers. It began its career as a city by being the joining point in 1884 of the Oregon Short Line Railroad and the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, creating what became the transcontinental route of the Union Pacific. Until the 1960s, Huntington was a railroad shop town, where workers were working 24/7. They were eating 24/7, too.
* foodways: “The eating habits and culinary practices of a people, region, or historical period.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary
At the State Cafe, they had a tremendously varied menu. Doubtless not everything listed was always instantly at hand, and canned and packaged goods no doubt were staples. Still, the array is remarkable for a cafe in a town with a population of no more than 1,500 people (there are about 560 residents today). A dozen or more salads, eleven potato preparations, seventeen omelette varieties, 27 beef dishes, and, “in season” (that is, fresh), twenty-two different ways of preparing oysters. These were virile, manly meals.