What's on the Menu?, Food for Thought
Tricky Menu Tips: Ditto Marks, Prices, and More
Wow. We're sitting here with our mouths agape, simply overwhelmed --and thrilled! -- by the response to What's on the Menu? We knew you guys liked food, but holy (broiled) mackerel!
We launched WOTM very quietly, just three days ago, and, as of this typing, we have over 22K dishes transcribed! And it's evident, from the emails and tweets we've been receiving, that we have some very enthusiastic participants out there. Thank you!
But as you may have noticed, each menu is very different. Each has its quirks and idiosyncricies. Some have clear prices, some don't have any. Some have odd language, some are very straightforward. Some use ditto marks to convey the same dish, others repeat, repeat, repeat.
The following are some tips to think about while transcribing that I hope will clear up confusion, but please send us more questions as they come, either in the comments section of this post, to our firstname.lastname@example.org community hotline, or through the Twitterverse @nypl_menus. Your questions and comments help us build a better and more robust site! We may add to this post over time, and all of it will serve as a draft for a more robust Help section on the menus site, coming soon. Meantime, here's some advice on navigating some of the more common snags.
Is a menu totally finished if it reads "done"?
Not quite. Every menu will go through a vetting process, where we will clean up any mixed-up prices, misspellings, etc. If it reads "done" it goes into a queue so that a NYPL staff member can review it. We haven't begun that review in earnest yet, but we're taking careful notes during this experimental first phase. Who knows, we may even re-open some of the menus at a later time for second-pass cleanup. Based on feedback, we're considering adjusting the status language to something like "locked for review." That may clear up the confusion.
Making sense of cents
Believe it or not, a sirloin steak can cost as little as 25 cents. Crazy, I know. But some menus also include pricier items, such as a $2.50 Terrapin, Maryland. Therefore, we've defaulted the currency to dollars (if the menu is from the U.S.) and we're asking everyone to adjust accordingly. If a steak is 25 cents, please mark as .25 Obviously if you mess up (or see someone else mess up) it will be cleaned up later, but it always helps us to add that little decimal point.
What's the deal with the ditto?
Have you transcribed any bills of fare from a coffee shop or oyster bar? If so, you've probably enountered menus with ditto marks (") as in:
When transcribing a menu and coming across the ditto (sometimes the menu will read "do", too), it helps to think of each dish as a discrete item which will be added to a huge database in which one can pull up a specific dish, across all menus. Therefore, it's enormously helpful to have Eggs, Poached reflected instead ", Poached. So, please don't use the ditto. Instead, please retype the original food offering in-full. But again, no sweat, we'll be cleaning up as we go, too.
Halving it all
Like the ditto mark, when coming across a dish that advertises a half chicken, or something prepared two ways, make two discrete entries. So instead of entering "chicken, half chicken", please enter the chicken twice, as in: "chicken" and "half chicken." That also goes for menu options on the same line. So, "oatmeal or hominy" should read "oatmeal" and "hominy."
When in dish doubt, don't leave it out!
Still not sure? Email us! email@example.com
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