Food for historical thought, in ‘Repast’

Lisa Stoffer and Michael Lesy at 30Boltwood in Amherst earlier this month.
Lisa Stoffer and Michael Lesy at 30Boltwood in Amherst earlier this month.Matthew Cavanaugh for The Boston Globe

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AMHERST — Michael Lesy and Lisa Stoffer’s “Repast: Dining Out at the Dawn of the New American Century, 1900-1910” looks at an era very different from ours. Menus groaned with rich dishes. Pure food, not organic, was the rage. Fast food was just beginning to emerge, at places like the Childs restaurant chain and the Automat.

Shortly before the New York Public Library unveiled an online redesign, in 2007, it asked a number of experts, including Lesy, to test drive its website, so to speak, and offer suggestions. Lesy found a tab labeled The Buttolph Menu Collection. What he found was a treasure trove of thousands of restaurant menus. “The menus were so goddamned beautiful!” he says over lunch with Stoffer.

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