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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Food Culture: International Cuisine at Illinois

International Cuisine

International dinners have long been popular at the University of Illinois and the YMCA was central to the organization of these dinners.  You will find extensive documentation on these dinners but it can be a bit tricky.  Files are located in a number of record series including those for the Union and the Spice Box restaurant.

A search for the word "menu" or "menus" will only provide you with a handful of matches.  This is because when you search our database "Archon"  and you use "menu" as a keyword you are only searching the "keywords" of sets of records, a.k.a. record series. So the series would need to have word "menu" in their title, description, or subject heading.  Suppose there are copies of menus that are not the major feature of a series.  You can identify these by clicking on "Search PDF lists" under the main search box and searching your term here.  If your term is a common one you will get more records than you might want.  But you will get a good idea the types of series that have the information you want.  Below you see a sample of the kind of information that is contained in the Y.M.C.A. Subject Files, RS 41/69/322. 

YMCA Subject File, 1886-2004, 2008-2009 | University of Illinois Archives

Title: YMCA Subject File, 1886-2004, 2008-2009Edit This
Series Number: 41/69/322
Acquired: 6/18/99; 1/8/2009; 4/8/2010
Volume: 39.0 cubic feet

This box of archives is largely devoted to the international dinners organized by the Y for many years. It includes the planning of those meals and the committee's discussions of the program..

If interested in the "culture of the dining room" at the university there are a number of sources you may want to explore.  Many clearly demonstrate the evolution of the environment as it rapidly changed during the 1960s and '70s.  Beginning with dress codes in the 60s when "Women students are required to wear heels or dressy flats and hose at Sunday noon dinner..." (Handbook for Residents. Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Hallls, 1966-1967, RS # 37/6/815.) you will get a sense of the expectations for public behavior. 


If you search the online version of the Daily Illini, you will find numerous advertisements and articles for international dinners on campus over the years. 

What is wrong with the menu?

In 1970 the campus food service set out to improve its menu by asking the students what they liked, didn't like, etc.  The results of this survey are available in the archives and the questionnaire is pictured above.

Finding menus in the Archives

A search for the word "menu" or "menus" will only provide you with a handful of matches.  This is because when you search Archon  and you use "menu" as a keyword you are only searching the "keywords" of sets of records, a.k.a. record series. So the series would need to have word "menu" in the title, description, or subject heading.  Suppose that there are copies of menus that are not the major feature of a series.  You can identify these by clicking on "Search PDF lists" under the main search box and searching your term here.  If your term is a common one you will get more records than you might want.  But you will get a good idea the types of series that have the information you want.

For more information on the "Spice Box" see Record Series 8/11/814 at the Archives Research Center.