Menu of the Week: Thanksgiving at the Martinsville Sanitarium, 1906
While the word "sanitarium" today conjures One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-style images of padded walls and evil nurses, back in the early 20th century it had two meanings, neither of which were close to a psychiatric hospital, or sanatorium: a medical facility for treatment of long-term illnesses like tuberculosis, and a health-oriented resort, like the famed Battle Creek Sanitarium, where the Kelloggs taught visitors the merits of hydrotherapy, physical exercise, and Corn Flakes (they also reportedly invented the word sanitarium). The Kelloggs started a trend that was copied all across the country, and the Martinsville Sanitarium, located in Martinsville, Ind., took a largely similar approach.
Guests who happened to be staying at the sanitarium over Thanksgiving in 1906 were treated to quite a lavish feast, one which might come as a shock to those thinking that they were looking at the Thanksgiving meal served at a mental institution.
The meal (menu courtesy of the New York Public Library's online archive) started with consommé, crème a la Vénitienne (which today is served as a dessert), and finger foods like almonds, radishes, and stuffed olives. Next came beef tongue in a spicy sauce, cuts of prime beef, roast suckling pig, roast young turkey with chestnut dressing and cranberry sauce, and sweetbread croquettes, with potatoes, spinach and egg, turnip purée, squash, cauliflower in cream, Jersey sweets (mashed sweet potatoes), and something called croustades de cervelle, which sounds an awful lot like brain of some sort, on the side. The came some Maraschino punch, woodcock canapé, and a haunch of venison to wash it all down. After that, a couple salads (which were usually served after meals back then to aid in digestion), plum pudding, pie, cheese, and sweets.
We certainly hope that guests were given the option of not eating everything that was offered, especially in a resort that’s first priority was the health of its guests!