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The Restaurant as a Destination


In On Photography, Susan Sontag notes that “It seems positively unnatural to travel for pleasure without taking a camera along. Photographs will offer indisputable evidence that the trip was made, that the program was carried out, that fun was had. Photographs document sequences of consumption carried on outside the view of family, friends, neighbors” (6). Photographs certify experiences including those involving consumption of new sights, sounds and flavors. Sontag’s comments on the nature of photography and consumption can be applied to postcards with ease. The postcard, particularly the travel postcard, serves as a document of an experience, of seeing, of tasting, of knowing, one that persuades others of the virtue and authenticity of that which we experienced. 

It wasn’t until the 18th century that our modern conception of a restaurant began to evolve in the United States. The University of Las Vegas Nevada houses an archive of restaurant menus, and UNLV historiographers state, “In America, what we would term a "restaurant"—a business existing solely to serve meals, as opposed to a place of lodging that also served meals—came into being in the late 18th century.” (“Early Restaurants in America”). Other terms such as “eating house” and “dining room” may have been used as well. In the 19th century, the popularity of the restaurant grew with the expansion of cities and most restaurants tended to be found in urban areas. By the 20th century, the number of restaurants in America skyrocketed as the result of “suburbanization of urban areas and a new affluent middle class” (“Early Restaurants in America”).

The postcards that I have culled from the FSU Postcard Archive give evidence that the restaurant occupied a distinct place in the American conciousness (and since I’ve included some non-American postcards, I would posit more simply a Western conciousness), places that offered distinctions of class status and taste can be seen in “Visions of Oppulence”, places that show the relationship between Americans and automobiles can be seen in “In Case You Need Directions” and in “Roadside Eats”, and finally, places where cultural practices were shared can be seen in “Cultural Experiences.” The restaurant occupied a place in the minds of Americans in their conceptions of social space, and in their conceptions of leisure and pleasure. If we look at these postcards in terms of writing and composition the postcard serves as a document of authenticity both visually and textually. A rhetor can certify a moment of awe and pleasure (and maybe even happiness), and then share that moment with an audience, audiences that they might have wished were there with them to share in the experience (and also the food). 

Works Cited

"Berchtesgadener Hof." Third Reich In Ruins. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2015. 

"Grand Pump Room, Bath." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.

Hotel Sandplacken. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.

"Interstate Highway System." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.

"The History of the Restaurant." Menus: The Art of Dining. University of Nevada Las Vegas, n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.

"The Roman Baths & Pump Room." Best Loved.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.

Sontag, Susan. ""In Plato's Cave"" On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977. N. pag. Print.

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