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'To Live and Dine in LA' tells Los Angeles' history through menus

by Take Two®

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"To Live and Dine in L.A." showcases menus from restaurants in Los Angeles reaching back decades. The exhibit is at the L.A. Public Library's Central division until November 2015. Leo Duran/KPCC

A menu is more than a list of the dishes a chef will prepare for you.

"They don't arrange menus or assemble menus or put them together – they write menus," said Josh Kun, curator of the "To Live and Dine in L.A." exhibit. "It's the story of their lives, the story of how they see the city."

"To Live and Dine in L.A." is now on display at the L.A. Public Library's Central branch. The collection amasses menus from Los Angeles that span back decades.

One large table rotates like a Lazy Susan and contains menus that showcase the city's history of immigration.

The Kow Loon restaurant, for example, has images of palm trees and beaches on the front while also serving a large selection of chop suey.

"They were serving Cantonese food and yet the vibe they were giving off was a kind of pan-ethnic South Seas/Pacific space," says Kun, citing it as an example to how identities and cultures intermixed in Los Angeles.

"To Live and Dine in L.A." is on display until November 2015. 

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