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oriental night on the ss president wilson.

menu cover

i recently came across an interesting item in a secondhand bookshop: a menu for dinner on the ss president wilson ocean liner, from april 12, 1961. the theme was oriental night, and as you can see below, there was a surprisingly tasty-sounding array of dishes from china, japan, and the philippines. i was rather surprised to see some of the items on the menu--all those japanese pickles? satsuma jiru? lumpia? however, once i really took a good look at the menu, i realized that the most challenging items were easily ignorable condiments, and everything else could be passed off as regular continental fare (prawn tempura=fried shrimp, lumpia=egg roll, pancit guisado=noodles); i also suspect that the foods were deliberately presented as such to pass them off as more exotic than they actually were. still, you can't fault the stunning menu presentation. i can only wonder how fancifully the foods were presented at the table. i also wonder if the food on cruise ships these days is better or worse than it was at the time of this menu....

menu 2

there were actually three ships named the president wilson for american president lines (now a strictly cargo company); this menu is for the second ship, which was the last of the grand passenger liners built for apl in 1948. it toured from the western united states throughout "the far east" until 1973, when it was finally decommissioned and salvaged.

10 comments:

hi~ dear santos
i come from taiwan
your blog is amazing,i do learn too much about manila from you
really thanks you very much

i just received my annual catalogue of Sea dreams cruise ship
the ship only takes 100 guests a ratio of 1:1 with the crew.

I HAVE NOT BEEN ON ANY CRUISE SHIP somehow but we have toyed with the idea.
then my friend said... "you work on yachts and you want to do a cruise?" damn she might be right

since I have been on luxurious private and charter yachts (where you think my love of food steam out from? ) great chefs work on tiny galley.

and you will be amaze with the day to day menu.
some richy rich may want pear just from france... steak from the US
if that is their wish and their $$$ can pay that whimsy of course its a matter of phone call and courier services.

some creative chef do local cuisine
some will stick to what the owners or guest like

I have met them on.. macrobiotic diet, low sugar people, south beach lots AND THE CHEF MUST BE ABLE TO CATER TO THIS!

no wonder chefs in this industry are well paid off and become so prima donna!!!

TABLE SETTING?
depends..on the menu and the owners style. we have done huge buffet as well
some clients ask for themes groan
and all you need is your creativity.

i was once dressed as a mexican girl, a greek goddess... serving food and drink, sometimes the boat rolling ....

I love stuff like this!

hi mei! thank you for dropping by and taking the time to comment. i hope to hear from you again :)

hi sha--thanks for all the information! verrrrry interesting. tough work! will you post photos of yourself dressed as a greek goddess? ;)

hi jonny--me too :)

My Grandpa was the Captain of the Wilson for many years. It is nice to see some remembrances of the era and the people. If anyone has any comment for ralph Wilson, Past Master of the Wilson, please email me. He was Captain when the menu was served.
Smooth Sailing!
Mark Keys

MK, that is awesome. i'm sure your grandfather has some great stories. the only question i have (and i know it's lame compared to what i could ask) is was the (cooking) crew at the time mostly filipino/chinese? i always think of the 'sixties as a time when "oriental" food was just chop suey and fortune cookies to most americans. how did people respond to the menu?

IT IS SO INTERESTING TO HEAR ABOUT THE SS PRESIDENT WILSON. I WAS A PURSER SAILING UNDER CAPTAIN WILSON IN THE 60'S ON THAT SHIP. I WAS THEN TRANSFERRED TO THE SS PRESIDENT COOLIDGE WHERE I SAILED UNDER CAPTAIN MARSHALL HOWARD. ANYONE CONNECTED TO THOSE PEOPLE OR THAT ERA, I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM jptower@texas.net

Hello, does anyone have any pictures or video or any other information concerning the SS President Wilson around 1952 or later. I immigrated (as a baby) to United States early 1953 on the ship from Hong Kong to San Francisco. I was able to get a copy of the passenger list from Regional U.S. Archive Center located in South San Francisco.

My husband was a purser on the President Wilson from June, 1953-June,1954. He then became purser on the SS President Monroe, but went back to the Wilson in May, 1955.

It's great fun to read about other pursers, captains, and passengers who sailed on the Wilson. I also worked for APL but only managed to said from San Francisco to Los Angeles. An employee became eligible for that free voyage after having worked for the company for a year.

My husband and I actually met at APL; it was the first company romance so far as we know.

Jan, ah, romance on the high seas! :) Thank you for sharing your story. Happy holidays to you, I hope more people connected with the ship comment in the future.