EatDrinkShopCook: Titanic culinary traditions resurface
The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is on the horizon.
Mystic Aquarium is gearing up for its exhibit, "Titanic -- 12,450 Feet Below," which will open on April 12. Guernsey's Auctioneers & Brokers is hosting the first sale of more than 5,500 artifacts from the doomed ocean liner's wreckage, and the Fairfield Public Library is having a month-long "One Book, One Town" celebration centered around Allan Wolf's novel, "The Watch That Ends the Night."
With so many people caught up in Titanic fever, there's just one question left to ask: What did passengers on board the most luxurious liner of the time eat?
Today, we know what to expect out of the kitchens on a cruise ship: food, food and more food. The day starts with a bang: omelets, waffles, carving stations and bottomless mimosas in the dining room. Lunch, for some, is a burger and fries by the pool, while the more genteel crowd prefers a sit-down affair with real silver and china. Dinner can stretch to what seems like 20 courses to be shared with strangers at your table and then, of course, there's the epic Midnight Buffet complete with ice sculptures, chocolate fountains and a Tums chaser. Don't forget all the in-between culinary delights, like the afternoon rum tastings and all-you-can-eat sushi buffets. You may get bored, seasick or restless on a cruise, but you will never go hungry.
However, things on board Titanic were a bit more civilized. The menus salvaged from the disaster show that passengers -- even those in steerage -- ate well. An original copy of a lunch menu is set to be auctioned off March 31 by the auctioneers Henry Aldridge & Son. They're expecting bids of at least $100,000. Among the many midday meal options were grilled mutton chops, salmon mayonnaise, soused herrings, round of spiced beef, corned ox tongue, jacket potatoes, and eight types of cheeses.
Dinner for first-class passengers included things like oysters, poached salmon, filet mignon, roast duckling, lamb, asparagus, foie gras, French ice cream and chocolate eclairs.
Meanwhile, in second class, the menu included haddock, curried chicken and rice, roast turkey and American ice cream.
More InformationTHE SCOOP Fairfield Public Library is hosting Titanic-themed throughout the month to in conjunction with "One Book, One Town" and the reading of "The Watch That Ends the Night." Visit the library website for details: www.fairfieldpubliclibrary.org. Want to host your own dinner based on the Titanic's cuisine? Check out the cookbook, "Last Dinner on the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner," by Rick Archbold.
It's easy to imagine third-class passengers having to make due with stale bread and water, but in fact, many people ate better on the ship than they did at home. Pea soup, fresh bread, fish and stewed apples with rice were all on the menu.
In "The Watch That Ends the Night," readers get a glimpse at what it must have been like to be on board the Titanic.
In the story, Bruce Ismay ("The Business Man") says, "Tonight I had the lamb (with mint sauce) and a good Cabernet."
"The Baker" rattles off the contents of his pantry: "sweetbreads and sausages, sugar, dried beans, a mountain of eggs, tomatoes by the ton, thousands of pounds of poultry and game, thousands of gallons of cream and milk, crate after crate of grapefruit and oranges, asparagus, bacon, ham, fish (fresh and dried), beer, stout, wine, spirits, coffee and strong tea, nearly two thousand quarts of ice cream."
In one section that will particularly get your stomach rumbling, Isaac Maynard, "The Entree Cook," describes the first-class menu:
"Hors d'oeuvres, oysters, consomme Olga, salmon in mousseline sauce, roast duck, or filet mignon Lili. Side dishes of Parmentier and boiled new potatoes, roast squab and cress, cold asparagus vinaigrette, or pate de foie gras and celery. Waldorf pudding, French ice cream, peaches in chartreuse jelly, chocolate eclairs." It was all served on fine bone china edged in 22 karat gold.
And of the third-class, he mentions, "Ragout of beef, potatoes, pickles, apricots, fresh bread and butter, currant buns and tea." This was served on earthenware, but still, not too shabby.
But it was The Ship Rat in the story that was most fixated on the food. "Follow the food," was his mantra and he reveled in "Flour, egg, marmalade." In fact, it is the rat who gets the last word in the novel. "Follow the future," he says. "Follow the food."
Patti Woods is a freelance writer. Contact her at email@example.com.
Fairfield Public Library is hosting Titanic-themed throughout the month to in conjunction with "One Book, One Town" and the reading of "The Watch That Ends the Night." Visit the library website for details: www.fairfieldpubliclibrary.org.
Want to host your own dinner based on the Titanic's cuisine? Check out the cookbook, "Last Dinner on the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner," by Rick Archbold.