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David Ross

Gilded Dining in the Edwardian Age

11 posts in this topic

With the intense popularity of Downton Abbey, there has been a renaissance and fervor over the decadent, gluttonous culinary habits of the gilded class during the Edwardian Age, (1901-1910). I for one am a voracious, (pardon the pun), reader of the era and I'm fascinated by the trappings of Lord Grantham and his family.

The online version Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management provides a view of how the Edwardians lived, and how they ate. It's a spellbinding read. Savor this 1909 February dinner menu for 18, no doubt served "a la russe by butlers and footmen in proper formal attire-

First Course-

Hare Soup, removed by Turbot and Oyster Sauce.

Fried Eels.

Vase of Fried Whitings.

Flowers.

Oyster Soup, removed by Crimped Cod la Matre d'Htel.

Entrees-

Lark Pudding.

Lobster Patties.

Vase of Filets de Perdrix.

Flowers.

Fricasseed Chicken.

Second Course.

Braised Capon.

Boiled Ham, garnished.

Roast Fowls, garnished Vase of Boiled Fowls and with Water-cresses.

Flowers.

White Sauce.

Pt Chaud.

Haunch of Mutton.

Third Course

Ducklings, removed by Ice Pudding.

Meringues.

Coffee Cream.

Cheesecakes.

Orange Jelly.

Vase of Clear Jelly.

Flowers.

Victoria Blancmange.

Gateau de Sandwiches.

Pommes.

Partridges, removed by Cabinet Pudding.

Dessert and Ices-

I'm not sure I've figured out what the "flowers" dish was. Can you imagine eating like that, even occasionally, in 2013?

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That reminds me of some of the meals Lucius Beebe would write of in the first half of the 20th century.

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If you can you should check out the BBC series Manor House it was a reality show where they took people and made them live in a large estate as if it were the early 1900's. The cook had to make all these foods with period equipment. Also, the family playing the part of the estate owners often protested the foods and kept trying to cheat.

There were also some earlier BBC series' only available in the UK called The Victorian Garden, The Victorian Kitchen, etc. where people re-enacted life in late Victorian times. By today's standards, the show is a bit slow and pedantic. I discovered the book, The Victorian Kitchen by Jennifer Davies and found it fascinating. I have a region-free DVD player, so I picked up the DVD set as well.


Edited by Lisa Shock (log)

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If you ever visit the Flagler Museum / Whitehall in Florida, you can experience Gilded Age tea service. Not cheap but an enjoyable experience.

http://offthebroiler.wordpress.com/2006/12/01/florida-dining-afternoon-tea-at-the-flagler-museum/


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Has anyone come across some indication of the portion sizes involved? I cannot figure out how people managed this sort of thing; if they ate like that on a regular basis, they would have been far heavier as a group than photographs suggest they were, unless these banquets played out like tasting menus.

I can't even eat most 3-course meals without feeling at least a little awful afterwards, and there is simply no way one could eat most of any meal in a corset (I've eaten while corseted down to just 20 inches, not the 18 inches upper-class women strived for during that era, and you can manage about a handful of food at a go, that's it).


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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It must have been fairly small portions. The glimpses at the trays on Downton Abbey make it look like the portions were small. But I've noticed a few times that Lord Grantham took more than one portion of a dish. Then add the calories from all the wine and spirits. Even the daily menus look to be indulgent.

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You wouldn't be expected to eat each thing. It was like a served buffet. Very tough on the kitchen, though. I love that everything was served in a "vase" -- what does it mean? A trendy idea to serve in a flower vase, with all the little fish heads up? Or was "vase" just a fancy word for a kind of bowl?

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Heh. Actually, what springs to mind is the phrase "wretched excess". Of course, this applied to many feasts across many cuisines and cultures too. :-)

ETA: Mind you, there might be graduations of wretchedness - if such a feast were but nibbled at, or merely licked a bit, and most of it then simply thrown out - THAT would truly be outrageous. At the least ridiculously sumptuous Chinese feasts of yore (Flamingo tongues, anyone?) would tend to have the diner attempt to actually eat it, shaking their mid-sections from time to time to settle the contents of their tummies so as to accommodate more stuff. (So I would like to think :wink: )


Edited by huiray (log)

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Then there is this series. I haven't watched since I was linked to it last year.

It's very entertertaining to watch if you have the time and inclination.

Going to youtube, there is part 2, part 3, part 4...

I do so enjoy Giles and Sue.

"I look forward to a week of constipation, hearburn and gout." ;)

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