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Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts:…

Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts: Dining in Victorian America

by Susan Williams

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An antiquarian’s joy, this lovely book is an examination of the evolution of “fine dining” in Victorian-era America. From the furnishing of a middle-class dining room, to the proper etiquette for eating some of the new, exotic fruits that industrialization and improved methods of transportation introduced to middle-class Americans (the banana and the orange, for example!), this book is a delightful compendium of the minutiae that made up much of middle-class American life after the Civil War. The last third of the book contains recipes ranging from the 1850s through the 1880s, as well as the rules of etiquette for eating certain foods. Here is the “proper” way to eat an orange, from a recipe book of 1878:
“A fork is pierced partly through the centre of an orange, entering it from the stem side; the fork serves for a handle, which is held in the left hand, while with a sharp knife the peel and thin skin are cut off in strips from the top of the orange to the fork handle; now, holding it in the right hand, the orange can be eaten, leaving all the fibrous pulp on the fork” Mary F. Henderson

From Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management 1859 –1861, here is a list of “Things not to be forgotten at a Picnic”
“A stick of horseradish, a bottle of mint-sauce well corked, a bottle of salad dressing, a bottle of vinegar, made mustard, pepper, salt, good oil, and pounded sugar. If it can be managed, take a little ice. It is scarcely necessary to say that plates, tumblers, wine-glasses, knives, forks, and spoons, must not be forgotten; as also teacups and saucers, 3 or 4 teapots, some lump sugar, and milk, if this last-named article cannot be obtained in the neighborhood. Take 3 corkscrews. 3 dozen quart bottles of ale, packed in hampers; ginger-beer, soda-water, and lemonade, of each 2 dozen bottles; 6 bottles of sherry, 6 bottles of claret, champagne a discretion, and any other light wine that may be preferred, and 2 bottles of brandy. Water can usually be obtained; so it is useless to take it.”

Whew! While I don’t know how many people Mrs. Beeton was planning on serving, the liquor alone for this picnic is more than my family consumes in a year! And I certainly hope that someone, probably a servant, stayed sober enough to guide the carriage home safely! ( )
  RachelfromSarasota | Jun 9, 2008 |
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