Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Menu of RMS Titanic

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I went to a tourist trap in Orlando which was a museum all about the Titanic. It really didn't have many (any?) artifacts from the actual Titanic, rather a mish mash of reproductions and things from her sister ships, most notably RMS Olympic.

That fact didn't really make too much of a difference to me as I was there mostly to look at the neat photos, see some videos and learn a thing or two.

I have always been a "foodie" and a history junkie on top of that - so I am always very interested in what people ate in days gone by. It is fascinating to see different preparations of foods - the same things we eat today - that are no longer used. Many things that were eaten every single day even just a half century ago are frowned upon, or have been improved upon to the point where the original thing is practically gone. An example of this is lard. Only die-hards use real honest to goodness lard for cooking anymore. Just for kicks someday I am going to cook something in lard to see how it tastes. My family rarely fries anything (sauteeing is NOT frying) and it would be a real treat for the kids to get some wonderful artery clogging items into their systems.

The old way isn't necessarily the bad way, either. For lard, substitutes such as Crisco, loaded with the now dubious trans fats were created. We all know now about the issues associated with trans fats - so was cooking with lard the "healthy" way after all?

Of all of the items I saw at the Titanic tourist trap, I liked the menus most of all. We will be studying the first class menu, which is where all the rich people were staying on the Titanic - for BIG money. I can't remember how much a passage across the Atlantic was in first class, but if memory serves it was well into the five figures in todays dollars. So these people were the elite and this is what they ate. Lord knows what they ate in steerage. This menu is from April 12, 1912 - the Titanic sunk on April 14, 1912.

You will note the distinct British flavor of the menu - many of the links you see are from British and Irish recipe sites.

Without further ado Madames et Messieurs, I present your menu for today for the RMS (Royal Mail Ship) Titanic for your culinary pleasures.

Consomme Payeanne - I had a hard time with this. I know what a consomme is, but not the word "payeanne". I didn't remember what it was from my college French courses. But my google fu is strong - I found a salad payeanne at this restaurant ($8!). The ingredients in it besides the lettuce are smoked bacon and parmesan. Sounds like a Consomme Payeanne would be a bacon based consomme. Yum! Or you could select the Pea Soup. Geez, I wonder which I would pick. Although upon thinking about it there may have been problems getting good tasting peas (or any good veggies) to people back then and it may have been a delicacy - something to think about anyway.

Fillets of Whiting - the Wiki for whiting explains something that I just touched on in the early part of this post. Here is the quote:

The whiting is an important food fish in the eastern North Atlantic, northern Mediterranean, western Baltic, and Black Sea. Until the later twentieth century, it was a cheap fish, regarded as food for the poor or for pets, but the general decline in fish stocks means that it is now more highly valued. The other fish that have been given the name whiting are mostly also food fish.
So in 1912 the whiting was served on the most elite of tables in the world, then was fed to dogs, and now is starting to be more highly valued. Can anybody please tell me why more people are not interested in history? This type of stuff fascinates me. Anyway, here is photo of some whiting for you - they don't appear to be very large.

It would be interesting to see how those were prepared on the Titanic.

Next is the Omar Pacha Egg. Yikes! Never heard of that, but I found a recipe in an old textbook for it. CHECK THIS OUT:

Melt a little butter in a dish that can go into the oven. When heated, break in twelve eggs, one beside the other, keeping the yokes whole. Cook in a moderate oven for five or six minutes. Fry in butter two ounces of chopped onions and two ounces of chopped green peppers. Add three gills (one cup = two gills) of tomato sauce and half that quantity of half-glaze sauce (not sure what this is but I bet it is good) and white wine. Reduce, not having it too thick then add bacon (prepared by mincing non-smoked bacon - fry it in butter), moisten it with gravy and Madiera wine then cook and reduce the moistening entirely. Pour this sauce over the eggs or serve in a separate sauce boat.

Pardon my french, but I say to the Omar Pacha Egg dish - HELL YEAH bring it on! Couldn't find a picture of this dish, sadly. By the way, here is some information about Omar Pasha himself, the person the dish was named after.

Welsh Rabbit (sometimes called rarebit) - not what you think! We aren't eating Bugs Bunny here, but how can you not like something made out of cheese, beer and butter?

Haricot Ox Tail - Well I know that haricot is "bean" in French (I always laugh when I see "haricot verts" on a menu at a restaurant - can't they just say green beans?) so I assume it is an Oxtail preparation with some sort of beans. I would bet it was probably a stew of some sort. Lets once again try to find a recipe. Aha I did find it - listed as a historic recipe. Looks yummy.

Boiled Chicken in Bacon and Parsley Sauce - pretty self explanatory here.


Grilled Mutton Chops - I assumed the word mutton back then was used like today to designate lamb, making this dish lamb chops. But later on the menu you will see lamb with mint sauce. So they must use mutton here to designate a sheep, rather than a baby sheep or lamb.

Mashed Sotay and Baked Jacket Potatoes - I think sotay is a bastardized word that means sautee. So that would mean you have two potato choices, either mashed and sauteed or baked. I believe that "jacket" used to mean the result when you baked the potato, so it seems a little redundant that they would put both in the same description, but maybe that is how they described them in 1912.

Tapioca Pudding - self explanatory and yummy.Greengage Tart - I had no idea what this was, but then I found this page that describes it perfectly. I would love to try it someday - I love plums. Here is a photo of Greengage plums.

Also there looks to be a selection of pastries.

Are you full yet? No? Then lets take a look at the buffet shall we?


Mayonnaise of Salmon - This is another recipe I had never heard of, but found this old recipe and can just imagine how good this tasted on the Titanic. Oh my god how easy - you just poach the salmon in these ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup dry white wine,
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1-1/4 cups water
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 fresh parsley sprig
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound fresh salmon fillet, skinned
  • 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped gherkins
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped capers
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons snipped fresh chives

and then fold in some dill after flaking the salmon and serve - I WILL make this someday.

Soused Herrings - Well, I know what a herring is - I love eating creamed herring out of the jar on a cracker. Lets find out what "soused" means. Oh YUM - check it out here for the recipe.

Here is a photo of a soused herring sandwich from this site. I wonder what the presentation would be on the Titanic. By the way, I would eat this every day for lunch if I could get my hands on it here. Potted Shrimps - Oh my god does this sound good. Shrimp encased in clarified butter? You have got to be kidding me! I found a photo too.

Plain and Smoked Sardines - pretty self explanatory.

Roast Beef - self explanatory as well.

Round of Spiced Beef - Hard to say exactly what cut they would use for this, but probably a prime rib I would guess.

Melton Mowbray Pie - Another one I have never heard of. But holy crap look at this! A pastry stuffed with pork, bacon, spices and eggs? I will take a serving - large please. It would be served cold during the summer after a long day of fox hunting perhaps in the English countryside. I would like to make this, but it looks like a lot of work. It would probably be worth it - here is a photo.

Heaven has Melton Mowbray Pie served at the entrance, apparently.

Lamb with Mint Sauce - self explanatory.

Virginia and Cumberland Ham - also self explanatory. Interesting that they actually would get ham from the colonies rather than their own from England (the Titanic was leaving England at the time, bound for New York). We must have had a "leg" up on them in the tasty ham department.

Bologna Sausage - also self explanatory.

Brawn - what is this? Never heard of it. Lets take a look...I can't describe it - you have to read it yourself. Here it is, from this page. You better believe I would be consuming my share of it.

To a pig's head weighing 6 lbs. allow 1 1/2 lb. lean beef, 2 tablespoonfuls of salt, 2 teaspoonfuls of pepper, a little cayenne, 6 pounded cloves. Cut off the cheeks and salt them, unless the head be small, when all may be used. After carefully cleaning the head, put it on in sufficient cold water to cover it, with the beef, and skim it just before it boils. A head weighing 6 lbs. will require boiling from 2 to 3 hours. When sufficiently boiled to come off the bones easily, put it into a hot pan, remove the bones, and chop the meat with a sharp knife before the fire, together with the beef. It is necessary to do this as quickly as possible to prevent the fat settling in it. Sprinkle in the seasoning, which should have been previously mixed. Stir it well and put it quickly into a brawn-tin if you have one; if not, a cake-tin or mould will answer the purpose, if the meat is well pressed with weights, which must not be removed for several hours. When quite cold, dip the tin into boiling water for a minute or two, and the preparation will turn out and be fit for use. Time-from 2 to 3 hours.

Bring on the brawn!

I suppose you would spread it on a cracker or something. This reminds me of a dish my grandparents (German) used to serve, maybe it was a version of this.

Corned Ox Tongue - I love beef tongue, but have never eaten ox tongue. How bad could it be? Probably very tasty. Here is a cool page I found that has a photo of an ox tongue sandwich and a review too. What the heck, I will post his photo up so everyone can see the ox tongue sandwich.

Lettuce/Beetroot/Tomatoes - I would assume, again, that only the finest produce would be found on a trip like this, and I bet those tomatoes were big, plump and red. I still can't get a stupid decent tomato around here unless I pay a gazillion dollars for the hydroponics that are offered at the store.

Cheeses - funny, Kim du Toit just took us americans to task for not having a cheese course as a dessert and I fully agree. NOTHING is better as a dessert for me than small servings of high quality cheeses after dinner with a good port or scotch. Whenever I see a cheese course offered at a restaurant for dessert I am all over it.

Time for the men to adjourn to the smoking room for a brandy and cigar and for the women to go to their quarters as well. Whew! Now THAT'S eating! Well worth the price of admission, I would have to admit.


jti said...

Wow - great post, Dan ! I'm very interested in history, and "odd-ball" stuff like this, but I think my attention span is waaaaay too short to make a post this detailed - nice job. I have a bunch of 30's & 40's Life magazines - amazing to see the "breakthrough" products that we still use today - many being by-products of WWII...

Dan from Madison said...

Thanks jj. It is a bit oddball, but you can learn a lot about where people came from by what they ate, imho. A lot of this chow is poor mans food today.

annie said...

This blog has got to be the most diverse that I've ever run across! And this entry must have taken forever to compile info! Really interesting stuff!

jti said...

True - perfect example is Lobster - it used to be a peasant and slave food...

JDuB said...

Above, you were asking what Half Glaze sauce is (regarding the Eggs Omar). That would be heavily reduced stock, more than likely Veal stock (demi-glace=half-glaze).

So, yeah, that dish might be pretty good.

May want to modify the prep by doing something similar to Shired Eggs, cooking the eggs in it's own ramekin that's been rubbed with butter.

K Hoadley said...

Some (very late) comments from this side of the pond ...

"Payeanne" is almost certainly a typo for "paysanne", meaning peasant-style. Now the title "peasant's consomme" is clearly a conceit, given a delicate strained consomme is anything but peasant food, but what this really means is a consomme with finely shredded vegetables added.

As the previous poster said, "Half Glaze sauce" is just a translation of the French sauce demi-glace, which is a stock reduction (usually veal), flavoured slightly with tomato.

Welsh Rarebit is usually just a posh version of cheese on toast, where you make a cheese sauce (often with beer) rather than just grating the cheese on top. Very popular in the members' bar at the British House of Commons, I believe.

Mutton chops: I believe strictly speaking that mutton should refer to meat from sheep older than 2 years, whilst lamb should be for animals less than 6 months old (in between the two, the meat was traditionally called "hogget", but that's an archaic term that's almost disappeared).

I disagree on the tapioca pudding (which is vile), but agree about the greengage: I love greengages, named after Sir Thomas Gage, who first introduced them to England from France (where they're known as Reine Claudes)

The spiced beef would almost certainly have been silverside or topside, salted for several days and then rubbed with spices and brown sugar or treacle. (Not sure what you'd call silverside in America, but it's a cheap cut of beef for pot roasting mainly).

The Melton Mowbray pork pie is a British classic, though you might not want too large a slice, as the pastry casing is pretty filling. The egg in the middle is optional; indeed most pork pies don't have it.

Brawn probably is similar to the dish that your German grandparents used to serve, as the basic idea of using up animal heads (after all, they used to say that the only part of a pig you couldn't eat was its oink !) is common across several European cuisines: the French have a version called "Tete de Veau" (literally "veal head").

Dan from Madison said...

K Hoadley - thanks for the info!

EBL said...

I want to try these recipes. Great post.