Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Titanic Tuesdays: Dining on board

As promised, Titanic Tuesdays are back. At least, until I get busy and/or lazy and forget again. But I promise I’m going to try to avoid that happening too much.

This week’s TT is about eating. Anyone who has taken a cruise knows that one of the biggest parts of the experience is the food. Today, there is food everywhere on a cruise ship, at any hour you might want it. Formal restaurants, pizza shops, casual cafeterias, ice cream stands … if you’re hungry, chances are pretty good that somewhere on the ship, food is available, and with the exception of a super-fancy restaurant or two, it’s all included in your ticket for no extra charge.

In 1912, cruise ships were a little simpler than they are today, but dining was still a big part of the experience on the Titanic. There were three big meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner, and if you were in First Class, there was also an a la carte restaurant where you could choose from a broader menu (but had to pay extra). The a la carte restaurant was run similar to the RItz (very fancy!), and was open from 8am to 11pm, allowing First Class passengers to dine just about any time the mood hit.There were also two cafes on A Deck, called the Verandah Café (or Verandah and Palm Court, as there was one of each side of the ship, just aft of the First Class Smoking Room), where passengers could have light refreshments. In addition to these, there was something new on the ship: the Café Parisien (pictured). This café was adjacent to the a la carte restaurant, and diners here could choose from the same menu, yet this area had a French sidewalk café feel with wicker furniture and large picture windows, allowing them to look out at the sea while they dined: something that hadn’t been done before on a British ship. If the weather was right, the windows could be opened to allow for al fresco dining.

If you were in Second or Third Class, your dining options were limited to your dining saloon. Meals were served at specific times, so if you didn’t eat them, you were out of luck until the next meal. I believe it was possible to have food sent to your room during mealtimes, however, but I can’t remember now where I read that. The Second Class meals were prepared in the same kitchen as First Class, and from all accounts, while not quite as lavish, the food was good enough to rate First Class on just about any other ship. Good dishes, nice linens, fresh flowers on the tables—everything you’d expect from a high-class restaurant.

We don’t know all the menus that were served on board the Titanic’s maiden voyage, but a few did manage to survive.

April 11th, Second Class Breakfast

  • Rolled Oats
  • Boiled Hominy
  • Fresh Fish
  • Yarmouth Bloaters (a type of herring, slated and smoked)
  • Grilled Ox Kidneys and Bacon
  • American Dry Hash au Gratin
  • Grilled Sausage
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Grilled Ham & Fried Eggs
  • Fried Potatoes
  • Vienna & Graham Rolls
  • Soda Scones
  • Buckwheat Cakes
  • Maple Syrup
  • Conserve
  • Marmalade
  • Tea and Coffee
  • Watercress

April 12, Second Class Luncheon


  • Pea Soup
  • Spaghetti au Gratin
  • Corned Beef
  • Vegetable dumplings
  • Roast Mutton
  • Baked Jacket Potatoes


  • Roast Mutton
  • Roast Beef
  • Sausage
  • Ox Tongue
  • Pickles
  • Salad
  • Tapioca Pudding
  • Apple Tart
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Cheese
  • Biscuits
  • Coffee

April 14, Second Class Dinner

"On the night of the wreck our dinner tables were a picture! The huge bunches of grapes which topped the fruit baskets on every table were thrilling. The menus were wonderfully varied and tempting. I stayed at table from soup to nuts."
- Kate Buss, Second Class passenger

First Course, Soup: Consumme with Tapioca

Second Course, Main Dishes:

  • Baked Haddock with Sharp Sauce
  • Curried Chicken & Rice
  • Spring Lamb with Mint Sauce
  • Roast Turkey with Cranberry Sauce

Second Course, Side Dishes:

  • Turnip Sauce
  • Green Peas
  • Boiled Rice
  • Boiled and Roast Potatoes

Third Course, Dessert:

  • Plum Pudding with Sweet Sauce
  • Wine Jelly
  • Coconut Sandwich
  • American Ice Cream
  • Assorted Nuts
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Cheese
  • Biscuits

After Dinner: Coffee

As a picky eater, I can’t say I’d enjoy all of these menus. If time travel were possible, and I found myself in Apolline’s place, I’d be eating a lot of potatoes, cheese, fruit and breads. And ice cream, of course. Note here the menu specifies that it’s “American” ice cream. According to Last Dinner on the Titanic, at that time there were two popular ways of making ice cream. The French method used eggs, making it “richer and smoother” than the American method (popularized by Dolly Madison in the early 1800s) that used no eggs. The American version was most likely lighter and more preferable after such a large meal.

Great. Now I’m craving ice cream.


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