Last Dinner on the Titanic by Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley
Face it, you’re just too thin. You’ve been working out at the gym, you’re hardly more than a skeleton, a shadow of your former self, and we simply need to fatten you up. As it happens, I have just the cookbook for you, a calorie extravaganza from the last century that will make you wonder how people used to waddle from one place to the next.
Last week I reviewed The Only Way To Cross, a history of the great transatlantic ocean liners. Now let’s talk about what these lucky passengers’ had for dinner. With Last Dinner on the Titanic, we not only have a sumptuously illustrated, historical tour of the greatest of all the transatlantic liners, the Titanic, but menus – and better yet, recipes – from the ill-fated maiden voyage. The Titanic sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic on the night of April 14, 1912, but no one drowned on an empty stomach.
Let’s say you are traveling First Class, but, alas, you’re bored with the food – night after night the same caviar, lobster, and God only knows what. You can make a reservation for the exclusive à la carte restaurant, the Ritz, where the super-rich dined on delicacies rarer than even the first-class dining room could provide. Fortunately, you can now duplicate this meal for yourself and your friends . . . guaranteeing that no one will ever dare invite you to their home for dinner again!
The nine course dinner you would have been offered at the Ritz on the night of April 14th, 1912, would have begun, naturally, with an hors d’ouvre. Oeufs de caille en Aspic et Caviar – to translate, Quail Eggs in Aspic with Caviar, served with a white Bordeaux or a good white Burgundy. The recipe calls for only 9 quail eggs, so this should not present a problem in terms of your shopping. Next comes the soup, Potage Saint-Germain (Spring Pea Soup). You will need to open a new bottle of wine, naturally, a Madeira or sherry will do. For the Third Course, a bit of seafood: Homard Thermidor, or Lobster Thermidor. This goes well will a dry Rhine wine or Moselle.
Still hungry? Good, because with the Fourth Course we have arrived at the entrée, Tournedos aux Morilles, or Tournedos with Morels on a Bed of Braised Cabbage. This is served with a bottle of red Bordeaux. Now we have a brief intermezzo to cleanse our palate, Punch Rosé, a Rose Water and Mint Sorbet. To wash this down, you may dispense with wine for the moment and serve a nice punch.
At last we’re ready for the Sixth Course, Cailles aux Cerise, or Quails with Cherries. Get your corkscrew out, because now we must have a new bottle of Burgundy, red. The Seventh Course is a legume, Asperges Printaniès, sauce Hollandaise – in fact, just plain asparagus with Hollandaise, no problem. Happily for your budget, no separate wine is required for a mere vegetable.
But now we’ve arrived at desert. The Eighth Course is Macédoine de Fruits and Orange en Surprise, a fresh fruit salad and Orange Surprise – oranges stuffed with orange sorbet and a few other ingredients, including fresh spearmint leaves and candied orange peel. This comes with a sweet desert wine, Muscatel, Tokay, or Madeira. Now the Ninth Course, assorted fresh fruits and cheeses – champagne is appropriate. And that’s it. At this point the men can stagger off into the smoking room for coffee, cigars, and a glass of port, while the women are permitted to loosen their girdles and gossip.
Last Dinner on the Titanic goes on to describe the final April 14th menus for the First Class dining room (eleven courses in this instance, though not quite so elaborate), then Second Class and Third Class, which has a very nice Roasted Pork with Sage and Pearl Onions. All the recipes are well explained and there are serving suggestions, such things as to how to make an “ice bowl,” how to set the table, even a very fancy way to fold your cloth napkins. To throw a dinner party based on this book, you will need to begin your preparations three days in advance, but all this is explained – what to do and when. The Titanic had a staff of eighty cooks to do the job, working around the clock. But don’t despair. Today we have food processors and all sorts of labor saving devices. Plus, you can always quit your job and devote yourself full time to the task.
Last Dinner on the Titanic is a book to drool over, even if you surrender in advance and don’t actually end up crawling through your local meadow in search of nine fresh quail eggs. Best of all, the question is finally answered, why the Titanic really sank. Sheer weight, I fear.