Over one hundred years after its tragic demise, the Titanic still captivates us. We can’t seem to get enough about that fateful maiden voyage. Who were the passengers? How did they live their lives? And, most recently, what did they eat? Menus from the doomed voyage have surfaced, and they tell as much about class structure as they do about how the passengers sated their appetites.
For starters, there were three versions of the menu – one each for first-class passengers, second- class, and third. The offerings for first-class patrons’ luncheon include such delicacies as consommé, mutton, salmon mayonnaise, and veal and ham pie. Cheese selections include traditional cheeses from Great Britain, Holland and France. To quench the travelers’ thirst, “iced draught German lager” was to be served alongside these decadent dishes.
Second class passengers’ choices for dining were more limited and less extravagant. But there was still an air of class to the dinner menu, which offered spring lamb, curried chicken, and roast turkey with accompaniments. On the menu was the offering of plum pudding and wine jelly, both ringing of decadence. But when it comes to the cheese course, in contrast with its first-class counterpart, the second-class menu simply lists “cheese.” Also, there is no mention of lager for the mid-class guests. Seconds on the wine jelly, perhaps?
At the lowest echelon of the passenger pyramid, third-class patrons enjoyed significantly less pomp at mealtimes. Breakfast was simple, offering bread, ham and eggs, and porridge. Dinner was equally simple, and supper consisted of cheese, “cabin biscuits,” and “gruel.” Yes, gruel. I hope it was more appetizing than it sounds. But I suspect many of those third-class passengers didn’t give much thought to the food. They probably felt blessed to have landed a berth alongside celebrities and dignitaries on the world’s most famous ship.
The unsinkable Titanic.