A Victorian Feast
December 11, 2012
With Gerald Dickens's recent visit to MCPL, we’ve been thinking about his illustrious ancestor, Charles Dickens. Christmas dinner is looming, and the guilt over the amount of food we ate just recently on Thanksgiving is still eating at us.
This may be a good time for a feel-good lesson courtesy of the Dickensian past.
We know we should eat right to remain healthy, but sometimes we push it so much that we end up guilt-ridden and ashamed over something that should be indulgent to the point that we don’t enjoy it at all. The other adverse effect might have us all rebounding too far into the "comfort food."
You know, Charles Dickens lived in an era of lavish dinners, even though he may not have enjoyed too many as a young man. The hoi polloi, or the working poor, would have fared much worse than Mr. Scrooge. As young Master Dickens would have said, "Please Sir, may I have some more?"
For the upper class, the times were fat indeed. A little research in our Daily Life Through History database tells us much about how the better half would have lived.
In Victorian England, a festive holiday dinner for 12 would have included: a white soup, a clear gravy soup, boiled salmon, shrimp sauce, dressed cucumber, baked mullets in paper cases, and that’s just the first course.
The second course on our Victorian menu lists: filet de boeuf and Spanish sauce, larded sweetbreads (yum-yum), rissoles, chicken patties, roast fillet of veal and béchamel sauce, boiled leg of lamb, roast fowls, boiled ham and carrots, mashed turnips, kale, spinach, and broccoli.
Are you full yet? It’s not over. If you were a guest at a Victorian Dinner party, you would still have course three to go. It includes: ducklings, guinea-fowl, orange jelly, coffee cream, rice pudding, and macaroni with parmesan cheese garnished with croutons.
We aren’t even going to talk about dessert.
If you think Thanksgiving was bad, try to wrap your mind or your belt around that menu! I guarantee that any burden of gastronomical guilt will be lifted when comparing our excesses to theirs.
Of course, you might want to try some of the dishes. We are sure that MCPL’s extensive cookbook section can get you there.