Eat, drink and be merry!
Eat, drink and be merry! That was the cry of the Victorian era and the people of that period attacked their meals with great gusto! A revolution in stoves, cookware and kitchen gadgets, combined with the discovery of canning and food sterilization techniques, open up endless possibilities for the motivated domestic servant who held the position of cook.
Eating was an event in the wealthy Victorian home. Even the breakfast meal featured a variety of fruits, scones, omelettes, bacon and more. From the daily ritual of serving afternoon tea and the opportunity to show off the lady's finest silver, china and linen, to elaborate banquets attended by noblemen and their guests, there was always something on the stove in a Victorian kitchen.
In reality, the Victorian menu wasn't terribly different from what is served in homes today, or at least in the homes where someone still cooks. Meat, fish and poultry were common and fresh or canned vegetables were served with most meals. Winter and Autumn meals usually included hearty soups and stews while chicken and lighter dishes prevailed in the summertime.
Holiday meals were special celebrations and called for the finest dishes including Roast Mutton, Pork or Turkey, Boiled Beef, Stewed Rabbits, Plum Pudding and Mince Pies. Baked good were plentiful and cooks were especially prized for their dessert-making skills.
Most evening meals were served in courses with raw or baked Oysters a popular appetizer. The second course featured cream soups or plain bouillon along with a serving of baked or broiled fish.
The main course, usually roasted poultry, pork or beef, accompanied by a variety of savory vegetables, fresh baked bread, and frequently some pasta, was presented by the serving maid in grand fashion and to the great delight of those seated around the table.
The dessert course featured several puddings, cakes and highly prized specialities such as Nesselrode and Plum Pudding. Of course a variety of cheeses and fresh fruit were often served when available.
Wine would be served at the end of each course. Madeira and sherry after. A glass of hock after white fish or claret and port after salmon. Following entrees chilled champagne, a favourite with the ladies, might be served.
But it wasn't all alcohol in the Victorian home. Lemonade, root beer, hot tea and, yes, Perrier that had recently being introduced, were all popular beverages.
Yes, the Victorians loved to eat and drink. We have them to thank for a long running tradition of good food served with gusto and a pint of beer!
Sources L. Jackson, The Victorian Dictionary, 29 Sept 2005, <http://www.victorianlondon.org/>