Tess on the Town: Titanic menu an elaborate meal

The first-class passengers aboard the RMS Titanic, not knowing it likely would be their last meal, supped and drank in regal fashion on April 14, 1912.

Later that night, the supposedly unsinkable luxury cruise ship went down in the north Atlantic after hitting an iceberg, killing 1,514 people.

A menu of the last meal served to the industrialists and dilettantes numbered among the first-class passengers recently sold for more than a $100,000 at a British auction house.

The menu was on the table of Dr. Washington Dodge, a prominent banker from San Francisco who was traveling with his wife and son, according to the British Broadcasting Corp. The menu was in the purse of Mrs. Ruth Dodge when she escaped the sinking ship on a lifeboat. She and her son survived the tragedy and the menu stayed in the family until recently.

The last meal of the doomed passengers featured over 40 options in total over several courses, including eggs Argenteuil (poached eggs with asparagus), consommé fermier, galatine of chicken, grilled mutton chops, Stilton cheese, chicken a la Maryland (fried chicken with cream gravy) and iced draught Munich lager.

A little more research shows what the second- and third-class passengers aboard the Titanic had on their menus.

Exhibits at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia, show the second tier of passengers didn’t eat too shabbily.

On that menu were roast turkey with cranberry sauce, baked haddock and spring lamb with mint sauce. It was topped off with plum pudding, assorted nuts and cheeses, American ice cream and coffee.

The foodstuffs quickly devolved when it got to third-class passengers. Offerings on the breakfast and lunch menu included porridge, tripe and onions, bread, potatoes and ling fish.

And, drum roll please, the supper menu for the poor doomed souls in third class was gruel and cabin biscuits.

The Halifax museum doesn’t feature menus from the people traveling on the Titanic in steerage. What did they subsist on, leftover gruel from third class?

The one constant on the menus of all strata of society on the Titanic is herring. Whether salted, smoked, pickled or creamed, the oily little fish was on all three menus, so I’m guessing the people of that era loved their herring.

The whole subject of the Titanic menu made me wonder what people would choose for their last supper, so I asked around. Some people had to mull the question for awhile and others blurted out their choice immediately.

Here are some surprising answers:

■ “My mudda’s lasagna,” said an Italian guy, whose “mudda” is from Naples, Italy.

■ “Chicken or turkey, whichever takes the longest,” said the pragmatist, finally settling on a full Thanksgiving blowout, thereby forestalling the end by eight hours.

■ “Beef Wellington at Bon Ton Restaurant in Ouray.”

■ “Ribs and lobster.”

■ “Can I order off the kids’ menu?”

■ “A martini.”

■ “Homemade, unbaked pie dough slathered with melted butter, sugar and cinnamon,” one Kansas gal chose, remembering the treat she and her grandmother shared on their Kansas farm. Maybe it’s a Kansas thing, or, maybe just maybe an inherited trait.

■ “Oysters on the half shell with Saltine crackers, horseradish sauce and a cold beer consumed on the deck of a marina restaurant on the Gulf Coast.”

■ “A huge platter of King crab legs, shrimp and lobster,” said the guy who developed an allergy to shellfish later in life. Apparently, he wants to spend his last moments scratching like an ape.

■ “Duck from Twin Owls restaurant in Estes Park,” one man said. Minutes later he came back and said, “If you’re going to use my name, change mine to my wife’s pea soup.” Good answer.

QUOTE: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ...” said male Titanic passenger while climbing a staircase to the stern as the ship is about to sink.

“You want to walk a little faster through that valley there?” Jack responds. — “Titanic,” the movie

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