Although it sunk over 100 years ago (April 15, 1912, to be exact) people today are very familiar with the RMS Titanic, and her fateful maiden voyage. First, there was the release of the blockbuster film Titanic in 1997, and just recently, Australian billionaire Clive Palmer announced he’s planning to build a full-scale replica for launch in 2018 —keeping the subject fresh in everyone’s minds.
But although the story — both the true and fictional ones — are common knowledge, some of the finer details are not. For instance, what did they eat onboard? What were the differences between meals and between the economic classes? Clearly, in the movie, Jack and Rose’s accommodations and dining experiences were vastly different from each other, but how accurate was this?
On that note, let’s examine what the folks on the original Titanic really did eat — from the luxurious upper-deck dining rooms all the way down to steerage — during their journey, as well as what was, for all too many, their last meal.
Third Class — Breakfast
Those staying in the lowest class onboard weren’t simply fed the crumbs of the rich, but actually had decent meals put together (the Titanic was a luxury cruise liner, after all). To start the day, something light like oatmeal porridge was served, along with smoked herring and jacket (i.e., baked) potatoes, ham and eggs, fresh bread and butter (or marmalade), Swedish bread, and tea and coffee to drink.
Second Class — Breakfast
In contrast to the practice in third class, where only one menu was released each day containing all of the meals served, the second and first classes had a different menu for each sitting. For breakfast, according to an April 11 menu, fruit, rolled oats, and boiled hominy was served along with a large range of options that included fresh fish, Yarmouth bloaters (herring), grilled ox kidneys and bacon, American dry hash au gratin, grilled sausage and mashed potatoes, grilled ham and fried eggs, and fried potatoes. For bread, Vienna rolls (also called Kaiser rolls) and graham rolls, soda scones, and buckwheat cakes with maple syrup were offered, as was conserve, marmalade, watercress, and coffee and tea.
(The menu from the Titanic’s last first class lunch. AP)
First Class — Breakfast
Welcome to first class, where passengers receive the best food and the largest selections, as evidence by the surviving menus. On April 11, the selection included baked apples, fresh fruit, stewed prunes, Quaker (name brand!) oats, boiled hominy, puffed rice, fresh herring, Finnan haddock, smoked salmon, grilled mutton kidneys and bacon, grilled ham, grilled sausage, lamb collops, vegetable stew, eggs (fried, shirred, poached, or boiled), plain and tomato omelettes to order, sirloin steak and mutton chops to order, potatoes (mashed, sautéed, or jacket), cold meat, Vienna and graham rolls, soda and sultan scones, corn bread, buckwheat cakes, black currant conserve, Narbonne honey, Oxford marmalade, and watercress.
Third Class — Supper
At the end of the day, supper was served in third class, and the menu options look a lot more like most people would expect from a steerage supper. Gruel (a thin porridge made of cereal — oat, wheat, rye, or rice — boiled in water or milk) was the April 14 option, along with cabin biscuits and cheese.
Second Class — Dinner
According to an April 14 menu, there were plenty of delicious dinner options available in the second class. Consommé and tapioca were the starters, followed by baked haddock in sharp sauce, curried chicken and rice, spring lamb with mint sauce, or roast turkey and cranberry sauce. The sides consisted of green peas, puréed turnips, boiled rice, or boiled and roast potatoes, and dessert was plum pudding, wine jelly, coconut sandwiches, American ice cream, assorted nuts, fresh fruit, cheese, biscuits, and coffee.
First Class — Dinner
Of course, the best offerings were saved for dinner. In first class, one could expect only the finest dishes, such as the ones found on April 14 dinner menu. It included various hors d’oeuvres, oysters, consommé Olga, cream of barley soup, salmon with mousseline sauce and cucumber, filet mignons Lili, sauté of chicken lyonnais, vegetable marrow farcie, lamb with mint sauce, roast duckling and apple sauce, sirloin of beef, château potatoes, green peas, creamed carrots, boiled rice, boiled new potatoes, punch Romaine, roast squab and cress, cold asparagus vinaigrette, pâté de foie gras, celery, Waldorf pudding, peaches in chartreuse jelly, chocolate and vanilla éclairs, and French ice cream (as opposed to the American variety served in second class).