It wasn’t the menu. I had the menu all set, complete with all the courses that my handy-dandy cookbook suggested—A Matter of History compiled by Living History Farms in Urbandale Iowa. The museum has on it an old 1870 Victorian mansion called the Flynn Mansion, and the book has a sample Victorian dinner menu, complete with 9 courses. You’ll find other less extensive menus on the internet or in books. I chose, however, to try the 9 course meal as one that would have been served, I believe, at a formal dinner.
Roast—————————Roasted Sirloin of Beef
Ices to cleanse pallet
Fruits and Nuts/Coffee
And so, I had my appetizers—shrimp for me, and yes, my husband brought home oysters. Had the soup—French onion—fish—filet of sole—entrée—stuffed artichokes—roast—steak—ices—citrus—game—duck—dessert—burnt orange cream. Now these foods are hardly Victorian recipes, but they do follow the plan. Also, I added the side dishes with the courses—potatoes and veggies (which are included in the meal, not as a course). By the time we’d finished the artichokes, we were completely full. We ate a little of the steak, but just stared at the duck. I never even cooked the veggies or, for that matter, the burnt orange crème. (a sort of crème brulee).
The next night—we didn’t even cook half of the second night’s menu. And again, never got to the dessert at all. We ate the previous night’s duck for lunch. My sons came home on Sunday and ate the leftovers for dinner. The rack of lamb (second night’s roast course) will be dinner tonight. All in all, 2 night’s dinners were enough to feed four people for 4 nights, and still have leftovers.
How on earth did they eat so much?
I suppose all the servings were very small—one appetizer, one fish fillet, a slice of duck, a slice of roast beef/lamb, etc. The ices, from what I understand, were just a tablespoon or so. To today’s American eyes each course would probably have looked very small, but when added together, the calorie consumption would probably have been pretty darned large for just one meal. Which will bring me to my next posting—The rotund Victorians.
In the meantime there are a few different sites you can visit to find more “authentic” Victorian menus:
This site give you an idea of the dinner service: http://www.civilization.ca/hist/cadeau/cavic01e.html
You’ll see they added a salad course—pretty late in the Victorian period—but skipped the appetizers and the entrée.
A Victorian Christmas feast, which skips the appetizer and puts the fish and soup courses together, and drops the ices into the dessert course.
Which distinguishes between courses and removes, and will tell you about the different wines.
A “simple” seven course meal, which excludes the entrée altogether.
Source: A matter of history; a cookbook by Living History Farms.