Holidays and fine dining seem to always go together. They are a time for family gatherings and lavish entertainment. It’s the holiday party season! Our Victorian forefathers were no different. Their idea of the most elegant and fancy foods, however, was not exactly the same. In fact, some of the ideas were a little scary!
The meal might begin with exotic oer d’oevres of gallantines of turkey (boiled and thinly sliced), or better yet for the more affluent, a gallantine of flamingo served with mayonaise. These tasty tidbits might be enjoyed with hot spiced wine or a champagne cobbler (heavily diluted with sugar, water and garnished with fruit).
If that wasn’t enough to scare one off, the different dinner courses could provide quite a challenge for the less daring or experienced.
The first course might include sheep trotters – a forerunner to a salad, they are exactly what they sound like – parboiled and skinned sheep’s feet. If you prefer something a little crunchier, there were calf ear fritters – shaved and deep fried. For the protein conscious, there was always a variety of brain balls – also exactly as it sounds.
The fish course would most certainly include jellied eels – boiled eel in fish flavored jelly. What’s not to like?
For the meat courses, the variety might include soused pig’s face, boiled and served with mustard, or beef and lark pie. Six larks had to be allotted for each guest. The larks were stuffed with bread crumbs, suet and herbs bound with egg yolks and then combined with bits of beef, covered with a puff pastry and baked. Not excessively horrible unless you invited bird fanciers to dinner! The roast turkey, as we know it, was for the poorer classes. Pity! The less affluent also enjoyed pickled oysters and Windsor brown soup (basically brown gravy).
For dessert there was spinach ice cream, which was actually a custard with boiled spinach blended in. Healthy!
For those who preferred something a little more spicy (and expensive), there was foi gras ice cream. This involved lining a duck- shaped mold with cayenne pepper ice cream and filling it with foi gras. No wonder many Victorians were portly and died early. Could one just take one bite?
It would prove a daunting task to replicate such an elaborate feast (thank goodness!) , but to our Victorian forefathers – bon appetite!