The Last Meal on the Titanic

Posted: Wed, Apr 9
Filed under: musings, trivia, , , , , .
Written by: Dave

It was on April 14th, 1912 — almost 100 years ago — when the last meal was served in the first-class dining room on the RMS Titanic.

As we all know, later that night, the ship collided with an iceberg and sank, with the loss of over 1500 lives. Here’s a detailed look at what was on the menu for the first-class passengers.

First Course
Hors D’Oeuvres
Oysters

Second Course
Consommé Olga
Cream of Barley

Consummé Olga is made with a quart of warmed consummé (clear broth, usually beef) and a pint of good port wine. Then julienne a stalk of celery, the white of a leek, the outside only of a small carrot, and soften in butter over low heat. Add a little more consummé and reduce to a glaze, and then finish cooking the vegetables in it. In a tureen, put the glazed vegetables along with julienned gherkins, and the consummé and wine mixture. (Escoffier, 593)

Third Course
Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce, Cucumbers

Mousseline Sauce is a hollandaise sauce that’s fortified with whipped cream. (Escoffier, 92)

Fourth Course
Filet Mignons Lili
Sauté of Chicken, Lyonnaise
Vegetable Marrow Farci

Tournedos Lili are seasoned steak fillets fried in butter, then arranged to form a crown, each on a crust of Potatoes Anna (basically, layered potato slices, generously buttered and baked in a hot oven for 30 minutes; Escoffier 2203), and then topped with an artichoke bottom, garnished with a slice of foie gras, and then topped with a slice of truffle, and served with a Périgueux sauce (Madiera wine, reduced veal stock, and chopped truffle; Escoffier, 47). In other words, this dish is gilding a lilly. (Escoffier, 1101)

Sauce Lyonnaise is a relatively simple sauce in comparison, flavored with sauteed diced onion, and equal parts white wine and vinegar, reduced to a glaze, and added to reduced veal stock (demi-glace). (Escoffier, 43)

Vegetable Marrow Farci is apparently stuffed squash. “Marrow squash, also known as vegetable marrow, is a very large, green summer squash. They are related to zucchini, and can grow to the size of a watermelon. They have a bland flavor, and are frequently stuffed with a meat stuffing.” The “farci” indicates that squash was stuffed. (source)

Fifth Course
Lamb, Mint Sauce
Roast Duckling, Apple Sauce
Sirloin of Beef, Chateau Potatoes
Green Peas
Creamed Carrots
Boiled Rice
Parmentier & Boiled New Potatoes

Chateau Potatoes are potatoes cut to the shape of olives, then cooked gently in clarified butter until golden and very soft, and sprinkled with parsley just before serving. (Escoffier, 2208)

Parmentier Potatoes is a pureed potato soup garnished with crouton and chervil, but it can also be served more like runny mashed potatoes. (Escoffier, 658)

Sixth Course
Punch Romaine

Punch à la Romaine is a mixture of dry white wine or champagne and a simple sugar syrup, plus the juices of two oranges and two lemons, with a bit of their zest, steeped for one hour. Strained and frozen, then mixed with a sweet meringue and then fortified with rum. It’s served like a sherbet, and acts as a palette cleanser. (Escoffier, 2932)

Seventh Course
Roast Squab & Cress

Squab is actually pigeon. Escoffier says, “Young pigeons are not very highly esteemed by gourmets, and this is more particularly to be regretted, since when the birds are of excellent quality, they are worthy of the best tables.”

Eighth Course
Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette

Ninth Course
Pate de Foie Gras
Celery

Tenth Course
Waldorf Pudding
Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly
Chocolate & Vanilla Eclairs
French Ice Cream

Escoffier has nothing to say about Waldorf Pudding, but research on the net turns up several improvised recipes (1, 2, 3), none of which are authentic. They involve essential ingredients based on the famous Waldorf Salad, which has apples, walnuts and raisins, but I can’t help but suspect that these guesses may be off course. While it’s true that the one of the more common recipes that the Waldorf Astoria is known for is the salad, there’s no reason to conclude that these are the only ingredients that could possibly be in a dessert named after it. Update, 4/28/08 : I found some old cookbooks online that list recipes for Waldorf Pudding. One has apples, the other one doesn’t. Read all about it.

Each of the 10 courses was served with a special accompanying wine. Following the tenth course, fresh fruits and cheeses were available followed by coffee and cigars accompanied by port and, if desired, distilled spirits.

You may also be interested in reading about what some of the other passengers on the Titanic were eating that night. Also, more information on the elusive recipe for Waldorf Pudding.

(A note about the Escoffier notation : The description of recipes listed here are taken from The Escoffier Cookbook : A Guide to the Fine Art of French Cuisine, by Auguste Escoffier. It is the defacto standard for french haute cuisine, and lists the 2,984 recipes contained in its pages numerically, and that is the number I give after each recipe.)

Comments so far ...

  • Is the menu pictured real, and, if so, how was it obtained? Or is it a facsimile based on research? In any event, it doesn’t seem to match your pacing exactly. For one, the menu lists “lamb, meat sauce” and not “mint sauce.” For another, the spacing seems to suggest that what you list as separate courses are in fact additional options for the same course — especially with respect to the savory and dessert courses. It seems to be a more sane six courses rather than ten.

    Chris — Mon, Apr 14 @ 9:53 am


  • Chris : the menu shown was just something I got off google images. Here’s another version of it. Here’s a notice about how only three copies survive, and one of which sold at auction in 2004 for a record price. As for the breakdown of the courses, I started with a list I found elsewhere on the net,and they broke it down into ten courses. Here’s another page that breaks down a similar Titanic meal to 11 courses. It’s open for debate, I guess. And you’re absolutely right about the meat/mint sauce. I’ve corrected it in the text. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Dave (Author)— Mon, Apr 14 @ 11:40 am


  • Given that the Titanic was sailing from Liverpool, and White Star Lines was (as far as I know) largely English-owned, wouldn’t ‘Vegetable Marrow Farcie’ be more likely to be stuffed vegetable marrow?

    Steve — Mon, Apr 14 @ 2:57 pm


  • Vegetable marrow farci is more likely NOT beef marrow but the actual vegetable marrow (think very large zucchini) stuffed with something.

    Your second link clearly shows mint, not meat sauce, on the lamb.

    I think the boiled potatoes are served with the parmentier as a sauce.

    Beth — Mon, Apr 14 @ 2:57 pm


  • Holy smokes, it does say “Mint sauce.” Now I don’t know what to believe. And you guys are right about vegetable marrow, though I’ve never heard of it referred to as that. I changed the entry above to reflect it. Thanks!

    Dave (Author)— Mon, Apr 14 @ 3:43 pm


  • Any idea of the caloric intake on all this? It’s got to be stratospheric.

    Andrew — Mon, Apr 14 @ 9:57 pm


  • Hi Dave – cool!

    However – “Salmon with Mousseline Sauce” isn’t detailed correctly. Mousseline Sauce is Hollandaise sauce, with heavy cream whipped and then added right before serving, but you’re describing Chicken Mousseline, which is a different dish!

    Amy — Mon, Apr 14 @ 10:00 pm


  • Andrew: No way to figure out the caloric count since we don’t know the serving sizes.

    Amy: You’re absolutely right. Another blunder. Thanks for the correction.

    Dave (Author)— Mon, Apr 14 @ 11:46 pm


  • Not sure whether it’s okay to plug an exhibition in the comments but I just saw the Titanic exhibit at the Tropicana in Vegas and it was fascinating. Lots of artifacts on display, including typical menus for 1st 2nd and 3rd class meal services, as well as the china and flatware.

    Kind of humbling to see the wall with the names of all the lost souls on it, and even more humbling to think that it was 96 years ago…well, right about now.

    harry — Tue, Apr 15 @ 1:32 am


  • The Escoffier book you reference is actually the shorter version. The main book is The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cooking. There is a significant difference between the content of the two.

    Silverbrow — Tue, Apr 15 @ 6:31 am


  • Hi, from the presentation, and if that works like in a french restaurant, you can assume that guest could choose within agroup of meals : it was Hors d’oeuvres variés OR oysters OR consommé Olga etc. Same with other groups. A pretty big and lengthy dinner, but quite balanced and reasonable (in terms of calories) if the servings are not too big. And they usually aren’t.

    But that mean five courses, not ten.

    About the Parmentier : it is usually mashed potatoes over mashed and seasoned beef : but you don’t use new potatoes for that (too starchy). So I’m a bit clueless…

    marc — Tue, Apr 15 @ 6:44 am


  • I finally found the listing where I grabbed the original text for the menu, including the “mint sauce” reference and the breakdown of 10 courses, for what it’s worth. Thanks for everyone who has helped refine my original post.

    Dave (Author)— Tue, Apr 15 @ 7:53 am


  • If I had eaten all that I would have sunk on my own!

    Perley J. Thibodeau — Tue, Apr 15 @ 12:53 pm


  • Hi, Marc,
    not strictly true about the Parmentier, your refering to the the English Cottage pie or French Haché Parmentier, that would be your seasoned mince beef with potatoe puree on top. Always use old season pots, waxy potatoes mash up like glue ( it is kinda really a winter dish). By the way to all the calorie questions; does it matter? All that food was prepared fresh using NO convenience junk or additives one finds in food today. In those days food was art and not industry. Classical food rocks!
    I learnt how to cook this way as a professional, shame nobody cooks like it anymore.

    kevs — Tue, Apr 15 @ 4:54 pm


  • This is indeed a ten course menu as per Escoffier – the fish course is in the proper place, as is the salade, preceeding the savoury. There does seem to be some confusion regarding the Pommes Parmentier – these are peeled potatoes, cut into cubes and pan-fried in butter. Parmentier introduced potatoes to France and championed their cultivation and use, and over time, all manner of dishes that include potatoes have been identified as “Parmentier”. My memory is strained – and I may be corrected – but I believe Waldorf pudding is simply, well, rice pudding with raisins.

    This is pretty much a drive-by comment, but I did appreciate your instructions for seasoning a cast iron pan. Everything you said is absolutely correct – you are obviously a very good cook. When I began my apprenticeship we used blue steel almost exclusively in the kitchen. When we got a new batch of pans they were seasoned in the manner you’ve described but then were never, ever washed. After each use we would dump a scoop of salt into them and scrub them clean in a couple of quick, circular motions with a kitchen towel. The salt was then dumped into a bucket and the pan went back on the stove.

    As a final aside, if anyone wishes to see an extraordinary French menu from the late 1700’s prepared with period equipment and correct technique, consider the movie “Babette’s Feast“. It also gives considerable insight as to why the culinary arts are, in fact, art.

    Rick Webster — Tue, Apr 15 @ 8:06 pm


  • That is an insane amount of food. It makes me wonder what the crew ate in comparison.

    sherry — Sun, Apr 20 @ 10:30 am


  • I helped cook a recreation of this meal for the Midwest Culinary Institute a few years back. Helpful was a book called LAST DINNER ON THE TITANIC. We have a Certified Master Chef who guided us to preparing the meal as accurately as we could.

    It was an amazing, exhausting, delicious experience!

    Drew Vogel — Sun, Apr 20 @ 1:18 pm


  • Drew : Were you guys able to find an authentic recipe for Waldorf Pudding?

    Dave (Author)— Sun, Apr 20 @ 1:28 pm


  • Wow there are some hard-core commenters on here, they don’t let you get away with anything huh? Cool post Dave, really interesting way to personalise the tragedy.

    Eater's Regret — Tue, Apr 22 @ 5:24 am


  • I just located this webpage through Google.

    I have located a webpage that does not seem to be referenced here that gives even more information and a recipe for Waldorf salad.

    I am happy to share it here.
    http://www.euronet.nl/users/keesree/food.htm

    Dana

    dana — Sat, Feb 28 @ 4:02 am


  • wow so they had 10 courses!!!

    atrid — Wed, Mar 18 @ 4:50 pm


  • very cool… im doing a food pairing in culinary school and wanted to go a little outside the box with the set up of the tasting and saw this… calling the event “The last night” thanks for the info and ill be sure to mark this in my paper

    culkid23 — Fri, May 1 @ 4:19 pm


  • Has anyone done some side-by-side comparisions of this first-class Titanic dinner menu with menus from other ships of the same era (1910-1913), particularly Cunard or North German Lloyd?  A common refrain in many Titanic books is that this meal surpassed what competitors served their first-class passengers, but as of yet, I can’t really justify that statement.  I have looked at some menus, but they seem to be from earlier in the 1900s. 

    Also, does anyone know of an authoritative source where I might find information on whether the French haute cuisine menu was in the process of being simplified or streamlined by 1912?  I have one, a cookbook by “Wyvern”, but only one.  Other suggestions?  Is it possible that the Titanic menu was an example of excess that was actually less fashionable than what Titanic authors say?

    Thanks so much for this fantastic site and the very interesting posts!

    Andrea Broomfield — Sun, Jun 7 @ 11:02 am


  • you people have to remember that portion sizes were completely different in 1912. it wasnt like today. and they didnt snack all day either! this menu was probably filling (not stuffed) back then.

    alaina — Tue, Dec 1 @ 10:49 pm


  • Does anyone have any idea about a house wine served on the Titanic?  It seems I once saw it listed but am unable to locate it now.  If it is still in production I am eager to get several bottles.

    Sherry Westmoreland — Fri, Jan 29 @ 6:14 pm


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