Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Excess: Thanksgiving Dinner, 1900

Friday, November 23, 2012
Isabella reporting,

If you are feeling diner's remorse today, rest assured that whatever you ate at your Thanksgiving dinner can't hold a candle to the quantity that prosperous New Yorkers consumed for Thanksgiving in November, 1900.

This is a menu for the holiday dinner from the Park Avenue Hotel, New York. I hope you'll click on the image and enlarge to read the staggering variety of offerings. The traditional turkey is almost lost amidst the two kinds of oysters, suckling pig, larded tenderloin of beef, boiled Kennebec salmon, sweetbreads with trifles, saddle of lamb, potted quail....

Left: Thanksgiving Day Dinner [held by] Park Avenue Hotel, New York, NY, November, 1900. From the Rare Books Division, New York Public Library.

4 comments:

Carol Dent said...

...and how did the ladies stay so slim? Or, perhaps the key is in the word 'stay' ie corsets!

cheryl s. said...

In today's dollars ( and in 1900's dollars) how much would this meal have cost?
Also, in the 1900's, did the upper classes eat a lot of these items routinely? If so, I imagine there would have been quite a lot of problems with gout, stroke, inflamatory issues, heart, diabetes, high cholesterol, gastro-intestinal disorders to name just a few awful things....not that we're doing much better now.....

Connie said...

Oh my goodness! If one could just pick and choose a tiny bite of this and that and this and that. Yummy.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Carol, I'm not sure all the ladies were that slim. In the early photographs and drawings, the young fashionable ladies are on the slender side - but those who are older are definitely being held in check with a whole lot of whalebone.

Cheryl S., I'm afraid I can't answer your question about what this meal would cost in modern dollars, since like many modern "fine dining" menus, there are no prices shown. (Guess even then they're operating on the old "if you have to ask the price you can't afford it" philosophy.)

As for the unhealthiness of the choices - I suspect the Gilded Age crowd was pretty unhealthy by modern standards. In addition to eating a diet that was heavy on meats and rich sauces and light on fresh fruit and vegetables, wealthy New Yorkers would also have been heavy drinkers, and many of the men would have smoked as well. So all of those conditions you mention would definitely have been issues...the main difference between then and now would have been that dining like this was restricted to the upper classes, plus they had the not-very-good excuse of not knowing any better.

Still, I bet there were some yummy things on that groaning board! :)

 
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