Last meals on Titanic were culinary spectacle
Published Friday, April 13, 2012 11:02AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 8:01AM EDT
For Titanic's wealthiest passengers, sitting down to a meal was nothing short of a culinary spectacle in those first, happy days crossing the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912.
"Food was really, really important on the Titanic," food historian Michele Shirlow said on Friday from Belfast, Ireland.
"These people were paying an awful lot of money in first class. But even in steerage, or third-class, I can tell you people were well fed," she said.
Shirlow shared rare details about the Titanic's kitchens and its culinary staff with Canada AM co-hosts Marci Ien and Jeff Hutcheson in Belfast on Friday.
According to Shirlow, the 269-metre-long ship boasted two kitchens.
The first kitchen whipped up the fine culinary fare served to first class and second class passengers. A separate kitchen was used prepare simple fare for Titanic's third-class passengers.
That service, in itself, was a breakthrough for maritime travel according to Shirlow.
"Before the Titanic, third-class passengers brought a picnic for six days. They didn't get any food," said Shirlow.
The fare they ate was humble, as Hutcheson discovered when he sampled some dishes recreated by a local Belfast chef.
Irish porridge, baked potatoes and creamed rice pudding with a humble dollop of jam were among the meals served to Titanic's poorest passengers.
Still, Titanic's chefs felt a duty to serve the best meals possible to every passenger, according to Shirlow
With a chef poached from one of London's best restaurants, the Titanic's 80-member kitchen staff toiled around the clock to prepare 6,000 meals a day.
Indeed, the Titanic embarked on its maiden voyage stocked with 75,000 lbs of fresh meat, 40,000 eggs, 11,000 lbs of fresh fish, 40 tons of potatoes and 7,000 heads of lettuce.
There were also four restaurants on board to serve passengers.
First-class passengers, for example, dined in a restaurant that was 114-feet long and spanned the full width of the ship. Seating 532 passengers at once, this restaurant was the largest ever seen in 1912 on a Trans-Atlantic vessel.
By contrast, third-class passengers ate in a modest dining room on the Middle Deck.
Titanic's chefs also served numerous dishes at every meal, particularly to its upscale passengers according to Shirlow.
These wealthy travellers supped on an 11-course menu that included such refined fare as foie gras terrine with hazelnut macaroon, apple and fig chutney; guinea fowl terrine and cured wild salmon; a Mojito sorbet to cleanse the palette, and a wide array of scrumptious desserts.
Ien was treated to recreations of these dishes, many of which were once listed on the ship's first-class menus. Presented like works of art, each dish conjured up thoughts of happier days on board the liner before it struck and iceberg and went to its watery grave on April 15, 1912.
Still, one culinary mystery still remains about the Titanic.
"There was an à la carte restaurant on board," said Shirlow.
"We don't actually know what was served there. The à la carte menu never survived," she said.