In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, meal time was a big deal. For the poor, it was a matter of survival, but for the upper classes, it was an event unto itself.
Let’s take a look at dinnertime class differences in the 1900s.
The Upper Class Dinner
In affluent households, kitchen staff would take all day planning and preparing elaborate meals which could have 11 courses. Those courses were:
- Hors d’oeuvres
- The Remove, a choice of meats and side dishes was offered
- A cold dish
Both women and men changed their clothes before dinner. Dinner was a formal affair, so men wore tuxedos and women wore evening gowns and jewelry while sporting the latest stylish hairdo.
After changing, the dinner party would gather in a reception room where they might enjoy a cocktail or aperitif, a mixed drink. When a gong was rung, the dinner party would enter the dining room.
The dining room table would have been set before the diners arrived. The place setting included:
- Champagne glass
- Red wine glass
- White wine glass
- Dinner plates
- Side plate
- Dinner fork
- Dessert fork
- Dinner knife
- Cheese knife
- Soup spoon
- Dessert spoon
Meals were served by servants who went from diner to diner, offering dishes from a person’s left. A fresh glass of water was served between each wine.
After dinner, women and men often retreated to different rooms. The women drank coffee while the men drank alcohol and smoked cigars and played cards.
The Middle Class Dinner
While the upper class was characterized by opulence, the middle class was characterized by its adoption of Victorian ideals – working hard, duty, prayer and love of country. Nonetheless, their meals are very recognizable because the main course is exactly like the meals served today.
Middle class dinners had three courses:
- Main dishes, meat with a vegetable and rice, potatoes, turnips or another side
After dinner, coffee was served.
The Working Class Tea
For the working class, the heaviest meal of the day was the midday meal. The evening meal was what the English called “tea”. It did include tea, instead of coffee, as well as meat, a side dish and bread.
Would you have been able to sit through an 11 course dinner? Leave a comment below.
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