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. (This post is a companion piece to Melina Druga’s WWI Trilogy, Angel of Mercy, Those Left Behind and Adjustment Year, available wherever eBooks are sold.)
Let’s take a look at dinnertime class differences in the 1900s.
The Upper Class Dinner
In affluent households, kitchen staff would take an entire day to plan and prepare elaborate meals which had 11 courses.
The courses were:
- Hors d’oeuvres
- Remove (a choice of meats and side dishes was offered)
- A cold dish
Both women and men changed into evening clothing. Dinner was a formal affair. Men wore tuxedos while women wore evening gowns, jewelry and the latest, stylish hairdo.
Before the meal, the dinner party would gather in a reception room where they might enjoy a cocktail or an aperitif, a mixed drink. When a gong was rung, the party entered 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 plate
- Side plate
- Dinner fork
- Dessert fork
- Dinner knife
- Cheese knife
- Soup spoon
- Dessert spoon
Servants served each course, 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, 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 main dish is very recognizable because it is exactly how meals are served today.
Middle class dinners had three courses:
- Main dish (meat with a vegetable and rice, potatoes, or turnips)
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 as well as meat, a side dish and bread.
Updated: 23 October 2020