Menu of the Week: Aboard the RMS Oceanic, 1900
In 1900, the RMS Oceanic, which had its maiden voyage the previous year, was the largest ship in the world. Built by the White Star Line, which would become infamous after the sinking of their Titanic 12 years later, the 704 foot-long ship would remain the world’s largest until 1901. A ride on this ship was an exercise is opulence and luxury, and a menu found on the New York Public Library’s online archive makes it clear that the food served certainly fit the bill.
A meal served on February 12th, 1900 began with caviar on toast, celery, puree of chicken (probably more similar to a mousse), and petite marmite, which is basically consommé with beef and vegetables. Up next came hake in a spicy sauce, mutton cutlets in tomato sauce, and squab pie. For the main event, servers brought out beef (probably prime rib) with baked potatoes and horseradish, capon with macaroni in cream sauce, and boiled mutton with vegetables and caper sauce. Turn-of-the-century folks sure liked their mutton!
On the side was Brussels sprouts, sea kale (also known as krambe), rice, croquettes, and boiled potatoes. And just when you thought the meal was over, out came the duck, with port wine sauce and fried hominy. Then came the salad (which was actually eaten at the end of the meal back then, as the roughage aided digestion), followed by orange pudding, apple dumplings, baba au rhum, and Neapolitan ice cream for dessert. Why they thought this would also be a good time to serve herring on toast is beyond me.
As for the Oceanic, it met a rather ignoble end in 1914, just as the British were beginning to get entrenched in WWI and mere weeks before it was slated to be converted into a naval vessel. Thanks to some grossly incompetent navigation, it crashed into a reef and sunk two weeks later. Everyone on the ship was rescued, and the last man off was ironically First Officer Charles Lightoller, who two years earlier also survived the sinking of Titanic.