Apr 142014

Der Untergang der Titanic

On this date in 1912 the passenger liner R.M.S. Titanic hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic at 23:40 and sank early the following morning.  Certainly the general events of that night are well known through several (fictionalized) movies as well as websites and documentaries, and need not be repeated here.  Instead I will focus on the passengers’ last meals, in all classes.  Sometimes on this date (particularly on major anniversaries) people like to make a “Titanic dinner.”  But they usually focus on the first class menu for the elite. I would like to take a broader view and look at the menus in all classes.  Fortunately, the dinner menus for all classes for the night of 14 April 1912 survive, as do some details of the various dining salons.

Before I venture into the foodie aspect of the Titanic, though, I would like to pay tribute to the eight musicians who drowned that night and who valiantly played to calm the passengers as the ship sank. Three of them played that night in the first class dining saloon for the passengers’ last meal aboard.


The ship’s eight-member orchestra boarded at Southampton and traveled as second-class passengers. They were not on the payroll of the White Star Line, but were contracted to White Star by the Liverpool firm of C.W. & F.N. Black, who placed musicians on almost all British liners. Until the night of the sinking, the orchestra performed as two separate entities: a quintet led by violinist and official bandleader Wallace Hartley, along with John Clarke (double bass), John Hume (violin), Percy Taylor (cello), and John Woodward (cello), that played at teatime, after-dinner concerts, and Sunday services, among other occasions; and the violin, cello, and piano trio of Roger Bricoux, George Krins and Theodore Brailey, that played at the À La Carte Restaurant and the Café Parisien.

After the Titanic hit an iceberg and began to sink, Hartley and his fellow band members started playing music to help keep the passengers calm as the crew loaded the lifeboats. Many of the survivors said that he and the band continued to play until the very end. One second class passenger said:

Many brave things were done that night, but none were more brave than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea. The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame.

This is their memorial at Southampton.


Much is made of the menu in the first class à la carte dining saloon on the night in question because the menu survives.  It was a typical upper class Edwardian blowout night after night.  Ten sumptuous courses.  This is an original menu which you can click on to read, or read it here (laid out in courses):



First Course

Hors D’Oeuvres


Second Course

Consommé Olga

Cream of Barley

Third Course

Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce, Cucumbers

Fourth Course

Filet Mignons Lili

Sauté of Chicken, Lyonnaise

Vegetable Marrow Farci

Fifth Course

Lamb, Mint Sauce

Roast Duckling, Apple Sauce

Sirloin of Beef, Chateau Potatoes

Green Pea

Creamed Carrots

Boiled Rice

Parmentier & Boiled New Potatoes

Sixth Course

Punch Romaine

Seventh Course

Roast Squab & Cress

Eighth Course

Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette

Ninth Course

Pate de Foie Gras


Tenth Course

Waldorf Pudding

Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly

Chocolate & Vanilla Eclairs

French Ice Cream

There is no record of the actual recipes but period recipes are not hard to find.  The first-class passengers had several dining options but the à la carte saloon is the only one whose details survive.

The second- and third-class menus are less often discussed but many of them survive, including those on the fateful night.  They are reported in, The Titanic For Dummies by Stephen J. Spignesi. Both classes had separate dining rooms and kitchens with the type of food served based on the class of the ticket.

In the second-class dining saloon, located on the Saloon (D) deck, diners ate at large rectangular tables, often with strangers. The saloon provided starched white linen tablecloths and napkins. It could hold 394 diners, that is, the entire compliment of second-class passengers in one sitting.  The diners sat in swivel chairs fastened to the floor, the idea being for the chairs to swivel and offset the rocking of the ship.  The diners had a few choices but, of course they were more limited than in first class, and more basic.  This is the menu on the night of 14 April 1912


First course

Consommé with tapioca

Second course

Baked haddock with sharp sauce

Curried chicken and rice

Spring lamb with mint sauce

Roast turkey with savory cranberry sauce

Green peas; puree turnips; boiled rice; boiled and roast potatoes

Third course

Plum pudding

Wine jelly

Coconut sandwich

American Ice Cream

Assorted nuts, fresh fruit, cheese, biscuits

In the third-class dining saloon, located in the Middle (F) deck, diners sat at long tables that could seat 20. They hung their hats, coats, and scarves on hooks attached to the walls. The saloon was large and spare. It could seat 473, which means that two sittings were necessary to accommodate all 710 passengers in third class. This is a photograph of the third-class dining saloon as recreated by the designers of the replica Titanic II.


The food was plain and wholesome with no choices, making it quick to prepare and serve.  By good fortune all three menus from 14 April 1912 have survived. I’m pleased to note they had tripe and onions for breakfast. I am also interested to note that this dish was fried rather than prepared in a thickened milk sauce as was usual in England at the time.

Breakfast: Oatmeal porridge and milk; vegetable stew; fried tripe and onions; bread and butter; marmalade; Swedish bread; tea; coffee

Lunch: Bouillon soup; roast beef and brown gravy; green beans, boiled; potatoes; cabin biscuits; bread; prunes and rice

Dinner: Rabbit pie; baked potatoes; bread and butter; rhubarb and ginger jam; Swedish bread; tea

Being the egalitarian that I am, I am going to give a recipe for rabbit pie.  There is no telling exactly how it was prepared but Isabella Beeton can come to the rescue again.  Sorry I have no image for you.  I do not have an oven.


981. INGREDIENTS.—1 rabbit, a few slices of ham, salt and white pepper to taste, 2 blades of pounded mace, 1/2 teaspoonful of grated nutmeg, a few forcemeat balls, 3 hard-boiled eggs, 1/2 pint of gravy, puff crust.

Mode.—Cut up the rabbit (which should be young), remove the breastbone, and bone the legs. Put the rabbit, slices of ham, forcemeat balls, and hard eggs, by turns, in layers, and season each layer with pepper, salt, pounded mace, and grated nutmeg. Pour in about 1/2 pint of water, cover with crust, and bake in a well-heated oven for about 1-1/2 hour. Should the crust acquire too much colour, place a piece of paper over it to prevent its burning. When done, pour in at the top, by means of the hole in the middle of the crust, a little good gravy, which may be made of the breast- and leg-bones of the rabbit and 2 or 3 shank-bones, flavoured with onion, herbs, and spices.

Time.—1-1/2 hour. Average cost, from 1s. to 1s. 6d. each.

Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.

Note.—The liver of the rabbit may be boiled, minced, and mixed with the forcemeat balls, when the flavour is liked.

The recipe for forcemeat balls is here https://www.bookofdaystales.com/arthur-conan-doyle/

Jun 022013



BBC announcer

On this date in 1896 Guglielmo Marconi applied for a patent on the wireless transmission of signals, “Improvements in Transmitting Electrical impulses and Signals, and in Apparatus therefor.” As suggested by the title, Marconi did not invent wireless transmission, but his system was the first one that actually functioned effectively. Thus he is considered the father of radio.  His interest at the outset was purely in the realm of long distance wireless telegraphy, which he steadily improved on in the subsequent decade.  He had begun his work in his native Italy but he had trouble getting sponsors there. One letter he sent to the ministry of Post and Telegraphs asking for research money was found later with an annotation on the front that essentially said, “he belongs in an insane asylum.” So he moved to England where he found backers.

Marconi was born in Bologna in 1874, second son of Giuseppe Marconi, an Italian landowner, and his Irish/Scots wife, Annie Jameson, daughter of Andrew Jameson of Daphne Castle in County Wexford, Ireland and granddaughter of John Jameson, founder of whiskey distillers Jameson & Sons.  Marconi was educated privately and spent most of his teen years in physics labs learning from the pioneers of the study of electromagnetic waves, such as Augusto Righi, who laid the foundations for the understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum, and was the first physicist to generate microwaves. These were the very early days of the study of electricity and magnetism and Marconi was in on the ground floor with help from the best.

Once established in England Marconi worked on improvements in his system so that he was able to go from sending a signal a few miles, to sending one across the Atlantic (although his earliest claims at success in this regard are disputed).  He established The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company in 1897 to manufacture wireless telegraphic equipment.  The company, eventually under the Marconi name, survived until 2006 when it was bought out by a Swedish corporation.

The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company had a major hand in developing wireless telegraphy for transatlantic shipping.  It was Marconi equipment and Marconi employees  aboard RMS Titanic that sent out distress signals when the ship hit an iceberg off Newfoundland.  The equipment was actually intended for the use of passengers primarily, but could be used for professional maritime purposes as well.  Marconi took more time than perhaps was necessary to branch out from telegraphy into audio broadcasts, although it can also be said that until he got into the field in 1915 the technology for audio transmissions was barely existent.  The Marconi Company was instrumental in setting up experimental audio broadcasts in 1920 (his first was a transmission of Nellie Melba singing which was heard as far away as Newfoundland). He registered a radio station in 1922 with the call sign 2LO in the Marconi Building in London. This station became the BBC.  Marconi is decidedly dressed down as he broadcasts in comparison with the first BBC  “DJ’s” — as pictured.

Almost from the start of public broadcasting, cooking shows were an intrinsic part of variety programming.  It is generally accepted that the first radio show on cooking was aired in Paris in 1923 featuring  Dr. Édouard de Pomiane, an eminent food scientist at the Institut Pasteur, and devoted foodie.  He hosted a weekly program on Radio-Paris, telling stories of his kitchen experiences and providing recipes suitable for home cooks. As a popular and respected cook, he was arguably the food world’s first media personality. His shows were not just recitals of recipes, but were  sprinkled with humor and anecdotes. Cooking with Pomiane is a cookbook that came out of his broadcasts (still in print). Here is his recipe for Hollandaise Sauce (in translation) taken from the book.  Although I just came across this recipe in researching this post, it is identical with the one I have used with zero failures for decades. Here I was thinking I invented it! I must have been channeling the spirit of the good doctor when I first made Hollandaise for eggs Benedict this way around 1979. It is dead easy and belies the general belief that making Hollandaise is so complicated that it is best left to professionals.  It is also amusing to note that if you search for “Marconi” and “recipe” on the internet, you will come across dozens of recipes for “Marconi and Cheese.” It’s not so much that the typo exists, and is hilarious when you conjure up an image of the dapper Guglielmo snacking on provolone as he operates his radio equipment, but that so many people mindlessly cut and paste other people’s recipes into their own sites without even bothering to check them.

Hollandaise Sauce

Put a spoonful of cold water, a little salt and two yolks of eggs into a small saucepan. Put this little saucepan into a large one containing boiling water, holding the smaller one firmly. Stir quickly, with a fork, the mixture of water and yolk of egg. This begins to thicken. At this moment lift the small saucepan out of the water, add two ounces of butter cut into pieces the size of a nut. Put it back into the hot water. Stir the mixture all the time with a wire beater. The butter melts and the sauce becomes creamy. Lift it out of the water a little. Add two more ounces of butter cut in pieces. Stir. Put it back into the water. The sauce thickens. Keep on stirring. Dip your finger into the sauce. If it burns, lift the saucepan out of the hot water. Stir fifteen seconds more. The sauce is ready. It should be thinner than mayonnaise. It should, however, coat a spoon which you dip in and lift out again. If you like the flavour of lemon, add a few drops at the beginning of the operation, before the butter. You are then much more likely to be successful with your sauce.

I have never succeeded in spoiling a sauce hollandaise. Follow my example.

This sauce is a luxurious accompaniment to boiled fish or tinned asparagus warmed in its own juice.