After inadvertently choosing a very popular weekend for events, we made a party of four men and me, your hostess. The men donned their mid 19th century attire and headed out for hiking, swimming, and a Tall Tales competition that left everyone in stitches with laughter.
Of course, the men would need sustenance and I was happy to oblige.
I had read previously on how the menu composition differed in the mid 19th century and began looking into how menu composition might change with all masculine company verses a mixed one.
A first stop was Jennie June's American Cookery Book by Jane Cunningham Crowly, 1870.
On Friday, for supper, I used this as an inspiration for composing a menu. With only four people dining, the full spread would be too much, so I took a poll on what they'd most like to see. A few meat items were unavailable, so that prompted a few more tweaks. We decided on the following:
For breakfast, I turned to the hotels and public dining houses. A fair few may be found in the online collections of the New York Public Library and the University of Houston Library. Again, we needed fewer items and had to tweak some unavailable items. Our breakfast on Saturday included the following:
Here's a coupla photos of breakfast in progress.
The sausage, fried mush, and eggs were a hit. All were in a food coma that required a long rest before heading out on a hike.
The gents made themselves useful by helping to clear away the dishes. They were very good about this throughout the weekend, for which I was grateful.
With breakfast out of the way, the gents filled their satchels with luncheon and headed out on a hike.
For luncheon I chose portable items that are often considered appropriate for picnics. This is what was on offer.
Cooking the Dinner was an all-day endeavor. I began after the luncheon was set out.
I knew I wanted an opportunity to showcase the dining styles of mid 19th century America. Events such as this were attended by gents of means and society, if an intellectual bent; so, offering an appropriate sit-down dining experience allowed the menfolk to learn a bit of social history in a fun way.
For the menu composition, I was inspired by menus given in Chef Francatelli's work The Modern Cook (Charles Elme Francatelli, 1859).
I included several American inspirations of international dishes in my selections, as this is a special interest of mine (one of many.)
This is our finalized menu.
Likewise a few items were unavailable, so substitutions were made.
I was excited to try campfire cooking because I was new at it. I can't do things by halves, so I jumped right in. I usually need to convert a receipt to modern cooking methods, but these receipts were written for fire-based cooking. It went much faster than I anticipated. I even had enough time for a quick nap and to move up dinner by an hour. I'll detail a few key receipts in future posts.
With cooking complete, it was time to set up and serve.
The key to efficient dinner service is an organized sideboard and precise table-setting. Here's a few photos of the sideboard, table, and a rare photo of Wolfie herself.
At this point I changed up into my service dress, the gents changed into their dinner suits, and I guided them through the meal. We toasted the honoree and let the food settle.
Many comments were made about loosening waistbands and how spoiled they felt to have such a splendid meal. They considered how different mid 19th century dinners were from modern dinners and how they were unprepared for the variety of foods in a dinner. They commented they took too large of portions in the first course and were disappointed not to have room for the good food in later courses.
Then the men formed an assembly line to clean the many, many dishes.
I was ready for some pain relief and sleep.
On Sunday, we began with a breakfast similar to Saturday, with a few changes to keep things interesting.
Again, the appreciation for the weekend of meals was expressed with ever more creative adjectives.
For the collection of receipts used for this event, I formed an online booklet you may explore here.
Photo credit goes to John Payne and N.W. Briggs, with thanks.