“I can never understand why God would have spared a poor Finnish girl when all those rich people drowned.“
So April 14 was the 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. I really wanted to mark the event so I invited some friends over for a weekend of eating and dressing up.
I appreciate it seems a little ghoulish, but I find it fascinating. I adore the spender of the ship and the extravagance of the first class passengers areas, juxtaposed with the third class passengers who sold everything they had to get a ticket and go and start a new life in America bunking up with strangers in the simple but sturdy steerage class areas. I am in awe of the mechanics of the Titanic, and that it should have been bigger than anything nature could throw at it, and that it wasn’t. I love the romance of the people on board, enjoying life and planning futures.
Moreover, I love the all too human tales of bravery, of cowardice, of the people that stayed behind together and the people that survived and how it touched everyone regardless of what their ticket said.
One of the things I really wanted to achieve with the weekend was to show the array of food and to really highlight how even the food echoed the inherent backdrop of social class.
As part of their fare, third-class passengers were provided four meals a day, being breakfast, Dinner, Tea and Supper. The provision of food for steerage class was not a new invention, but it was still in its infancy and the food provided on the titanic was considerably grander and heartier than many of its passengers were used to.
The meals were served in two sittings at long rows of tables lined up next to each other, as the two third-class dining saloons could hold only around 475 people. The dining rooms were located on F Deck between the second and third funnels.
The Tea menu for third class on the 14 April appears to have been Ragout of Beef with Potatoes & Onions with fresh bread and butter and currant buns, followed by stewed apricots and plum pudding with sharp sauce
In contrast, and exactly two floors above, the first Class passengers dined A La Carte in luxury in the immense Jacobean-style dining room. The floor of the first class Dining Saloon was laid with linoleum tiles intricately patterned to resemble a Persian carpet.
At an extra cost the First Class dinners could also choose to dine in the Café Parisien, where the large picture windows over looked the sea. This was something of an innovation for cruise liners and was later adopted on White Stars other carrier, The Olympic.
White Star literature of the time described it as a ‘…charming sun-lit veranda, tastefully decorated in French trellis-work with ivy and other creeping plants…’.
The Café served the same menu as the first class dinning saloon (cooked by the same chefs), and on the last night included oysters, Consommé Olga, Filet Mignons Lili, roast lamb with green peas, Pate de Foie Gras and Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly.
Titanic’s second class dining room could accommodate all second class passengers at a single seating. It was a large elegant room located on ‘D’ deck, with oak panelling and mahogany furniture upholstered in crimson. A specially designed sideboard with a piano at the centre was provided so there could be entertainment for the diners.
The dinner menu on the evening of 14 April 1912 lists a hearty three-course meal, with a consommé to start, then a choice of four main courses: baked haddock, chicken curry, spring lamb and roast turkey, followed by dessert and coffee.
For many of those on board, this would be their last meal.
The Titanic hit the iceberg at 11:40 pm and took 2 hours and 40 minutes to sink (approximately 2:20 pm on April 15 1912).
The total number of people on board is not known (as there were some people sharing tickets and others who never boarded) but it is agreed that approximately 2225 people were on board on the 14 April 1912. Of the 2225 people on board, 706 passengers and crew survived, including 61 % of the first class passengers and 24% of the third class passenger.
The majority of those who survived were women (75% of the female passengers survived), the 20% of the male passengers who survived were mostly pulled from the freezing sea by the returning life boats.
“Striking the water was like a thousand knives being driven into one’s body. The temperature was 28 degrees, four degrees below freezing.” Charles Lightoller, Titanic Second Officer