Hello Fellow History Lovers!
Happy Thanksgiving! As we are planning our wonderful feasts, I wanted to tell you a little bit about how the Victorians would have dined. What was a dinner party like at the Barkers’? Dinners used to be served the way that most of us serve Thanksgiving dinner – what was called a la Francaise – in which most of the dishes were on the table at the same time, and diners helped themselves. This is what’s known today as “family style”. However, what became the standard in formal dining when John H. and Katherine were hosting dinners in the 1880s and 1890s was actually serving dinners a la Russe. This meant that courses were brought to the table sequentially by a footman or waiter, one by one (Check out one of Katherine’s handwritten menus below!). All the special cutlery and china and glassware were already at the table, and boy, were there a lot of them. The Victorians loved having the appropriate glass for a certain wine, or a special spoon for a certain dessert.
The Barkers would have had an extensive cutlery collection, and we have a snippet of this in the inventory done in 1933. Much of the cutlery is described as monogrammed with “JHB” (for John H. Barker) or “KFB” (for Katherine Fitzgerald Barker) so we know that these were not later purchased by Catherine.
We have several sets on display in the Drawing Room and Dining Room, come view them when we open for the month of December!
Til next time, Anna
This set of Victorian era cutlery had a different spoon for [top row] chocolate, lemonade, iced tea, dessert, place, sauce, soup/gumbo, soup/cream, grapefruit, orange/fruit; [bottom row] orange/fruit, café parfait, ice cream, tea, youth/breakfast, five o’clock tea, four o’clock, bouillon, chocolate, demitasse, and individual salt.
Could you keep them all straight?
This is a handwritten menu by Katherine Barker. It delineates the different courses: 1. Oysters, 2. Clear Soup, 3. Terrapin, cucumbers, 4. Chicken Timball with mushrooms, 5. Saddle of mutton, rice croquettes, peas, jelly, 6. Punch, 7. Partridge breast, lettuce salad, 8. Fruit ice cream