Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Luxury An Edwardian View

Food, glorious food!

Hot sausage and mustard!

While we are in the mood --

Cold jelly and custard!

Please pudding and saveloys!

What next is the question?

Rich men have it -- boys,


Food, glorious food!

We're anxious to try it,

Three banquets a day --

Our favorite diet!...

No song could be more appropriate for the abundance of an Edwardian's dinner table than this refrain from the musical "Oliver!"  The time period of the play was Victorian England and relates even more to Edwardian tastes.

Wrotham Park, Bently Heath, Hertfordshire by Rob Farrow

Excess was the order of the day for the upper class. You dressed to impress (with up to six changes of clothes in a days activities), fed to impress with up to twenty-two courses at one single dinner party! Dinner was leisurely and could take hours before it was finished.
Turkish rug:  Bonematta

Country houses were often redecorated for the new social season in expensive velvet and silk upholstery, fine art and tapestries hung on the wall, expansive gardens gave eye appeal through large windows in large rooms. 

Outside there could be golf played on a private course, horseback riding, croquet and tennis, grass of course, the new hard tennis court was not traditional and was considered "coarse." 

The Prince of Wales who became Edward the IV, set the precedent of rich dishes and opulence, particularly liking French cooking with it's rich sauces.  

The group he socialized with was known as the Marlborough Set and were the wealthiest in England, although Edward liked people from all walks of life and got along well with everyone.

Prince Edward VII, with Prince George the Prince of Wales, later George V (left) with his grandsons Prince Edward of Wales, later Edward VIII and Prince Albert of Wales, later George VI.

It is known he had mistresses but it is not as generally known Edward was a loving, kind and thoughtful person (although he did not always consider his wife, Queen Alexandra), one of England's most popular kings. His son George V was greatly saddened when he died, they had more of a brotherly relationship rather than a father/son relationship.

Food took center stage on the tables of the rich at "week end" parties they called "Friday through Monday" using the description week end indicated you worked for a living since it included the days Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

We can all relate to croissants as pictured above and were eaten by the Edwardian especially if the family employed a French pastry chef.  Croissants were birthed from the plainer, donut like Kipferl biscuit in 1839 by a Paris pastry shop owner, an Austrian artillery officer, August Zang.  

The shop quickly became a success and was located on 92 rue de Richelieu.  Ten years later Zang returned to his country to become a press magnate, the shop continued to be a success for some years.

There were rules with all the "appropriate" tableware; glass stemware for water, wine, spirits.  Separate forks and spoons were used for soups, entrees, salads and desserts.     

Up to 50 pieces of china, crystal and silver could be used for each guest at one dinner!

The first class restaurant, A La Cart, on the ill fated Titanic (below). The Titanic had five first class restaurants in addition to a second and third class restaurant.

A menu for a first class restaurant on the Titanic (below).

In to-days dollars it cost $100,000 for a first class ticket, second class was $3,500 and third class was between $250 to $300, not a  small amount of money for those who had little.  

With every amenity provided for in first class there were many styles of staterooms to choose from, every whim was considered:  Louis (IV,V and VI) Empire, Jacobean, Georgian, Queen Anne Empire, Regency, Old and New Dutch. 

The country house estates grew flowers in hot houses for the dining table and other rooms.

Henri Fantin-Latour artwork (1836-1904)

The working class rose in power after WWI with increasing servant/labor costs and taxation the estates began to break up. There were less who could afford the high cost of maintaining a large estate.


Suzanne Powers Art Gallery: