Steampunk Saturday: American Victorian Diet: A Steampunk Adventure
The diet of this period is an amalgamation of class, ethnicity, culture, and resources. We have entered the Industrial Age, Irish Potato Famine is over, the American South has officially ended reconstruction under the leadership of Rutherford B Hayes, the Transcontinental Railroad has been completed, Gold has been discovered in the American West, and the Victorian Era is en vogue Due to these signifiers the American Northwest had a conglomerate of ethnic influences such as American-Irish, Asian, African-American, White South, White North, Canadian and French Canadian as well as other European Influences. Another heavy cultural and ethnic influence is the “Plateau Tribes”; these four tribes were the Yakama, Umatilla, Warm Springs and the Nez Perce. The Northwestern Expansion opened new opportunities for Americans as it was untarnished with the influences of slavery and oppression found in the North and the South. It offered new land, new opportunities and most of all new found riches of gold and commerce.
The Average Diet of the Northwestern Expansion person relied on: Flour, Sugar, Coffee, Tea, Cornmeal, Salted Meats, Dried Meats, Rice, Dried Beans, Dried Fruit and Vegetables, Lard, Salt and Pepper, and Baking Powder. The main fresh proteins were Sheep, Cattle and wild game such as Deer, Grouse, Buffalo, Bass, Salmon, Squirrel, Rabbit, Beaver, Bass and Coyote. Root Vegetables were also present due to the longevity of freshness such as Parsnips, Turnips, Carrots, Potato, Onion, Garlic and Yams
The Plateau Indian Tribes were hunter gatherer societies and seasonally nomadic, they relied heavily on the local flora and fauna. The indigenous people gathered local wild berries such as strawberries, blackberries, huckleberries,serviceberry and blueberries, camassia, bitterroot, kouse root or wild carrot, and stone fruits such as chokecherries. Their main protein source, Salmon, is still their main protein supplement today. Annually eating 10 times the amount of Americans today.
The Victorian Diet consisted of four meals a day, Breakfast, Lunch, Tea and Dinner. The differentiation of food class structure was very wide. The wealthy survived off a very rich diet and a Dinner serving had at least 20 different served “a la russe” meaning literally ‘in Russian Style’; meaning that all plates came out at once giving an impressive spread. In contrast the poor and immigrant class survived off of high fatty proteins, usually partially spoiled produce, and animal bi-products. The middle class or laborer class would have a slightly more substantial diet including fresh produce mostly made up of root vegetables and meats, such as sausages, bacon and also various types of breads and cheeses.
The meal structure of the middle class and laborer consisted of a hearty breakfast, a substantial lunch, an afternoon tea and a light dinner. The afternoon tea was born out of the Victorian era, and allowed people to have a mid-day meal that would hold them until dinner.
Breakfast, being one of the most important meals of day to Victorians, would usually have been quite a spread. There was always tea and coffee served at a proper breakfast service. In an etiquette book from 1897 towards new wives, the author says “ As a wife to your husband, it is your most fervent to duty to present him with your most agreeable manner of breakfast, as well as provide him
Lunch was also a large meal for the Victorians, it was usually the largest meal for the day. It would usually include a soup and vegetables, cold foods and hot foods, breads and cheeses. Foods were usually prepared so they would not have to be refrigerated and could be reused for the smaller Dinner meal. The average Victorian Luncheon would be comprised of cheeses, a protein usually in the form of a meat, and bread, it was common for it to be a fried bread such as a Ho’ Cake or a Griddle Cake, and Hard Boiled Eggs . A formal upper class Luncheon would serve Turtle Soup, German Soup, Potato Soup, Cream Soups, Oyster Soup, or Sweet Herb Soup. Victorian Salads were usually Iceberg Lettuce topped with a dressing made from cooked egg yolks, mustard, salt, red wine vinegar sugar for sweetness and then garnished with rings of egg whites and pickled beets Some sweeter salads could also be served such as Waldorf Salad, Apple, and Celery Salad. Hearty local root vegetables were often prepared. The proteins were usually meat based such as turkey, chicken and pork; fish dishes were commonly served at dinner. Hearty meat stews were also usually prepared such as Rabbit or Pheasant, and Meat or Minced Pies. An average Luncheon on the RMS Lusitania included Anchovies, Clear Macaroni, Potted Shrimp, Barley Broth, Poche a la Reine, Omelette aux Tomatoes, Lamb Pot Pie, Roast Beef-with Browned Potatoes, Roasted Chicken-with Bread Sauce, Succotash, Potatoes mashed, baked or roasted Sirloin Steak, Mutton Chops. Cold Items served were Cumberland Ham, Roast Beef, London Pressed Beef, Rolled Ox Tongue, Saucisson de Lyon, Galatine of Turkey-with Aspic Jelly, Boar’s Head, Boiled Capon, Endive, Tomatoes, Beetroot, Roll Jam Pudding-Sweet Sauce, Fancy Pastry, Compote of Prunes and Rice, Cheeses: St Ives, Gorgonzola, Cheshire, Wiltshire, Stilton. Fresh Fruits: Oranges, Apples, Bananas, and Assorted Nuts.
The next meal in the Victorian Diet was afternoon tea, due to the fact the dinner meal was served later than in previous periods. People used afternoon tea to get them through lunch to dinner without being hungry due to the fact the Victorian Dinner was served between 8 and 9 pm. A Victorian Afternoon Tea included four elements. The first element was the tea sandwiches: Smoked Salmon with Dill Butter on Dark Bread, Ham and Watercress with Basil Butter on Rye Bread, Thinly Sliced Cucumber with Mint Butter on White Bread, Chopped Egg with finely Diced Black Olives on Whole Wheat, Cinnamon Cream Cheese on Raisin Bread, and Chicken Curry Salad Tarts. . Scones and Sweet breads served with butter, clotted cream, assorted Jellies and Jams and lemon curd,, would also be served a popular item was Rose Petal Dropped Scones. Third elements were sweets such as: Candied Ginger, Candied Lemon Peels, Freshly Baked Cookies and Pastries, Ginger Snaps, Almond Macaroons, Pate de Fruit, Petit fours, Chocolate Truffles, and Cream Puffs. The fourth part would be a pudding or an English Trifle, Shortbread, and Crystallized Edible Flowers. The Victorian Chinese instead of having the tea sandwiches would have Cantonese Dim Sum, and bite size dumplings, and rice pudding.
The last meal of the day was dinner served around 8 or 9 o'clock, and was usually not as heavy as Breakfast and Lunch. Dinner would include a soup or stew such as Goulash or Clam Chowder, and usually a fish entrees either baked, fried or stuffed. The proteins would include Roasted Meat such as Mutton, Chicken or Pork (Beef on Occasion but they believed it was too heavy a meat to have for a late meal) with Root Vegetables, Wild Game like Turkey Quail, Rabbit, or Venison. Their starches would be freshly Baked Bread and corn breads. The vegetables were Corn, Pumpkin, Squash, Beans Cooked with Ham Bones. For dessert would often be Fruit Pies and Hot Puddings.
The Final meal was the evening nightcap, after dinner the men would retire to a lounge for Brandy and Cigars. Alcohol had a common place in the Victorian households, wine was often served with dinner meals. With the intrigue of French culture champagne was very popular. Other alcoholic beverages that were popular were Vodka, Bourbon, Whisky, Sherry, Port and Gin, in the Caribbean Rum was also very popular. Popular mixed drinks “ cocktails” according to Charles Dicken’s journal in 1842 on his trip to Boston was the Gin-sling, Sangaree, Mint Julep, Sherry-cobbler, Timber Doodle. Also the Gin and Tonic was popular in English colonies to cover up the medicine of quinine