Oyster Soup, Roast Turkey and Bon Bons, anyone? Thanksgiving, Victorian style

Source: McGill-Queens University Press

Take a look at these Victorians. Even here in the colonies, they knew how to celebrate in style. Luckily, there is much in the online archives (menus, recipes, photographs and other ephemera) to help us moderns mark Thanksgiving with some Victorian refinement:

1) Make a menu with multiple courses: A mouth-watering Thanksgiving Menu courtesy of Fanny Farmer’s classic The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1896):

2) Roast a Turkey, with gravy:

Fanny Farmer’s recipe for Roast Turkey (with sour cream and bacon!) and Truffle Gravy:

Roast Turkey: Dress, clean, stuff, and truss an 8-pound turkey. Spread with thick, sour cream, and let stand in ice box overnight. Put on rack in dripping pan, sprinkle with salt, dredge bird and bottom of pan with flour, and lay thin strips fat bacon over breast. Bake 2 and 1/2 hours, basting every 15 minutes with 1/2 cup butter, melted in 1/2 cup boiling water, and, after this is used, with fat in pan. Turn turkey frequently, that it may brown evenly, removing the bacon after the first hour of the cooking.

Truffle Gravy: To 4 tablespoons fat remaining in pan, add 5 tablespoons flour and pour on, gradually, while stirring constantly, 2 cups stock in which giblets, neck and tips of wings have been cooked. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, few grains pepper, 1 tablespoon Madeira wine and 2 chopped truffles.

You can find all of Fannie Farmer’s recipes on-line.

3. Invite company: Share your feast with this charming turn-of-the-century family (dinner and fully-dressed table included) featured in the Boston Sunday Globe, 1895:

source: 19th Century Paper Dolls

4. Dine out: For those of you who prefer not to get your hands dirty, head over to The Grand Hotel for this elegant Thanksgiving breakfast (1898):

Feast your eyes on this 1899 Thanksgiving Day menu from the infamous Plaza Hotel in New York City:

And for those travelling by train this holiday, check out dining car service for $1:

5. Add a little music:

6. Give thanks:

Canadians might have given thanks for the “blessings of an abundant harvest” (by proclamation of the government) before digging into their turkey supper in 1898.

Or, try this cheery blessing that honours the pumpkin pie (and the “country maids” who prepare the dish with “rounded arms” and “elbow bared”) served up at the Broadway Central Hotel in 1899:

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians celebrating this weekend, and to our American neighbours celebrating in November.

A bit more:

All menus from the New York Public Library digitized menu collection.

History of  the observance of Thanksgiving in Canada

First Thanksgiving Dinner: No Turkeys. No Ladies. No Pies (NPR)


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