Food Facts & Lore

200 Years A-Feasting

While American men and women are busy rounding up the ingredients for their Holiday menu and chopping and mincing and baking and wrapping and planning who will sit where and how to accommodate special tastes, and oscillating between the pure joy of it all and fleeting moments of doubt… we decided to nibble on a few bites from yesteryear.

For this fancy buffet, which we hope you will enjoy as much as we do, we turned to our favorite resource for everything Food History: The Food Timeline. If you love food, we highly recommend you venture over to this delicious website. It is rich with meticulously researched culinary facts and history for every possible food you can imagine. There must be a million entries. And do not be deterred by the lack of images. Dive right into the text and your mind will travel to times and overflowing tables no photograph could ever convey with enough depth.

For now, on the Eve of Christmas 2018, we offer you five excerpts from the “Christmas Menus” page: from the late 18th-century Holiday fare at Mount Vernon to the eve of 2000, Martha Stewart style. The Food Timeline sources are listed with each excerpt. Enjoy this savory journey through time and culture.

1790’s – Christmas Dinner – Mt. Vernon

“An Onion Soup Call’d the King’s Soup, Oysters on the Half Shell, Broiled Salt Roe Herring, Boiled Rockfish, Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, Mutton Chops, Roast Suckling Pig, Roast Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing, Round of Cold Boiled Beef with Horse-radish Sauce, Cold Baked Virginia Ham, Lima Beans, Baked Acorn Squash, Baked Celery with Slivered Almonds, Hominy Pudding, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Cantaloupe Pickle, Spiced Peaches in Brandy, Spiced Cranberries, Mincemeat Pie, Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, Chess Tarts, Blancmange, Plums in Wine Jelly, Snowballs, Indian Pudding, Great Cake, Ice Cream, Plum Pudding, Fruits, Nuts, Raisins, Port, Madeira.” (The American Heritage Cookbook and Illustrated History of American Eating & Drinking, 1964)

1888 – Murray Hill Hotel – New York

Cherrystones, Celery, Cream of Artichokes, Florentine, Consommé of Game, Quenelles, Terrapene au Madere, Small Patties of Oyster Crabs, Fillet of Beef, Braise, Lithuanienne, Potatoes, Sprouts, Breast of Partridge, Truffle a la Toulouse, Timbale of Sweetbread, Victoria, Fresh Mushrooms on Toast, Punch a la Russe, Christmas Beef, Yorkshire Pudding, Turkey with Chestnuts, Canvas Back, Stuffed Quail, Samp Fritters, Lettuce, Asparagus, Hollandaise, French Peas, Baked Cauliflower, Plum Pudding Polonaise, Mince Pie, Nesselrode, Fantasie, Cream a la Moscovite, Marsala Jelly, Assorted Cakes, Fruits Glaces, Cheese, Fruits, Coffee.” (Tempting the Gourmands: Hotel Menus Appealing to Eye and Palate, The New York Times, December 26, 1888)

1917 – Park Avenue Hotel – New York

Blue Points, Celery, Olives, Cream of Tomato, Roast Vermont Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, Celery Dressing, Hashed Cream Potatoes, Mashed Turnips, Romaine Salad, Plum Pudding, Brandy Sauce or Ice Cream Cake, Demi-tasse.” (No Meat Christmas in the Big Hotels, The New York Times, December 16, 1917)

1942 – Christmas Dinner – The White House

Oyster cocktail, Clear soup with sherry, Roast turkey, Chestnut dressing, Cranberry jelly, Deer foot sausage, Beans, Cauliflower au gratin, Casserole sweet potatoes with orange, Grapefruit and avocado salad, Plum pudding, Hard sauce, Coffee.” (White House Menu Today, The New York Times, December 25, 1942)

1999 – On the Eve of a New Century

Buttered Carrots, Roast Poussin with Prunes and Thyme, Caramelized Onion Tartlets, Pate Brisée, Rice Pilaf with Herbes de Provence, Toasted Almonds and Dried Pears, Seven Swans A-Swimming, Cooked Custard Eggnog, Spicy Pecans, Ramos Gin Fizz, Gingerbread Cupcakes with Butter or Chocolate Glaze, Meringue Buttercream, Oatmeal Cookies.” (Martha Stewart Living, December 1999-January 2000)