22 December 2010 by Sarah Starkey
At lunchtime on the 25th December I will be tucking into roast turkey and all the trimmings, especially cranberry sauce, the culinary highlight of the Christmas season. If you were a first class passenger on the White Star Line ship Gothic on 25th December 1895 you would be enjoying the fare on this menu, part of the collections at the Maritime Archives & Library. It’s a rather meat heavy menu, with a lot of mutton, but would have been considerably more varied than the food provided for the third class passengers. The Gothic was on a voyage from Plymouth to New Zealand and had left Table Bay, South Africa on the 20th December, so there would have been fresh food on board.
Spending Christmas away from home was a fate often suffered by seafarers, but they tried to make the best of it with a good meal. We hold the journal of William Oates (D/O/17), master of the ship Hants, who writes about his first Christmas Day away from home, anchored off the coast of West Africa in 1853. ‘Dr T & I agreed to have a stylish dinner prepared on his vessel…, so of course this morning I sent half the pig with 1 goat and a couple of fowls on board with him, and at 12 noon took myself there and I daresay we enjoyed as good a dinner as any of our friends at home in cold England’ Another meat heavy menu, I hope it wasn’t just the two of them.
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