Virginia, Let’s Eat

The menu from a very, very large meal with the Campbells.

The Campbells were foodies long before the term was ever coined. We have Virginia’s own hand-written cookbook, gourmet-grocery store receipts, records of liquor and wine purchases,  letters from guests who wrote about the decadent meals served in our dining room, and not to mention loads of kitchen equipment the cook would have used in our kitchen.

What have we learned from all of this stuff the Campbells left behind? They really, really liked their food. Sure, they could drop the cash to have fresh oysters shipped on ice from New Orleans, but they also liked simple staples, like macaroni and cheese and pot roast.

In the spirit of tomorrow’s culinary bacchanalia, here’s an example of how the Campbells threw down (or their servants, anyway) in the kitchen for a big fete. The image on this page is a menu for a going-away shindig for Robert before he left for an extended trip to Europe with the family. The party was hosted at the Southern Hotel (the super-swank hotel he owned, natch), and though the soiree wasn’t in the Campbells’ house, this menu is representative of a big decadent meal the Campbells would have had at home on special occasions.

Here’s a transcription of the menu with italicized notes to explain some of the foods that aren’t in regular circulation anymore:

BILL OF FARE

Saddle Rock Oysters, pickled
Large oysters from the East River and Long Island Sound.

Wine: Chateau d’Yquem
A Sauternes, an amber-colored wine with caramel, honeysuckle, peach and apricot. This wine is (still) super-expensive, and Founding Father Thomas Jefferson even bought a case of it on a trip to France in 1784.

Soup

Bisque

Printaniere
Vegetable soup made with carrots, string beans, turnips, peas and lima beans.

Wine: Madeira Cama de Lobas
A fortified Portuguese wine made in the Madeira Islands which lie in the Atlantic, southwest of Portugal.

Releve

Filets of Lake Trout, a la Joinville
Fish coated with meal, baked and served with a velouté sauce.

Tenderloin of Beef, with Truffles

Wine: Hockheimer (A German dry white wine) and Amontilado (Sherry)

Entrees

Pattees of Grouse, a la Parisienne
Grouse is a bird similar to a chicken, and it was served flattened.

Spring Chickens, a l’Astrajon
Chicken prepared with white wine, tarragon and crème fraiche.

Sweetbread, a la Regeance
Culinary term for calf thymus gland and/or pancreas. It tastes much better than it sounds. (Really.)

Lambchops, a la Vefour
Vefour is the name for the first great restaurant in Paris, which opened in 1784.

Champagne Frappe
Frozen champagne.

Roederus Dry Sillery
A type of champagne from Sillery, an area in northeastern France famous for its champagne-producing vineyards.

Vegetables

Cauliflower

Green Peas

Asparagus

Punch: A la Romaine, glacee
Roman Punch was used as a palate cleanser between courses, and it was made of champagne, white wine, white rum and lemon juice.

Roast

Squab Pigeons, larded

Woodcock, on toast
A type of woodland bird.

Pastry

Cabinet Pudding, Maraschino sauce
Sponge cake with dried fruit and sweet sauce.

Assorted cake

Baskets of Maringues [sic], a la Creme

Champagne Jelly

Blanc Mange, a la Reine
Sweet dessert with cream, sugar, gelatine, cornstarch and almonds.

Dessert

Bananas

Oranges

Almonds

Raisins

Filberts (Hazelnuts)

Strawberries

Brandy

Coffee

Chartrusse [sic] (French liqueur made of 130 herbs.)

Maraschino

Vanilla Ice Cream

SOUTHERN HOTEL,
Thursday, June 6th, 1867.

******

Some menu, eh? We hope that gives you a little culinary food for thought tomorrow while you feast on turkey with your loved ones. From the Campbell Family to yours, have a happy (and delicious) Thanksgiving.

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