A rare 19th century menu from an iconic Birmingham country house converted into a luxury hotel reveals how tastes have changed over generations.
A fortuitous discovery of a Moor Hall menu in Sutton Coldfield dating from 1894 was made during a house cleaning, providing a fascinating glimpse into what the Victorians were eating at this time of year.
While the spa offers festive dishes for diners in 2021, including a game terrine, smoked haddock and chive candies, a turkey and pancetta roulade, slowly roasted pork belly and beef knuckle slowly cooked. Followed by a dark chocolate delight, a cabbage with pears and almonds, a traditional Christmas pud, an ice cream and a cheese platter.
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127 years ago seafood, game birds, fruit and drunken cakes were served.
On the menu dating from January 1894, lobster mayonnaise, crab shell (in shell), oyster pancakes or pigeon hot-cold (in gelled sauce).
As we savor the Christmas dishes, in the time of Queen Victoria, vegetarians or vegans, beware!
Sutton diners could enjoy galantine (boneless and stuffed), turkey, roast poultry and ham, and beef tongue. The meat feast continued with squeezed beef, game pate and roast pheasant.
Desserts included a plethora of alcoholic delicacies, from champagne and wine jelly to a drunken cake trifle.
While those looking to hit their five a day could feast on raspberries or pineapples or “seasonal fruits”. An assortment of pastries and ice cream was also offered.
The whole thing washed down with tea, coffee or lemonade, the latter being a drink criticized five years later by a Scottish official who maintained an “excessive consumption” of lemo among inmates in workhouses, was at the origin of the number of poor fools.
Well-off Victorian families dined in style, but for many families Sunday was the only day of the week they ate meat. Thus began the tradition of “Sunday lunch” with its small joint of beef, pork or mutton and lots of vegetables, potatoes and sauce.
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The Victorian era also saw the introduction of two- or three-course meals, with the dishes arriving in order, one at a time. Before that, the dishes tended to come all at once – and Queen Victoria herself wasn’t averse to putting away seven dishes in under half an hour!
Not surprisingly, Victorians consumed a lot more calories than we did, but because they were so active, obese Victorians were relatively rare.
But a rather portly man, an undertaker named William Banting who lost 18kg cutting out bread, sugar, beer and potatoes, later made history as the first person to popularize a low carbohydrate diet.
This year, Moor Hall is celebrating its 60th anniversary, owned by the Webb family, after Michael Week bought the then private club to create an “après ski” venue.
Michael’s daughter, Angela Burns, Managing Director of Moor Hall Hotel & Spa, said: ‘The 1894 menu, which emerged after a house cleanse in Lancashire, offers a fascinating insight into the eating habits of guests there. has all these years. It seems they certainly enjoyed fine dining – and didn’t care at all about a high fat diet! “
Moor Hall will conclude its 60th anniversary celebrations this month and continue to serve the community with festive dishes in a house that once belonged to Bishop John Vesey during the time of Henry VIII.
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