Alcott · Little Women

Book Review: Savory Suppers and Fashionable Feasts

Savory Suppers

Williams, Susan. Savory Suppers And Fashionable Feasts: Dining in Victorian America. New York: Pantheon Books, 1985.

Have you ever submitted a giant research paper for a class, only to find the absolute perfect reference for it the very next day? That’s what happened to me; I found this fantastic resource after we submitted our manuscript for The Little Women Cookbook! Oh, I can’t tell you how I wished I’d found it in the beginning stages of our research process — my life would’ve been so much easier! But if you want to delve deeper into the hows and whys of Victorian cuisine, this is the book for you.

You’ll find …

  • An explanation of mealtimes, and how breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, and supper differed from the expectations we have today. A chapter is devoted to each, with sample recipes and bills of fare included.
  • A whole chapter on Victorian table etiquette! Example: for a dinner party, the hostess was advised to wear a dress that was “rich in material, but subdued in tone, in order that she may not eclipse any of her guests.”
  • Fun food trends. Celery, for instance, was considered a high-status food by the middle class because of its connection to Homer’s Odyssey…? (I just Wikipediaed it, and I guess the Myrmidons’ horses graze on celery in Troy, and it also grows outside the cave of Calypso.) They would put the celery in special silver or glass stands as a focal point on the table, like you would with a bouquet of flowers. The mental image does make me giggle.

This title is unfortunately out of print, but cheap used copies are available for purchase online, and I found it at my local university’s libraries.

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