It was on April 10th, 1912 that the RMS Titanic made history. The ship, which was the largest afloat at the time, was on its maiden — and, sadly, it’s very last — voyage as a passenger liner en route from Southampton, England, to New York City. It made two stops along the way.
We’ve all seen the classic movie Titanic — which hinted at the class disparities on board — and the depictions were pretty accurate. For one, the ship really was that beautiful. And two, there was a serious class disparity— people aboard were put into first, second, and third classes. The third was also known as steerage, which literally included sheet-less mattresses and only two bathrooms to be shared by about 700 passengers.
And there were lots of Jacks and Roses aboard (who, by the way, were not based on real people).
An estimated 2,224 people were on board the Titanic, including crew. Oh, and there were also a few dogs.
About 1,500 of those people perished when the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic ocean. The behemoth fell into the sea about 1,300 miles from the White Star Line Pier in New York, where it was set to arrive in about two more days, making it one of the worst maritime disasters of all time.
Although today we have cruise liners five times the size of the Titanic, in the 1930s, this giant, opulent ship was a source of pure and total excitement the world over.
It was about 900 feet long and was the largest man-made moving object on Earth. With a gym, ship newspaper, pool, squash court, a library, bars galore, a dog room, and Turkish baths, the ship was a symbol of pure splendor. Seriously, whatever the passengers wanted, they could have. You dream it, it was there.
In fact, the year prior, 100,000 people watched the ship’s launch on May 31st, 1911.
So, who was on the ship? For one, it carried some of the wealthiest people in the world, who were on board as first-class (ahem, like Rose) passengers. On the other hand, many immigrants were also aboard; these were people from the U.K., Scandinavia, and elsewhere who wanted to start a new life in the U.S. Many of the people traveling on the Titanic paid a pretty penny to come aboard — especially on its maiden voyage!
Although its design was state-of-the-art, there was a fatal flaw: The RMS Titanic carried only 20 lifeboats…
…which is just about enough for only 1,178 people. If you’re doing the math, that’s about a third of the number of people who were actually on board. According to Titanic Facts, 61 percent of the first-class survived, while just 42 and 24 percent of the second and third classes, respectively, were rescued. More money meant more opportunity for survival.
In total, about 37 percent, or 492 people of the total passengers and crew, lived.
The rescue mission had a “women and children first” protocol, which meant a lot of men perished when the ship went down around 2:20 a.m. In fact, Business Insider broke it down: “97.22% of the 144 female first-class passengers were rescued, while only 32.57% of their 175 male counterparts were saved.” Those numbers decrease exponentially by class.
The youngest passenger to have survived was named Eliza Gladys “Millvina” Dean, and she was aboard the Titanic at two months old.
Millvina, who died in 2009, was a British civil servant, cartographer, and the last survivor of the RMS Titanic. While her mother and brother survived, her father stayed back to help survivors, and he perished in the sinking of the ship. According to the Guardian, she said, “Until the wreckage of the Titanic was found in 1985, nobody was interested in me. Who expects to become famous at that age?”
But before the tragedy occurred, what was food like aboard the Titanic?
According to Titanic Facts, there were 57,600 pots and pans (and such), 29,000 pieces of glassware, and 44,000 pieces of cutlery. If you’re counting, that’s a lot. In fact, there were about 913 crew members aboard — and a lot of them were in the kitchen. Many of the engineers died during the sinking, and the Captain also went down with the ship.
According to The Spruce, the ship carried 14,000 gallons of fresh water, along with thousands of pounds of meat, veggies, fruit, and more.
And that’s not all. There were apparently 40,000 eggs, 1,500 gallons of milk, 1,200 quartz of ice cream, and 6,000 pounds of butter. 6,000 POUNDS OF BUTTER. Can you imagine what 6,000 pounds of butter looks like? Yeah, it looks like a heart attack waiting to happen. The Titanic also carried 40 tons of potatoes, 800 bundles of asparagus, 2500 pounds of green peas, and 10,000 pounds of beans and rice.
It’s safe to say that no one (especially the rich) was going hungry.
It takes a lot of food to feed a boat of thousands for over seven days on the sea, but it was the first-class passengers who truly wined and dined in fancy fashion. Every accommodation was made for a pleasant (and perhaps a very drunken) stay for them — including 20,000 bottles of beer and 1,500 bottles of wine, according to the Telegraph.
That’s a lot of alcohol.
Food was very different for each class — and by “very different” we mean worlds apart.
The first class dined on the best food, while the second and third classes ate basic foods they would have found at home (although these foods probably prepared better). According to Dummies, though, the second- and third-class passengers just ate whatever they were served. They had no fancy restaurant options, as the first-class passengers had.
Generally, the food was pretty continental or French-inspired, as was du jour — at least for the first class folks.
The second and third classes ate simple dishes…
…like curried chicken, fish (like herring), mutton (which is a gamey, full-flavored meat from an older sheep — not to be confused with lamb), and pudding as a dessert. It seems the food aboard the Titanic was pretty good — even better than the second and third classes ate in general, says The Spruce.
One saved second class menu from April 10th even revealed grilled ox, grilled sausage, and something called Yarmouth bloaters, which is a type of herring (with a particularly disgusting name).
According to History.com, the chefs — no matter the class — did their best to “prepare meals that travelers from various countries would find comforting and nutritious.” While we’d pass on anything called a “Bloater,” we’re glad to hear that these passengers had foods that provided comfort during what must have been an uncomfortable week of travel.
So, what about the very last meal served aboard the fated RMS Titanic? What did everyone on board eat before the ship sank to its icy depths?
According to the Telegraph, the last supper served to ship’s first-class passengers featured a whopping 11 courses. Eleven! These elaborate meals often took about five hours to eat, with each course being paired with a specific and unique wine. Can you imagine drinking a glass of wine with each dish? We can’t begin to imagine what sort of bellyache is caused by 11 courses, but we’ll go with it…
Along with their 11-course meal, it’s safe to say the first-class passengers aboard the Titanic were likely pretty drunk when the ship began to sink.
Wreckage from the disaster tells us exactly what the first-class passengers did eat on the night the ship sank.
It’s interesting to note that the ship hit the fateful iceberg at about 11:4o p.m., meaning passengers likely ate hours earlier. This means people were either sleeping, enjoying music, dancing, sitting in the Turkish baths, or perhaps having some boozy late-night cocktails. It would have come as a massive shock to know the ship was going down late at night.
The menu from that last night was pretty wonderful, though…
…as it included everything from hors d’oeuvres like oysters, consomme Olga (a soup), cream of barley, and salmon to delectable main courses. The mains included — get ready for this explosion of deliciousness! — filet mignon, saute of chicken, vegetable marrow, lamb, roast duckling, beef sirloin with chateau potatoes, pate de foie gras, and many more vegetarian options.
But in the very middle of their 11-course meal, guests enjoyed something called “punch romaine.”
…which is an alcoholic “palate cleanser” of sorts. It’s made of wine, rum, and champagne. Don’t they say not to mix your drinks? Huh. Anyway, punch romaine is still popular today, somehow, and it comes with egg, rum, lemon juice, simple syrup, orange juice, and champagne. Would you drink it?
Desserts didn’t leave much to be desired, either, since first-class passengers chowed down on lots of delicious goodies…
….like Waldorf pudding (which includes apples and walnuts), peaches in jelly, chocolate and vanilla eclairs, and French ice cream. Damn. One of everything, please? Yeah, we’ll take one of everything. Chocolate and vanilla, yep. After dessert, diners snacked on fruits, nuts, and cheeses, along with coffee, port, cordials, and loads of cigars.
Are you full yet?
That night, in second and third class, passengers ate the last dinner of rice soup, fresh bread, sweet corn, and boiled potatoes.
Earlier that day, the second and third class passengers would have eaten oatmeal or herring for breakfast (as was normal back in the 1930s), along with ham and eggs. They’d get juice and toast — but there would be no fancy morning cocktails or brunch drinks.
A post-dinner dessert of plum pudding (which is called Christmas pudding, made of candied peels and dried fruit) was served.
This was possibly their very last meal aboard the Titanic. This pudding dates back to medieval times and actually contains no plum (because “plum” was a word for “raisin,” which it does contain). It’s eaten in the U.K., Ireland, and other countries usually around Christmastime. In other words, it’s perfect for a celebration.
Interestingly, people have always been fascinated with the so-called “indestructible” Titanic — as well as its place in foodie history.
The RMS Titanic was a symbol of opulence, power, and the glamour of travel. And for many, it was a path toward a new life in America. It’s a tragedy that haunts the collective unconscious, despite it having happened years ago in an era many of us cannot even imagine. And yet, we find it fun to replicate its passengers’ dining experience.
It’s not a surprise, then, that people have become obsessed with hosting Titanic-themed dinner parties…
….which is a morbid (but exquisitely delicious) affair. In fact, people send fancy invites out and gather groups for big, elaborate meals. Just look at this super authentic-looking invite and menu. Kudos to the effort and detail here!
Another example of a restaurant’s RMS Titanic anniversary dinner party invite is below. What’s amazing is that this is one of the hundreds out there— proving just how fascinated people are.
If you’re planning to host your own last meal Titanic dinner, there are some things you should know.
For one, there are foods you must prepare well beforehand, while other foods can be made the day-of.
There are also actual event experiences that recreate the Titanic’s last dinner, like this one out of Orlando, Florida, which includes cold rooms and a lengthy dinner menu including salad, rolls, soup, chicken, sirloin, sides of potatoes and green beans, and desserts like mousse and brownies.
And, yes, this dining experience even serves an “R.M.S Signature Cocktail,” aptly named The Iceberg, made of vodka, blue curaçao, and sprite. Cheers?
Down in Georgia, The Brunswick Manor hosted an elaborate replica of the last dinner menu, too, on reproductions of the china that were found on the Titanic itself. This was a seven-course meal paired with a different wine for each course. Of course, this dinner is even better — since it doesn’t come with a sinking ship afterward.
In the end, we think that, as far as last meals go, those served on the Titanic were pretty great (at least for the first class).
What do you think? Were the RMS Titanic’s 1930s menus — first, second, and third class — gross, interesting, or delicious-sounding to you? We’re particularly interested in all that wine, all that dessert, and the grandiose magic of the ship’s ballrooms, libraries, and Turkish baths.
In the end, the Titanic’s loss remains one of the greatest stories of all time. It reminds us that even beauty and opulence is fallible.
What would you have liked to do if you were on the Titanic for a single night? What would you like to know about the experience? And if you were in the dining room for that last meal, which of the foods would you chow down on?