18th Century Dining Room

18th century dining room

I have not seen less than fourteen dishes of meat for dinner, and seven for supper during my peregrinations.

                                - Mary Granville (1700-1788), Writer

The discovery of different foods and spices, new recipes and the variety of cookery books heightened the pleasures of 18th century dining. Increased importation of glass, porcelain and silverware resulted in large and elaborate dining services. New serving dishes and centerpieces embellished the table. Tableware spoke volumes about the host's standing in society while dining was governed by strict social rules and occasions.

According to the formal “French method” of serving, different dishes were simultaneously placed on the table in prescribed locations. Having sampled a dish, a diner would pass the plate onto their neighbour. Employing a French cook was fashionable while menus could feature such delicacies as “lamb’s ear ragout, fricassée of frog, badger flambé.” Badger was relatively uncommon in 18th century cookbooks.

Some wealthy households employed a confectioner and a cook. Grander meals lasted many hours and ran to dozens of dishes with the first course consisting of soups, stews, vegetables, boiled fish and meats arranged around a centerpiece. As each course finished servants brought in the “remove dishes,” which introduced and created anticipation for the next course. The second course generally included exotic pies and other baked savories. Elaborate desserts were the crowning glory of the occasion.

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