Incredible food served aboard the Titanic

08. 09. 2021
4rd International Conference Sueneé Universe

In his 1997 film Titanic, director James Cameron filmed dining as a huge social event for passengers aboard the ship. However, this only applied to one third of the ship's guests. The sinking of the ship is the subject of intense scrutiny by historians, but it is interesting that they seldom think about the food that the passengers on the ship consumed during the four days spent on board. Here's a look at what a typical first, second and third class passenger board on the RMS Titanic looked like.

What food was being prepared aboard the Titanic?

Because the Titanic was a unique luxury ship, the food served to passengers had to meet the same standard. Meals were included in the ticket price for almost all passengers, with the exception of the luxurious à la carte restaurant, which was only accessible to first-class passengers.

A first-class dining scene from the 1997 film Titanic. (Photo: Paramount Pictures / Twentieth Century Fox / MovieStills DB)

The Titanic's staff had to ensure that 2 people were fed enough during the week's trip across the Atlantic. Stocks included 200 kg of fresh meat, 34 kg of ham and bacon, 000 oranges, 3 heads of lettuce, almost 400 kg of coffee, 36 kg of sugar, 000 bottles of beer and 7 cigars.

The food served on the Titanic depended on the economic status and class of the individual passengers. Third-class passengers (or steerages) usually had to take their own food on the transatlantic voyage, so the fact that their food on the Titanic was included in the ticket price was a huge improvement for them.

First class passengers

The boarding of first class passengers on board the Titanic was quite different from the boarding of second and third class passengers. First-class passengers had the best food available on the ship, served by uniformed stewards on the finest china, silver trays, and glass. First-class passengers also had access to a number of luxury eateries, cafes and restaurants, where second-class and third-class passengers were not allowed at all.

Picture of the "Ritz" restaurant, where first-class passengers could eat for an extra charge. (Photo: Roger Viollet / Getty Images)

Although breakfast, lunch and dinner were included in the ticket price, first-class passengers had the opportunity to dine in the elegant À la Carte restaurant (nicknamed "Ritz" and shown in the picture above) at an additional cost. This exclusive restaurant could only accommodate 137 passengers at a time. However, these passengers could also eat in the dining room, which was the largest room on the ship and could accommodate up to 554 passengers. In addition, first-class passengers could take food to the Verandah Cafè or Cafè Parisien.

Passengers with first class tickets had a choice of several delicious meals. First-class breakfast included delicacies such as omelets, chops and bespoke steaks. There were also four different types of boiled eggs, three types of potatoes and smoked salmon to choose from.

On April 14, first-class passengers had four starters, various types of grilled meat and an extensive buffet for lunch. For dessert, they had a delicious spread of English and French Camembert, Roquefort and Stilton cheeses.

Dinner for first class passengers was a spectacular social event. The dinners consisted of up to 13 different courses, each accompanied by a different wine. Each of these dinners could last four to five hours. At the last supper, oysters, lamb, duck and beef, baked potatoes, boiled potatoes, mint peas, carrots with rice, foie gras pate with celery, Waldorf pudding, peaches in chartreuz jelly, and chocolate and vanilla éclairs were served in the first class.

Second class passengers

Second-class passengers did not have nearly as much luxury on board the Titanic as first-class passengers, but they still received solid breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The second class dining room was located on deck D (Saloon). Second-class passengers ate at large rectangular tables, which they shared with other passengers they did not know, who also set out across the Atlantic. The second class dining room was not as luxurious as the first class dining rooms, but it was still very lavish. All second-class passengers could fit in, and it was equipped with oak-paneled walls, colored linoleum floors, mahogany swivel chairs, and long tables.

The second-class dining room on the RMS Olympic ship, which was probably quite similar to the Titanic dining room, around 1911. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The variability in food choices was lower, but the food available to passengers remained a degree better than in third class. Breakfast for second-class passengers was still quite impressive, and passengers could choose from fruit, oatmeal, fresh fish, grilled bull kidneys, bacon and sausages, pancakes, cakes, maple syrup, three different types of potatoes, tea and coffee.

On April 12, 1914, second-class passengers were offered lunch pea soup, beef steak, vegetable dumplings, mutton roast, baked potatoes, roast beef, sausage, bull's tongue, pickles, lettuce, tapioca pudding, apple pies and fresh fruit. The second class menu of 14 April 1912 is shown above.

Second class menu from April 14, 1912. (Photo: ullstein bild Dtl./ Getty Images)

Interestingly, the first and second class dining rooms had a common gallery. It is therefore likely that second-class guests were often offered the same dishes as first-class passengers, only without the expensive wine pairing that was only part of first-class meals.

Third class passengers

Compared to the first and second class dining rooms, the third class dining rooms were very simple and lacked any grandeur. The third-class dining room was painted white with bright side lighting, long wooden common tables with chairs and enamel walls.

Third class dining room at the RMS Olympic, Titanic's sister ship, around 1911. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Although the food did not reach the level of food served to first class passengers, it was surprisingly good here as well. Third-class passengers were offered fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Travelers from countries such as Ireland or Norway probably considered fresh fruit and vegetables a luxury.

An interesting difference between the classes was that the third class did not receive a classic dinner. Dinner was considered a middle and upper class social practice that did not necessarily involve third class passengers. Instead, third-class passengers were served a "light dinner" and a "tea." Light dinner usually consisted of porridge, cabin biscuits (to help with seasickness) and cheese, while "tea" included cold cuts, cheeses, pickles, fresh bread, butter, and tea itself.

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