Last week myself and some trusted Friends of Kemnay House were busy transforming the dusty dining room, that has been shuttered up through winter, into a banquet scene from the 1850s.
Classes from our local primary school were visiting to learn about dinner parties, and we needed to show them how the Victorians liked to do things:
Although up to 13 courses would have been normal for a formal evening dinner, our silverware could only stretch to 9, but we did find a plethora of china, punch bowls and coloured glasses to decorate the table in as lavish a style as possible.
A Victorian Spring Dinner Party Menu
Consommé of Mock Turtle
Lettuce Salad with Cheese Fingers
Roast Chicken with potato Balls
Spring Lamb with Mint Sauce
Mousse au Chocolat
Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management explained the intricacies of setting the table and folding the napkins just so - We learnt that bread was rested in between the folds of an elaborately pleated linen cloth, rather than placed on a side plate (a later addition to the dinner table).
At the back of a drawer we found a silver marrow pick, designed to eek out the goodness from every bone served. The Victorians seem to have been health conscious, despite dining to such excess. Each course was to be eaten slowly so as not to hamper digestion.
The children enjoyed learning about after-dinner entertainment (ladies in the drawing room, gentlemen in the library) and some said they could still smell the cigar smoke from all those years ago...