Food Prep

Tongue, brawn but no iceberg lettuce: What was served at Titanic's last lunch

The last first-class luncheon menu from the ill-fated luxury cruise liner, the Titanic, dated April 14, 1912.

The last first-class luncheon menu from the ill-fated luxury cruise liner, the Titanic, dated April 14, 1912.  (auctioneer Lion Heart Autographs)

Ever wonder what was served during the last lunch on the Titanic?

Thanks to one survivor who saved the lunch menu before saving his skin aboard the so-called "Money Boat", we know.

The menu is a snap shot of cuisine of the time and shows American’s love affair with French food.  Some elegant, some just plain weird, most of these items seemed to have all but disappeared from modern day menus.  

Food was a grand affair on the Titanic. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the dining saloon (the main dining room) were included in the price of a first-class ticket, although passengers willing to pay more could order from the A la Carte restaurant or the Café Parisien.

It’s believed that first-class passengers, Abraham Lincoln Salomon and Isaac Gerald Frauenthal, had lunch together in the dining saloon on April 14, 1912, the day the ship went down.

Salomon was one of a handful of first-class passengers who boarded the lifeboat — dubbed the "Money Boat" or "Millionaire's Boat" by the press because of unfounded rumors one of them bribed seven crew members to quickly row the boat away from the sinking ship rather than rescue others. Frauenthal escaped on another lifeboat.

The last lunch menu features seafood items of the day like Salmon Mayonnaise and Norwegian Anchovies. There were plenty of meats too, like Grilled Mutton, and a selection of cheeses, including Stilton, Gorgonzola, Edam and Camembert. 

Think lots of sauces and starch –items that would be pretty much banned on modern cruise ships that focus on fresh, ethnic cuisine.  Not seen are many vegetables, which is indicative of the diet at the time --and no, there was no iceberg lettuce. (Iceberg lettuce was known up until the 1930's as Crisphead lettuce.)

So what are these bizarre dishes anyway?  We rounded up a few that seemed to have gone down with the Titanic:

Salmon Mayonnaise: Served as a common lunch item, Salmon Mayonnaise is cooked slices of salmon topped with a sauce made of oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and eggs. Remember, mayo was not the pedestrian glop of today scooped out of big tubs.  It was made fresh and had a thinner consistency than our modern version. The slices of fish were typically arranged on a dish with greens, gherkins, anchovies and boiled eggs, and the sauce was poured over the whole thing.

Chicken ala Maryland: Chicken Maryland is a French rendition of an American recipe adapted by French chef Auguste Escoffier. The dish is basically fried chicken, coated in flour, and served alongside fried bananas, corn cakes, and potato croquettes –all covered in a béchamel sauce.

Corned Ox Tongue:  Yes, people ate the tongue of an animal. In this case, passengers were probably served beef tongue as opposed to real ox tongue because beef was more readily available.  But while the sandwich seems foreign to us today, it was a savory staple on any tea sandwich platter. The meat is cooked a very long time until it becomes tender.  It is then sliced, topped with a spicy mustard butter spread (like a horseradish) and stacked between bread or pastry.

Brawn:  In England it’s called brawn, in France it’s called fromage de tete de porc.  No matter how you pronounce it, simply put, brawn is gelatinous head cheese -- meat jelly commonly made with flesh from the head of a calf or pig. It was considered peasant food in the Middle Ages when bits of meat and gelatin were enclosed in the head skin of the animal cooked and served that way.  Later was elevated to a version pickled with vinegar and cut into slices.

Want to own a piece of culinary history? The online New York auctioneer Lion Heart Autographs is offering the menu and two other previously unknown artifacts from the " Money Boat" on Sept. 30. The auction marks the 30th anniversary of the wreckage's discovery at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The auction starts Sept. 30 at 12 p.m. ET via Invaluable, and the menu is expected to fetch $50,000 to $70,000.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.