Apr 30, 2008

Ice Cream & Class Distinction On The RMS Titanic

One of the interests within my family is maritime history, perhaps not surprisingly as we originate from the British Isles where seafaring is an ingrained in our sense of heritage and culture. There is much within the subject to be interested in dating back centuries, but perhaps the most significant impact ever made by a single maritime event was the tragedy of the British passenger liner RMS Titanic. which sank at 2.20am on 15 April 1912.

The sense of tragedy about the RMS Titanic was not just about the loss of the (then) world's largest and greatest liner or about it having happened on its maiden voyage, but the scale and sense of human loss. Loss in terms of lost lives and also in terms of people's loss of confidence in the future. Up until the tragedy, people of that era had seemed so sure of being in control of their fate, of technology and 'progress'. The tragedy still echoes within the minds of people today, almost 100 years later and as the end of April approaches I felt it somehow appropriate to write this article.

With my strong interest in food and recipes, especially ice cream, I wondered what kind of food was on the menu for that fateful voyage. The wide selection of books we have at home on the subject provided me with some answers. To my surprise, ice cream was on both the first and second class menus for RMS Titanic on 14 April 1912 - the last day the ship ever saw daylight.

The first class menu listed "French Ice Cream" and the second class menu listed "American Ice Cream". Clearly in those days, people felt there was a difference sufficient to be reflected within class distinction. A strange notion today given how massively popular ice cream is and how it seems to transcend all class and cultural barriers.

To see a scan of the second class menu on RMS Titanic for 14 April 1912 (showing "American Ice Cream") go to the website of the National Maritime Museum - here

To see the list of what appeared on the first class menu including "French Ice Cream" go to the Webtitanic site (an Irish tribute) - here

For anyone interested in the difference between the two types of ice cream, "French Ice Cream" is generally regarded as a richer and more complex recipe as it requires a custard base to be made first.

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