Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Iguanodon Dinner.

Tonight is New Year’s Eve - the global secular celebration par excellence, and indisputably THE party night of the year. No doubt we will be reading about some of the more spectacular events in the newspapers, and seeing the more picturesque antics of the rich and famous on television tomorrow.

The New Year’s Eve dinner party I am going to tell you about today takes some beating for sheer ingenuity of venue – and I can pretty well guarantee that it wont be re-enacted in the foreseeable future.

The dinner took place on the last night of 1853. The host was Benjamin Waterhouse, an artist-sculptor who became famous for the dinosaur sculptures (33 in all) that he created for a great exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London. Waterhouse had been working with the palaeontologist who coined the word ‘dinosaur’ – Sir Richard Owen – to give the world its first glimpse of what one of these massive prehistoric creatures looked like.

Waterhouse’s dinner took place inside his mould of the giant iguanodon, at the Crystal Palace. Twenty literary and scientific men were his guests, and a fine dinner was provided, as the following menu shows.

Mock Turtle.    Julien.   Hare.

Cod and Oyster Sauce.   Fillets of Whiting.   Turbot à l’Hollandaise.

Roast Turkey.   Ham.   Raised Pigeon Pie.
Boiled Chicken and Celery Sauce.

Cotolettes de Moutonaux Tomates.    Currie de Lapereaux au riz.
Salmi de Perdrix.       Mayonnaise de filets de Sole.

Pheasants.     Woodcocks.    Snipes.

Macedoine Jelly.    Orange Jelly.    Bavaroise.
Charlotte Russe.    French Pastry.   Nougat à la Chantilly.
Buisson de Meringue aux [Confiture ?]

Grapes. Apples. Pears. Almonds and Raisins. French Plums.
Pines. Filberts. Walnuts &c, &c.

Sherry. Madeira. Port. Moselle. Claret.

Recipe for the Day.

What to chose from this menu? Recipes for many of these classical nineteenth century dishes are scattered through this blog, and was the recipe archive up to date, I could point you there. Sadly, I never seem to find the time to catch up with archiving the last couple of years of recipes, but you can search via the box in the side-bar.

To modern eyes, this dinner seems to offer a great deal of food for twenty people, but the practice of the time was that each guest would make choices from the menu, as we would today in a restaurant. A mere glance at the menu makes me feel sated before I start, so how about a nice fruity jelly today?

Maçedoine Jelly.
Strawberries, raspberries, grapes, currants, and cherries, are the only fruit that can be used raw for a macedoine; but it is to be observed, they should be perfectly ripe; eaches, apricots, apples, and pines, require to be boiled in syrup before they are put into the jelly: in the first place, have a good clear jelly prepared, rather sweet for a macedoine, because raw fruit takes off the sweetness ; put a little jelly into a mould, which you set on the ice, then array the fruit variously, according as your fancy suggests ; then pour in some more jelly; when that is firm, lay more fruit and jelly, and continue to do so till you have filled the mould to the top; keep the jelly in the ice till dinner time, then dip the mould into hot water, turning it into the dish you
intend to serve : in winter, you may make a handsome macedoine with preserved fruit, such as greengages, peaches, pineapples, plums, and cherries.
The Young Cook’s Guide… I. Roberts.1836


(1) Today, if you are Scottish, or wish you were, it is Hogmanay which you can read about HERE.

(2) Today is also the 6th Day of Christmas which you can read about HERE.

Quotation for the Day.

Heaven is what I cannot reach,
The apple on the tree.
Emily Dickinson, Forbidden fruit (c1861)


Anonymous said...

Feliz Año Nuevo, Janet! I have enjoyed reading your blog this past year. Here's to another year of wonderful discovery of our food history! Judy

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Judy - sorry for the belated response, my life has been upside down recently. I have managed to keep up the blog - it has been a marvellous focus for me. Definitely - here is to another year of food history!

Sarah said...

Hello Old Foodie, love your work on the Iguanodon Restaurant. (We have a fully sized pliosaur performance peiece) we hope to transform into a Pliosaur Restaurant next year. (see it at I am also getting involved in retrofood through a new project:
Would love to know what you think!

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Sarah! These projects look like serious fun. I will watch things evolve from this long distance away, with great interest!