Monday, February 23, 2015

Dinner in a Pullman Dining Car in 1869.

Oh! For the old days of trans-continental rail travel, and of dining in luxury whilst travelling at the astonishing pace of thirty miles an hour! A correspondent of the New York Times in 1869 enjoyed the privilege, and waxed lyrical about his experience in the edition of June 28.

From the Missouri to the Pacific Ocean by Rail.
The Plains, the Great American Desert, the Rocky Mountains.
One Hundred Hours from Omaha to San Francisco.
From Our Own Correspondent.
San Francisco, Friday, June 18, 1869.
My trip over the Pacific Railroad, from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean, from Omaha to San Francisco, though presenting no very extraordinary experiences, was made under some new conditions of travel; and it was altogether so delightful a trip, and so fruitful in ministrations to the eye and the imagination, that it may be written out at somewhat greater length than could be wished.
…. A couple of hours out, dinner was announced – an “event” to those of us who had yet to experience what it is to eat in one of PULLMAN’S hotels on wheels; so stepping into the car next forward of our sleeping palace, we found ourselves in the dining car, the “International,” which, O, muse of gastronomy, inspire me with language fit to describe!
            And first as to the mechanism, &c, of the car itself … The car is devoted exclusively to the purpose of cooking and dining. Midway between the two ends of the car, and occupying its entire width save a narrow passage to the left, is located a compact kitchen, specially designed for the Pullman car, and a marvel of economy of space and of adaptation of means to ends it is. I am not learned in the mysteries of the batterie de cuisine, but I have it from an expert that it affords facilities for the last triumphs of cookery, and as the proof of the pudding is in the eating thereof, I can bear personal witness to the amazing successes realized in that adytum of gastronomy.
            Now, you may imagine that the presence of a kitchen in the dining car is a sacrifice of aesthetics to necessity; but such is not the case, for the apartment is so effectually encased in rich mirrors and carved decorations that you would not dream it to be a kitchen, while the ventilation is so perfect that not the faintest intimation that cooking is going on reaches the nostrils. Immediately beneath the kitchen floor, and communicating by beneath the kitchen floor, are dust-proof ice-boxes and provision cellar in which are packed the fresh meats and the butter, eggs, and other edibles requiring cook quarters.
            Having inspected the cuisine, we come to the dining-saloons, which occupy the two ends of the car. In each of these are placed six tables, making twelve in all; and as at each table four can sit comfortably, forty-eight persons may dine at the same time. These tables are portable, and may be promptly stowed away out of sight. Attached to the side of the car, by each table, is a bell, one stroke upon which instantly brings a waiter to your side. The interior of the dining-saloon is elegantly finished in black walnut, mounted with silver, while all the appointments are in perfect taste, and the effect is strikingly pleasing.
            It was a revelation to us, that first dinner on Sunday; and though we continued to dine for four days, and had as many breakfasts and suppers, our whole party never ceased to admire the perfection of the arrangements and the marvelous results achieved. Upon tables covered with snowy linen and garnished with services of solid silver, Ethiop waiters, flitting about in spotless white, placed as by magic a repast at which DELMONICO himself could have had no occasion to blush; and indeed, in some respects it would be hard for that distinguished chef to match our menu; for, in addition to all that makes up a first-chop dinner, had we not our antelope steak, (the gourmet who has not experienced this – bah! What does he know of the feast of fat things?) our delicious mountain brook-trout, our choice fruits and berries, and, sauce piquante and unpurchaseable, our sweet-scented appetite-compelling air of the prairies? You may depend upon it, we all did justice to the good things, and, as we washed them down with bumpers of sparkling Krug, while we sped along at a rate of thirty miles an hour, agreed it was the fastest living we had ever experienced. (We beat that, however, two days afterward when we made twenty-seven miles in twenty-seven minutes, while our Champagne glasses filled to the brim spilled not a drop!) After our dinner we repaired to our drawing-room car ….

As the source for the recipe for the day, I feel compelled to go to The table: how to buy food, how to cook it, and how to serve it (1895), by Alessandro Filippini - one-time chef at Delmonico’s famous New York restaurant.

Fillipini notes that “antelope may be generally had through the autumn and winter months,” and gives recipes for various cuts of antelope (steak, chops, saddle, stewed, civet) cooked and served in various ways (à la Francaise, and with chestnut puree, currant jelly, cranberry sauce, port wine sauce, sauce poivrade, and sauce Colbert.) One of the suggestions is that antelope steak be cooked like venison, and served with Russian sauce. Russian Sauce is referenced multiple times in the book as recipe 211, but in the text, recipe 211 is mistakenly named Prussian sauce. Here it is:

211. Prussian Sauce. — Add to three-quarters of a pint of hot bechamel sauce (No. 154), a teaspoonful of powdered sugar, a scant teaspoonful of red pepper, three tablespoonfuls of grated horseradish, and two tablespoonfuls of cold cream. Let it boil for four minutes, meanwhile stirring it well, and use when needed.

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