Shiver me timbers! Thanksgiving is just days away. I was going to blog about costuming my characters in historical romance but decided not to regale you with tales of my crew, me hearties. I’ll save that blog for another time. Because ‘tis time to plunge into extravagant table settings. Yes, the Georgian, Regency and Victorian era reigned supreme when it came to dinner parties. Isn’t that what Thanksgiving really is, one big partay for our mates? After all, there’s nothing better than setting out to amaze our guests with a properly prepared and presented feast. Just make sure any pirates milling about wash their hands. You never know where a pirate has been. Savvy?
Recently, I read an article about capturing the appeal of Downton Abbey in your own home. (Who killed Mrs. Gates? Pardon me, I digress…) Though this fabulous Victorian Era series dates later than my historical time period, the etiquette was the same and proper dress codes and behavior prevailed. (Sorry, Jack)
Throughout the Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods dining tables were laid out with suitably rich and succulent flare. Tabletops gleamed with elegantly draped tablecloths and delicate napkins. Bone china (Wedgwood, Crown Derby or Worcester) and crystal reflected light from polished brass candelabras topped with fiery candles. The goal, to put your guest at ease, was also achieved by adding demitasse cups and wine goblets to each place setting. Wine (Madeira, sherry and champagne) was like water in the day and it succeeded in relaxing many a tongue.
In the days of the Regency or even Downton Abbey, no one invited guests via Facebook or text. (No pirates allowed!) Handwritten invitations were sent via messenger for an immediate response. On the night of the event, guests arrived 15 minutes prior to the invitation time in order to prevent angering the cook, who fretted the food would get cold. A parade of happy party goers, females accompanied by a male companion, adjourned to the dining hall where Jeeves announced, “Dinner is served.” (Do not try to sit beside your wife, Mr. Collins!)
Wives were simply not allowed to sit beside their husbands. (Proprieties must be observed at all times. Ergo, the reason no pirates were allowed.) Ladies were then shown to their seats while men hobnobbed before taking their chairs. An epergne (centerpiece of grapes, pineapples, peaches, apricots, or pyramid of plums), pleased the eye as the first course, fish and a tureen of soup, were eaten. Strawberries, raspberries, dried fruit and nuts were placed at table corners. And yes, there would even be cake, wafers and apple puffs too.
Dishes were graded by color and texture. Six courses were served with precision. Oftentimes, there were as many as 25 dishes on the table at once. And I’m happy to announce that mustard was on every English table during this time.
Such an extravagant affair lasted two hours until the hostess finally pronounced the ladies should retreat into another room whilst the gentlemen drank Madeira, port, and claret, and discussed politics or gambled for hours on end.
Oh, yes! Me hearties, these were grand affairs requiring men to wear tightly laced cravats and women to wear gloves. Straight-backed postures were the rule of the day. (Though, me thinks wearing a corset probably kept that rule in place.)
Jack says, “Clearly, you’ve never been to Tortuga.”
Are you planning Thanksgiving dinner at your house? Whether you have servants at your disposal or not, break out the china and crystal. Engage in living the meal instead of eating to live. You may not have Oriental rugs, faded chintzes, Staffordshire dogs or leatherbound books as the article How to Capture the aura of ‘Downton Abbey’ by Laura K. Lloyd from the McClutchy News Service suggests. You may not live in a highborn English Manor House, but elegance is only a state of mind, me hearties. Savvy?
Remember extravagance = lighting = candles.
Elegant dining = linens, china, crystal and wine = relaxed tongues.
Grab your lovers arm and walk arm in arm to dinner. Hold your head high like the toffs, highborn aristocrats, who celebrated every meal in style. Spice up your Thanksgiving with period etiquette and charm. And if you’re interested in how you can become a toff, you can find ‘Downton Abbey’ replications of bedding, bath, furnishings, décor, apparel, and more at Knockout Licensing or check the modern comfort of CuriousSofa.com.
What are your Thanksgiving plans? Do you have a feast in the making? How will you present your fare?