Victorian Foodies by Edward Connolly….
Cape May is known for many things not the least of which is the eclectic variety of its restaurants. Fine dining was an integral part of the Victorian lifestyle as well. Private homes or hotels were the usual dining venues with restaurants becoming popular in the latter 1870s. Food was one thing but the Victorian dining experience was as much about showing your station in life as it was about anything else. Leisure time and disposable income were the main ingredients for the elite when they dined. When entertaining at home meals were served by numerous servants giving the hosts ample opportunity to show their guests how many servants they had. China, silverware and glassware were also on display. Careful consideration was given to the menu and to the accompanying beverages. A typical Victorian dinner would include 10 or more courses each with its own place setting. Over 100 pieces of silverware, a few dozen plates and a dozen glasses made up the service for a single guest. An elaborate floral centerpiece graced the table and would be narrowed at eye level to facilitate conversation. The conversing was more important than the consuming. This was an example of Victorian networking and diners took small bites and quick sips in order to be ready for a verbal response.
The same rules of etiquette and decorum applied when dining at a hotel or restaurant. And the particular spot, such as Congress Hall, the Stockton or the Columbia, added to the prestige of the experience. As restaurants appeared they were judged not only by their cuisine but as the “place to be” as well.
Attire at the dinner table was an important consideration for the Victorians. Options for a gentlemen were few; black or white tie with a tux or proper evening suit. Women needed to select a formal gown that had not been seen in that particular season. Summer whites were not considered proper dining apparel.
Cape May Restaurant Weekend is November 2nd – 5th. You can see participating restaurants by clicking here.
Post written by Edward Connolly, Broker Sales Associate and Cape May Local.