A Look at the Titanic’s Menus

What was for dinner on that fateful night?

Adam M Wakeling

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The Titanic’s First-Class A La Carte Restaurant (Wikimedia Commons)

OnOn the evening of 14 April 1912, as the RMS Titanic steamed westwards into the sunset, her thirteen hundred passengers sat down to dinner. Their voyage was nearing its end, and they expected to be in New York City on 17 April. Of course, for many of them, that fateful dinner would be their last meal.

The Titanic was more than a ship — she was a cross-section of trans-Atlantic Edwardian society, a stratified world which would crumble under the fire of the guns of the First World War. We can learn something about that society from her menus.

Third Class

Third-class menu (Wikimedia Commons)

There were 709 third-class passengers on the Titanic, mostly immigrants from Europe looking to start a new life in the U.S. or Canada. A third-class berth cost £3–8/$15–40, or between $350 and $900 today. Travelling on the Titanic wasn’t cheap, and Europe’s poorest could not afford a ticket. That being said, third-class passengers were well provided for. Their accommodation was cramped, but they were fed solid meals of traditional British fare. For most, the quality and quantity of the food would have been much better than they had at home.

Third class passengers were served breakfast, dinner, tea and supper. In the early twentieth century, English working-class people usually ate their biggest meal in the middle of the day, so the midday dinner was large and hearty, and tea and supper much lighter. On 14 April, the third-class passengers were given a three-course dinner, starting with rice soup, moving onto roast beef and vegetables, and finishing with plum pudding, sweet sauce and fruit. Fruit, in particular, was a luxury at the time.

In the early evening, they were served tea with cold meat, bread, cheese, pickles and stewed fruit. And later, at night, a supper of gruel, cheese and cabin biscuits (thought to ward off sea-sickness). Sadly, for most of them, this would be the last meal they ever ate. The White Star Line took pride in feeding its guests well, but it did not equip its ships with enough lifeboats for them all. Three-quarters of the third-class…

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Adam M Wakeling

Adam Wakeling is an Australian writer, lawyer and historian. He is online at https://www.amwakeling.com/ and on Twitter @AdamMWakeling.