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Manor House
"A dinner party is a huge personal challenge. I'm not a hugely confident person, but if I can manage to pull it off, it will be a huge personal boost." Lady Olliff-Cooper
THE PROJECT|THE HOUSE|THE PEOPLE|EDWARDIAN LIFE|YOU IN 1905|TREATS|SNOB QUIZ
Monsieur Dubiard
Photograph of Mr. Edgar serving at the table

The butler waits on his master at dinner. Two footman are also required to serve a family dinner

Photograph of a roasted pigs head served on a plate

The diet of Edwardian upper classes included a lot more meat and offal than usual today


Snob Status
Quote
"We like our food more sanitised nowadays, we like it plastic wrapped from the supermarket, with no noticeable resemblance to animals."
Lady Olliff-Cooper
Lucy
Edwardian Life: Food

Food Upstairs
Sir John and Lady Olliff-Cooper are not only expected to behave like rich Edwardians - they're expected to eat like them as well. And the food of the wealthy was designed, like so much else in the house, to impress and help the family maintain their social status.

Manderston has its own French Chef de Cuisine, Monsieur Dubiard, employed just to prepare meals for the family and their guests.

The Chef and his Food
Only very rich families could afford to employ male chefs - and the fact that M. Dubiard is French would have been a real status symbol. It hopefully ensures that important people in the country flock to the Olliff-Cooper's dinner parties.

Dinner parties were so important to the reputation Edwardian families, that chefs could earn up to 10 times more than the butler. In return, they were expected to produce the finest food in Britain. As a result, the Olliff-Coopers are served such French luxuries as truffles, oysters, game, patisseries, fine chocolates and champagne. And as they are emulating a time when a dinner party could easily stretch to eight courses, trying to lose weight isn't really an option.

Because the chefs would have been employed as a kind of artist, there were often complaints that they were too demanding, had short fuses and were known to scream at their helpers. But because they were "creative", such behaviour was almost expected.

The servants downstairs would be served much plainer food - they eat their main meal of the day at midday, rather than in the evening like the family.

Serving Food
Although Monsieur Dubiard is a chef in real life, those serving the family at dinner have very little experience. Mr Edgar the butler is really an architect, Charlie the first footman is a sales manager, and Rob the second footman is a genetics graduate! They struggle with demands put on them to serve the chef's creations correctly in true Edwardian style.

For example, at a big dinner party catering for 20, around 50 pieces of silver, china and crystal could be used by each guest - that's a thousand items to be delivered at the correct time from kitchen to table. And each precious item must be counted in and out of the silver safe at every meal. If anything is lost the servants could be locked out of the house while their rooms are searched.

According to a guide from the time ('Williams', The Footman And Butler, Their Duties And How To Perform Them), footman would be expected to:
"wear thin-soled shoes that their steps may be noiseless, and if they should use napkins in serving (as is the English custom) instead of gloves, their hands and nails should be faultlessly clean...and [a footman] should wrap one corner of a damask napkin around the thumb, that he may not touch the plates and dishes with the naked hand. A good servant is never awkward. He avoids coughing, breathing hard or treading on a lady's dress; never lets any article drop, and deposits plates, glasses, knives, forks and spoons noiselessly."

Etiquette at Table
The family themselves are under a lot of pressure at the dinner table. Good manners while eating would be essential to avoid embarrassing their guests. An example of some of the rules they should follow are found in a book of manners (Etiquette: Rules & Usages of the Best Society, Anon, 1886):

"Greediness should not be indulged in. Indecision must be avoided. Do not take up one piece and lay it down in favour of another, or hesitate. Never allow a servant...to fill your glass with wine that you do not wish to drink. You can check him by touching the rim of your glass... Bread is broken at dinner. Never use a napkin in place of a handkerchief for wiping the forehead, face or nose. Everything that can be cut without using a knife should be eaten with the fork alone. Never lay your hand, or play with your fingers upon the table. Do not toy with your knife, fork or spoon, make crumbs of your bread, or draw imaginary lines upon the tablecloth."

"It is not in good taste to urge guests to eat, nor to load their plates against their inclination."

According to Mrs Humphry in Manners for Women (1897), "dinner would end when the signal to leave the table is given in the merest nod or smile to the lady who has been taken down by the host. She is sure to be on the look-out for it; but if she is not, it is sufficient to rise, whereupon all the ladies get up at once." The etiquette guru continues that it is worth making "a decided effort to catch the eye of the principal lady, as she might consider it a slight if the hostess were to make the move without the usual co-operation. It might be put down to ignorance."

The ladies should withdraw from the dinner room to take coffee in the drawing room, leaving in the same order in which they had entered, while the men enjoyed port, brandy and cigars before rejoining them.

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