Good lordy, we are 4 days away from the Downton Abbey season 4 finale! I am two episodes behind in posting but not because I was burdened with the village church bazaar.
We had two snow days here on the east coast (and please don’t mock us, Minnesota friends and relatives) and John and I attended the 2014 WAMMIES (Washington Area Musicians’ Association awards) on Sunday for which he was nominated in two categories (congrats JP!) I caught up with Downton later on demand.
Let’s get to it.
Lord Grantham was called to America to help Cora’s brother out of some trouble involving a Senate committee investigation. He heads off and takes Thomas as his valet (because Bates needs to stay close to home for Anna) and apparently, Lord Grantham NEEDS a valet because ‘Americans have separate outfits for everything.’ (Really, Lord Grantham? That seems certainly British.)
They disappear for most of the episode. I wish Julian Fellowes would have shown some of the first class travel on the ship because the 1920s were a heyday for luxury steam ships and ocean travel. According to the On the Water exhibit of the Smithsonian Museum of American History, Europe competed to create showpiece ships that could lay claim to being more spacious, more luxurious, swifter, and safer than anything that had sailed before. With immigrant steerage compartments converted to middle class travel cabins, transatlantic travel was more accessible to the newly up-and-coming wealthy Americans, and they were attracted to travel to Europe with all the excitements and conveniences on board.
Carson informs the staff that his Lordship and Thomas have booked passage on the S.S. Cameronia which was an actual steamliner in operation from 1920 to 1957.
The Cameronia was part of the Anchor Line Steamship Company which was eventually taken over by the esteemed Cunard line. In 1907 Cunard launched the first of their Express Liners, the Lusitania and the Mauretania, ships that become bywords for speed, luxury and elegance in transatlantic travel. The ships were “Grand Hotels” at sea, and had high tech amenities like electric lifts, telephones, and daily newspapers printed at sea (the news received by wireless). They also had extravagant restaurants and catering operations.
Here is a very good resource if you are interested in learning more about luxury steamship travel and the foods served: The New York Public Library’s project: Maury and the Menu: A Brief History of the Cunard Steamship Company
For example, First Class passengers on the Mauretania could expect to dine on:
Little Neck Clams
Petit Filet de Boeuf ala Parisienne
Timbales a la Richelieu
Roast Quail on Toast a la Monglas
Neopolitan Ice Cream
More on historic restaurant menus at What’s On the Menu–transcription project by the New York Public Library.
Meanwhile, back at the Abbey, Mary was proving herself to Charles Blake by helping him to save the pigs and ruining her shoes in the process.
And whatever Lord Grantham was having in the first class dining room on the S.S. Cameronia, nothing could have tasted better to Charles Blake than the scrambled eggs Lady Mary whipped up in the servants kitchen.
Speaking of perfect scrambled eggs, nothing is harder to cook than something simple. Master these soft, pillowy curds of scrambled egg and butter and you will always have a breakfast (or late dinner after the theatre) fit for the finest gourmet. One of my favorite bloggers writes brilliantly about Ouefs Bruilles (scrambled eggs) which we knew growing up as ‘hotel eggs’ or eggs scrambled low and slow in a double boiler with cream or sometimes, cream cheese.