Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Titanic


When Molly at the delightful blog Orangette had the flu and could not write for five days, she was able to make up for it by taking and then posting a lovely and artistic photograph of ... wait for it ... the dirty dishes in her sink. That was in February ("Over and out"). Now she's done it again. I regret to say that my dirty dishes don't look like that, and my un-vacuumed carpets and un-emptied trash baskets over flowing with tissues don't look artistic, either. Not even with the morning sunlight playing over them.

So, being the good history major that I am -- B.A., Purdue University, 2006 -- I turn, raw nose, watery eyes and all, to my fail-safe plan B, the historical anniversary. April 15th: ninety-six years ago today, our not at all remote ancestors woke up to the news that the great steamer Titanic had foundered in the night, in the middle of the north Atlantic. The ship sank in only two hours and forty minutes. The menu for the last dinner aboard was an essay in Edwardian elegance, from the oysters and soup to the fish and roasts, to the vegetables, punch, and game (punch to be served before game, always), to the cold desserts and then the coffee, crackers, cheese, and port and liqueurs served afterward. The wines would have been the appropriate ones that Fannie Farmer and her fellow cookbook and social customs authorities -- and for that matter, Mrs. Wilberforce -- would have known about and therefore left unmentioned. Of course one served sherry with soup, Sauternes with fish, claret with roasts, and champagne with anything you like. There actually were some wines salvaged from Titanic's sinking, though how or when I don't know, and an anonymous collector bought six of these bottles more than three years ago.

Madame Lily Bollinger of Bollinger Champagne is famous for having announced all the proper times for indulging in her product: when happy or sad, when alone or in company, when hungry or not. Definitely when thirsty. I am sure she would have agreed that it is also the correct thing to drink during convalescence. E. M. Delafield's Provincial Lady is treated to it after a dangerous bout of measles: "I am given champagne, grapes, and Valentine's Meat Juice ...should like to ask what all this is going to cost, but feel it would be ungracious."

Ungracious, too, to close without a mental throwing of a wreath on the water, so to speak, for Titanic, that marvel which was supposed to sail majestically into New York on a lovely day in April and never arrived. It is odd to think how few people actually ever saw her. Her survivors, I am sure, were not comforted with champagne; coffee and soup were right. There is, to my knowlege, only one of them left.

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