A Night to Remember: Our Titanic Dinner Photos

The invitations were typed on a 1912 Underwood. I had quite a typewriter collection at the time.

Titanic’s 100th anniversary has not only brought to light new information about that fateful night and how the ship sank, it’s spawned several Titanic-related events—memorial cruises, balls, and dinners.

If you know me, then you know that for about ten years, I threw theme parties. Lots of them, each inspired by a period or event in history about which I was passionate.

In early 1998, we decided to hold a Titanic dinner; yes, the blockbuster-sparked craze was on and we’d just purchased the book Last Dinner On the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner by Rick Archbold; cooking seven-courses in my normal-sized kitchen, creating atmosphere and figuring out how to do a huge sit-down dinner in our dining room would be a challenge, but we were up for it—given my fascination with Titanic’s tragic story (and any tragic loss of life due to hubris), I couldn’t not do it. All of our guests came in costume and in character, and the evening also included a brief vigil the moment the ship hit the iceberg.

It took five months to prepare for A Night to Remember. Many of the people who were in attendance that night probably haven’t even seen some of these photos.

So, enjoy: A Night to Remember, April 18, 1998.

I had a separate journal just for keeping the event’s records.

Me, cutting onions for the Potage Saint-Germain (pea soup). Some courses had to be prepared a couple of days in advance; there was only one of me.

Preparation lists for the months and weeks before. The journal is crammed with them; some are daily.

Preparation lists for the months and weeks before. The journal is crammed with them; some are daily.

Preparation lists for the months and weeks before. The journal is crammed with them; some are daily.

My sister Missie came over to help me make the Potage Saint-Germain.

Completed Potage Saint-Germain, ready to be stored.

Kitchen mess. You can imagine there was a great deal of that in the few days leading up to the event.

The menus. Ahhh, the old days of cut-and-paste-and-do-it-on-the-copy-machine. Pagemaker wasn’t so sophisticated back then.

Our menu. I provided information about each course; I probably got this from the book.

Our menu. I provided information about each course; I probably got this from the book.

Our menu. I provided information about each course; I probably got this from the book.

Irwin Allen’s 1966 TV series The Time Tunnel’s pilot episode, “Rendezvous with Yesterday,” has our heros trapped on the Titanic the night it sinks…

Here, my friend Walter and I rehearse a scene from the episode. We performed it once all the guests had arrived.

The note Walter sent with my script.

The note Walter sent with my script.

The scene we re-enacted from The Time Tunnel’s pilot episode, “Rendezvous with Yesterday.”

We performed the scene again at our Time Tunnel theme party two years later in May, 2000.

Charles (my housemate) and I have a strategy meeting on the back patio (now our deck). We did many of these.

Each of our guests were sent a packet of information on choosing their characters and other relevant stuff.

Each of our guests were sent a packet of information on choosing their characters and other relevant stuff.

Our guests also received information about the period to help us all with dinner conversation. These are pages from a book called The Timeline of History.

Our guests also received information about the period to help us all with dinner conversation. These are pages from a book called The Timeline of History.

Our house on the morning of the event. Blue and gray: rather appropriate. No, we didn’t paint the house to match.

Me, the morning of. I had been burning the candle at both ends all week; typical for a theme party.

Our friends Kaitlyn and Keith arrived the night before to help us prepare.

Working in the kitchen.

Dear God, there were so many potatoes to cut for the Chateau Potatoes I thought I was going to lose my mind.

Charles works on the fresh orange juice needed for the Punch Romaine.

Keith, either helping us cook or looking for beer. Maybe both.

They broke the juicer (which is why you saw Charles using the blender in an earlier photo).

Clearly, you can see we sampled the Punch Romaine before we froze it. Here, I’m working on the canapés.

MUTANT STRAWBERRY! Strawberries were the garnish for the champagne each guest was served as he walked through our door.

Our fridge. So crammed all of our regular food was out in tubs in the garage; it was still chilly enough at that time of year and thank God. This experience resulted in us purchasing a second fridge, which is in our basement.

Bob made us a model as a gift. It’s still one my most treasured possessions.

…here, it’s not just lists; it’s a plan for reorganizing the whole house. We had a tea room for the ladies and a smoking parlor for the gents.

Our dining room begins to undergo transformation; our intent was to create “The Captain’s Table.”

Our dining room begins to undergo transformation; our intent was to create “The Captain’s Table.”

Our dining room begins to undergo transformation; our intent was to create “The Captain’s Table.”

Our dining room begins to undergo transformation; our intent was to create “The Captain’s Table.”

We turned our breakfast nook into an extension of the bar; we would also stationed the coffee and tea here to make it easier for me to serve guests.

The beginnings of our Titanic display so guests could have something to browse if they so chose. The baskets contained our favors: gift-wrapped paperbacks of Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember.

The books I mentioned. I had purchased and wrapped these months in advance.

The Ladies’ Tea Room, on our second floor.

The Mens’ Smoking Parlor.

Our mail table, also decorated to reflect theme. The book you see is a gift from our friend Manzino. We know for a fact there was a copy of this book – an illustrated Bible – in the Titanic’s Reading Room. The tubs were there for dirty dish storage during the event. I had to keep the counters clear.

Our back patio. Not very theme-oriented, which is fine. I used it as a breathing space during the event.

Even our kitty, Taffy, gets in on the redecorating! Taffy passed away in 2007.

Our friend Denise comes over and helps us prepare food.

Kaitlyn signing a book she bought me as a gift.

Kaitlyn and Denise get to know each other.

Before any party there are improvements made to the house. Here, Charles installs a dimmer on our foyer chandelier. It didn’t have one before that.

Now Keith is crying as he cuts onions for the Chicken Lyonnaise.

Closer to event time, “The Captain’s Table” is fully decorated.

It may look like we spent a fortune on this party. Everything you’re looking at here is tag sale or we owned it; all the napkins and tablecloths I made from remainder fabrics I found at Joanne’s Fabrics.

A close-up of a place setting.

A close-up of the paper favors. Paper, cardboard, and ribbon.

The yellow sheet you see in the paper favors; this is a copy of (possibly) the first distress telegram sent from Titanic.

The white sheet you see in the paper favors; this is a copy of a summons from the British Board of Inquiry following the disaster.

Another shot of the table—our friend Anne-Marie bought us these wine glasses; one dozen for $10 at Bed, Bath, & Beyond.

A close-up of the place cards I made.

We used the place cards for both the table settings and for me to mark things in the kitchen; I had a sort of “assembly line” going, although the food was all table-service (the guests took a break, I put out the next course on individual plates and brought it to the table).

We still have a couple of those blue glasses, although most of them broke over the years. We got them at a tag sale.

The Titanic display with a few more items on it.

Never throw a party without a tracking sheet. I had to know what was happening when.

Never throw a party without a tracking sheet. I had to know what was happening when.

It’s almost time. We start to create the atmosphere.

The Smoking Parlor under atmospheric light.

The candles in our wall sconces are lit.

A guest brings us wine (I have it written down in the journal, but I put the whole box back in the basement and I’m too lazy to go look at who it was).

An article about The Heart of the Ocean – the hottest thing to own at the time. I purchased J. Peterman’s version for the event.

Me, as Eleanor Wilkens Widener, First Class Passenger who survived in Lifeboat No. 4. The night of the disaster, she organized a dinner with Captain Smith, hence I played her by default, so to speak. She built the Widener Library at Harvard.

Suzi, as silent film actress Dorothy Gibson, who survived the disaster in Lifeboat No. 7. Several accounts say the night of the disaster she was playing bridge with a couple of bankers.

We had a set-up for professional portraits; only half our guests took advantage (too busy partying!). Our friends Anne-Marie and John as Mr. & Mrs. John Astor.

The other photo of them is better in lighting and quality, but I love Anne-Marie’s expression here.

Our friend Denise played Eleanor Widener’s daughter, referred to as “Dimple.”

Our friend Lori as the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown.

Kaitlyn and Keith as Lady Duff Gordon (a designer of lingerie) and Sir Cosmo Edmund Duff-Gordon. Mr. Gordon was a participant in the 1908 Olympics. Both survived in Lifeboat No. 1.

Heather and Scott as Lucile Polk Carter and William Ernest Carter. She survived in Lifeboat 4; William escaped in Collapsible C.

Charles as Benjamin Guggenheim.

Guggenheim pours champagne for arriving guests.

Dorothy Gibson, Molly Brown, Dimple Widener and Lady Duff Gordon.

Lady Duff Gordon, William Carter, our friend Stefan as Captain Smith, and John Jacob Astor.

Madeline Astor and Lady Duff Gordon.

Having some light chit-chat.

Walter, playing both Anthony Newman from The Time Tunnel and Nicholas Nasser, a Second Class Passenger who did not survive and whose body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett. Nasser’s wife, Adele, survived.

Walter, playing both Anthony Newman from The Time Tunnel and Nicholas Nasser, a Second Class Passenger who did not survive and whose body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett. Nasser’s wife, Adele, survived.

The men take in the night air.

A gift from “Dimple.”

The card that came with the gift.

The gift under natural light. It’s still one of my treasured possessions and holds all of the prints from that night.

This is a scan of the book so you can see the engraving and the invitation more clearly; I did this recently.

The revised seating plan.

My old French Cornet, which was used to announce the different courses. I donated the horn to the Danbury School System in 2011.

The sixth course: Oranges en Surprise.

The poems and candles for the vigil.

The poem we read as part of the vigil.

Suzi and Lori – themselves, now, it’s late enough!

Yeah, maybe we’ve all had a little too much champagne!

Bob – he played Thomas Andrews for our party. Bob recently played Captain Smith in a production of Titanic: The Musical. I know a few Titanic fanatics. He’s on the top of my list.

I changed out of my dress – which was a real Edwardian dress and was fragile – so I could clean up in something a little more practical.

The men begin relaxing in the Smoking Parlor. Here’s Walter.

Charles.

Bob.

Me.

For the life of me, I don’t know where that fur came from. I probably borrowed it from one of the theatres; I was heavy into community theatre at the time.

I was sleeping downstairs on the futon that night, as we had a few out-of-town guests using my bedroom and the guest room.

The plastic bins were full of dishes at the end of the night.

The aftermath.

The aftermath.

The aftermath.

The aftermath.

The aftermath.

The aftermath.

The aftermath.

The aftermath.

The aftermath.

Breakfast the next morning.

The paper for the thank-you notes.

Oddly enough, a local restaurant was holding a Titanic dinner for a benefit just two days after ours. I attended.

They used the same recipe book, and the food was great, but…

…I just didn’t think their attention to detail was as close as mine!

 

Advertisements

About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in countless magazines and anthologies. She has received three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies, is a co-editor for Read Short Fiction, and co-hosts the Dark Discussions Podcast. Her work Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole is a collection of ghost stories set in Disney Parks; her horror novel, Bad Apple, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She’s also a member of the New England Horror Writers Association. More info: www.kristipetersenschoonover.com

Posted on April 19, 2012, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Holy crap, that was a LOT of work! Looks like everyone had a great time. This just confirms that your wedding will be f@k**g awesome (though there was never any doubt.)

  2. That was AWESOME!! And the perfect antidote (not to mention anecdote!!) for a gray rainy morn. Wish I had been there in real life, but the virtual do-over was pretty damn good!! And now I see why you had to acquire the necklace from your Peterman post. It’s all coming clear now…..

  3. That looks fun. That seemed like a lot of work, but it’s worth it. I also like the costume idea of the real passengers. I have thirty family members that were on board the Titanic and some of your invitees dressed up like them, like the Astors, the Carters, the Duff Gordons, Thomas Andrews, Captain Smith, and Benjamin Guggenheim. This meant a lot for me. A lot of people these days don’t realize how amazing the Titanic is. She’s beautiful, inspiring, and a true work of art from cousin Tommie (Andrews’ nickname). That’s even amazing that you recreated the foods that were cooked on the last night before the sinking. People would always think that this type of food is bland when it isn’t.

    • Wow, Kristen! I’m sorry it took so long to respond to your comment. This is really amazing that you were related to some of these people, and I’m really happy that you took our party as a celebration. We really had a wonderful time, and, in fact, people have asked that I do it again, but it was a lot of work! I just remember cooking for weeks. I’ve been thinking about pulling out that recipe book lately, though, and remaking everything. It was super delicious stuff.

  4. That’s grand that you and your guests enjoyed it. People these days just think the Titanic as the James Cameron movie and that it was a ship that hit an iceberg, but there’s more than just those two things. And you showed it to your guests. About my relatives, a lot of people I know say that I look like Lady Duff Gordon and some other people say that I look like Tommie. I was trying to make an Edwardian inspired dress for fun, in case I have a costume party like yours, and I was looking through the pictures of the dresses. I looked at this one dress in particular and thought about making that one. It was white with kimono sleeves, a sash, and a small train. I thought that it would look simple for me to make, but when I was looking for the name of the designer of this dress, guess who made it?
    Lady Duff Gordon. I’m basically making my cousin’s dress for myself. Coincidence, eh?
    For the food part, I made a Waldorf pudding before and it was one of the desserts served on the Titanic. It felt wierd at first that I was cooking something that my cousins ate on board the Titanic, but I really enjoyed the pudding. Also there is a place in Belfast that’s also recreating the foods served on the last night of the Titanic to the guests today.

    • That dress sounds gorgeous! I hope you do make it and I do hope I get to see a photograph. I think that’s so amazing that you have such a great connection, a personal family connection, to such a tragic and important event in history. I’m not surprised, in fact, that you did choose a dress designed by her without prior knowledge — I think somehow we all carry such ‘knowing’ in our genes.

      I’ve never had Waldorf pudding. For dessert at our party we did whatever the alternate was that was in the book…I want to say it was a mint ice cream type of thing. That’s sad I don’t remember (I should probably just re-read my own blog post? Ha!) Anyway, there have been a few places around here that have done “Titanic” dinners. I went to a few, but what was odd was that no one was serving the actual food. It was kind of weird.

      You know, I think you should throw a costume party for Titanic, especially with your connection to it. Did you get the cookbook that I worked from? That makes it easy because it has all the recipes and even suggested menus. And while you might be wary that your friends/guests may not want to make their own dresses, no one made their own dresses for ours. People pretty much scrounged and found enough clothes — mostly in their own closets — to suggest the era. I know some of the women’s hats we “made” by just taking some hats I had and embellishing them with feathers and fake fruit and stuff.

  5. Creativity counts, whether it’s from scratch or from piling on the original items. For the recipes, I had some of the food growing up, like the filet mignon, chicken lyonnaise, poached peaches, rose water mint sorbet, and so on. The Waldorf pudding is easy to make. It’s like bread pudding with chopped apples, steamed raisins, and walnuts with simple sugar and egg yolks as the sauce. It’s delicious! It was even served at JJ’s hotel, the Waldorf-Astoria, to the guests in New York during the early 20th century. A couple of times, I have caught the phony Titanic food, too. I had this so called Titanic Iceberg salad in a restaurant one day and when the waiter came back to check on me and my food, I said,
    “I know this wasn’t served on the ship, but the salad is good.”
    This drives me crazy all the time, hehe.

  6. Update on the dress: I just sewed all of the pieces together. Now I need to decorate it. The assembling was easier than I thought thanks to Lady Duff Gordon. I guess it’s in the genes. I’m planning on adding lace trim to the sleeves, the neckline, and possible some on the train and it’s possible that I might add some silk flowers from leftover fabric and some hand embroidery.

    • Hi Kristen! I don’t even know how I missed this comment — actually, I do. It’s been insane since I’ve been stage managing a show, but that closed last night. Today I’m sitting around doing lots of updating and paperwork! Anyway, that is AWESOME news about the dress. Will you have photos when it’s done?

      • I finished the dress and I have pictures of it, but I don’t know how to share them as a comment.

      • Hmmm…I wouldn’t know how to share it as a comment, either. You can always email it to me? I have your email (WP sends it with your comment). I’d just really like to see it. I wouldn’t put it anywhere publicly unless you wanted or asked me to.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: