Table for two?

September 16, 2018

 

The idea of voluntarily dining outside the home at an establishment solely devoted to fine dining is a Victorian concept.  Prior to the era, the only time one didn’t dine at home was while traveling and then it was done at an inn, hotel or tavern.

 

With more and more single men moving into city rooming houses, they began to have their lunches at taverns near their workplaces.  For lower middle class men, it was lunch and dinner and a few beers at a bar.  For upper middle class and upper class men, it was a business and social networking lunch with cocktails at their prestigious men’s club.  For women it was a tea luncheon, while shopping, in the tea room of a department store like Wanamakers.  Proper women never enjoyed these tea luncheons unescorted.  One’s evening meal was always taken at home with the family and relatives or fellow roomers.

 

The blue collar working class, in the Victorian view, did not dine.  They simply ate breakfast and dinner at home and lunch at their workplace.

 

Delmonico’s changed upper class Victorian dining habits, popularizing fine dining for the evening meal.  Swiss brothers John (really Giovanni) and Peter (really Pietro) Delmonico (really Del-Monico) established the first business devoted exclusively to fine dining or restaurant (in French) in 1837 in New York.  By century’s end, their several Manhattan restaurants had become synonymous with opulent fine dining.  Each offered not only the finest food prepared by the first superstar chef, Charles Ranhofer, but ornate opulence to match any multimillionaire’s mansion:  marble and gilt walls, silk tablecloths and napkins, crystal stemware, the finest China and real silverware.  When John died and Peter retired in the 1840s, nephew Lorenzo managed Delmonico’s to its