Celebrating Moments in Time Through Historical Dinners
Culinary experiences are fast becoming an emotional and sensory part of every society across the globe. It’s a chance to explore new ideas, cultures and traditions. The history that accompanies the main attraction seems to bring a deeper connection to the experience and you rarely find a recipe or meal without knowing the story or inspiration behind it. As foodies, we crave this deep culinary connection.
There is a growing trend among top chefs, restaurants and culinary tourism boards to promote history as a part of the culinary experience or is it the other way around? Either way, the two go hand in hand and bring a deeper perspective. Are we on the road to more food museums popping up? Perhaps, as our culture becomes so deeply connected to food including it’s history, that we naturally become further entwined with the experience.
I want to share a recent historical dinner experience that put President’s Day in an entirely new perspective. Typically thought of as nothing more than a three day weekend full of car dealers and furniture store sales, and not known as a culinary celebration, President’s weekend celebrations took on a whole new meaning. I was recently immersed to a place in time, March 6, 1865 to be exact, the date of President Lincoln’s Inaugural Ball. It was a time of celebration. Not only did I experience a top notch fine dining experience paired with only the best wines, I learned many details of that night including the 20 hours of eating by the guests. Happily, the historical dinner I attended did not replicate the food fight that became so famous that night. A mini version of the menu served during the reincarnation of that historical event was made up of Oyster Stew, Pate of Duck and Sauteed Leg of Veal Malakoff. After the intermezzo, round two was presented with delicious Roast Tenderloin of Beef Bernaise, succulent Lobster Salad with Bibb Lettuce and Charlotte a la Russe to round out an incredible culinary experience. Only three copies of the original menu are known to exist.
My recent introduction into historical dinners could not have come from a more fitting historical culinary expert. Executive Chef Neil Connolly, former personal chef to the Kennedys and famous cookbook author of In the Kennedy Kitchen, Recipes and Recollections of a Great American Family, magically transported approximately 100 eager foodies to a place where they became culinary history buffs. Chef Connolly currently is the Executive Chef at Avila, an exclusive golf and country club community in North Tampa, FL. His love of history is replicated every month through historical dinners that take you back to a moment in time. His oral perspectives and historical details are infused throughout the meal, truly bringing the event to life.
21st Century Historical Dinners
Fast forward to the 21st century where options abound for chef inspired historical dinners or you can host your own. Guests could even come dressed in costume to totally be in the moment. There are tremendous resources for every style and taste of historical dinners. A nice keepsake of the menu and recipes, if available as well as a few fun facts so guests can re-live the memorable evening, can round out the event. Historical dinners would be perfect for a small or large dinner party, cooking club or girls night out. A good starting place to get ideas for historical dinners can be found at The New York Public Library with over 26,000 menus and one of the largest historical collections in the world dating back to the late 1890’s. For Casino inspired menus, try the University of Nevada, Las Vegas or the Culinary Institute of America for beautiful menus teaming with culinary history. You can also head across the globe to re-create your piece of culinary history in Italy where Academia Barilla provides a Gastronomic Library which boasts an enormous collection of beautiful historical menus, over 10,000 cookbooks, overviews of food history and recipes that have been around for centuries. Check out what Napolean Bonaparte ate after he won every battle. Historical menu search is another great place to get inspiration. Pick your time period and region to experience the nostalgic value of a moment of cultural and social history. In the soon to be released food and travel CULTure website, Destination Cuisine, you will find historical menus and ideas on how to bring this fun event together.
I encourage foodies everywhere to try a historical dinner as yet another reason to gather with family and friends to make fond memories around the table. These dinners transport you to a special time and place where you experience history by reliving the menu and recipes served at the celebration. Whether it is a historical or celebrity event, becoming immersed in that moment in time, allows your mind and palate to share a piece of history.
As trends come and go, I foresee staying power with historical dinners in the world of culinary entertaining, philanthropic events and great party ideas. You don’t need President’s Weekend to get started celebrating great history through food. I encourage you to find an event in history that interests you and recreate the celebration of that moment. Not only will you learn something, your friends and family will surely be impressed that you thought of this one of a kind event.
Eat Well…Live Full
By Laura Raymond, Editor
February 28, 2012
Check out my Google + Profile
Leave a Comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.