Eat Like an Edwardian With a Meal Plan for the Crawleys of Downton Abbey

Another year, another Laura Linney voiceover, and another Viking River Cruise commercial. In other words, the lords and ladies of Downton Abbey are back again, gracing our modern homes with their luxurious lifestyles and grandeur. Though the plot is thick and the characters complex, it seems as if the majority of time spent with the Crawleys, and company, is surrounded by loads of food and formality.

Gliding from drawing rooms to dining halls, the elegance with which the ongoing celebration of food occurs brings pangs of longing for an era when time was taken to care for every aspect of a meal. From canapés and cocktails to coffee and liquor, the Edwardian family dinner was far more complex than what we know today. Even our most formal events rarely include more than three courses. In an Edwardian home less than six would have simply been unheard of.

Take a step back in time as we walk through a 10-course meal and explore the complexity of each course of a formal dinner service. Indulge in the ceremony of a meal in the way the Crawleys of Downton Abbey do, though few people these days ever experience it. Do you think you could manage the 3- to 4-hour sitting?

The Downton Abbey 10-course Meal

Course One: Hors d’Oeuvre

Typically served in the drawing room before dinner, this bite-sized course is often accompanied by cocktails and conversation. Look for handheld pieces of food art meticulously crafted and served on small pieces of fried or grilled breads. These impressive appetizers are sometimes also referred to as canapés.

Course Two: Soup

Upon entering the dining hall and settling into what can be a several-hours-long event, the first seated course is typically a clear soup (bonus points if served using a soup bowl from KaTom. For guests presumed to possess greater appetites, a cream soup may be offered. This course is intended to warm the guests’ digestive systems in preparation for heavier courses.

Banquet Hall Scene from Downton Abbey

Course Three: Fish

This course can be served hot or cold and should be enjoyed as one of the lighter points of the evening. This course is often accompanied by a hard bread to avoid any issues in the event that a bone makes its way into the meal.

Course Four: Entrée

The entrée can consist of poultry or wild game and will typically be accompanied by roasted or steamed vegetables and a starch in the form of rice or pasta. If pasta is served (ideally in a pasta bowl), the noodles should be short and easy to consume with grace. Rarely will long pastas be served at a formal dinner.

Course Five: Removes

Likely one of the most confusing courses, the removes course isn’t actually a course at all. It’s the portion of the meal used to switch out the side dishes in preparation for the roast course.

Course Six: Sorbet

Utilized as a palate cleanser, this typically citrus-flavored and chilled course passes quickly as the table is prepared for the roast course.

Course Seven: Roast

The roast course is the final heavy course of the meal. Before the course is served it will be presented to the hostess for approval. Often viewed as the heart of the meal this course involves many dishes. To expedite service, the roast platter typically includes many vegetables to allow guests access to all portions of this course at one time.

Inside the Downton Abbey Kitchen

Course Eight: Salad

This salad is much different than many salads we are accustomed to today. This course is quite simple and utilized as a means of encouraging digestion. The salad was typically served in a salad bowl, of course, and was nothing more than a simple bed of greens with light dressing. Don’t look for lavish toppings and heavy dressings. Remember, this is supposed to be simple.

Course Nine: Sweets

Finally, you will have the opportunity to indulge your sweet tooth. This course is typically very small in portion size, but may be complex in offering. From pastries to puddings and jellies, the options for this course are vast.

Course Ten: Fruit and Cheese

This final course is traditionally served to aid in the digestive process. Often it will be served back in a drawing room or casually in a sitting area. During this course, men would typically take Brandy and cigars in their own company, while the ladies would wait for them playing cards or enjoying entertainment.

Though this is the typical order of a formal meal, it is entirely acceptable to add additional courses or combine courses. Most importantly, the meal must flow as if it is a single, harmonious song. A disjointed meal could be viewed as a poor reflection of the house and an improperly managed staff. Just imagine trying to serve a similar meal to a full room without a well-versed team. Despite my former longing for an Edwardian feast, I’ll likely leave the past to the past and enjoy the time traditionally spent changing out courses and fussing with “removes” with friends and family instead.

Chelsea B. Sanz
Chelsea B. Sanz

Chelsea Sanz has lived in East Tennessee since her family moved here from South Florida just before she started high school. While she initially begrudged her new home state, she eventually realized she had come to not only love it, but to “bleed orange” as University of Tennessee Volunteers fans here like to say. She and her boyfriend Hunter, a trail worker for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, enjoy exploring the nation’s most visited national park and coming up with their own farm-to-table recipes.

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  1. September 19, 2015 at 6:27 pm, Sylvia Gage said:

    Very informative for me
    I tend to get my courses out of order so helpful.