Why A Thanksgiving Meal Was Served To Passengers On The Titanic

The sinking of the RMS Titanic is one of the most tragic and fascinating events of the 20th century. Generations continue to be captivated by every detail of this piece of history, from the sheer size of the ocean liner to its untimely sinking to what the passengers ate during their brief journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Among the many relics and treasures discovered from the wreckage site over the last century is a second-class dinner menu from the night of April 14, 1912, the precise night when Titanic struck the iceberg which sealed its fate. The evening's meal included plenty of popular British dishes but also featured roast turkey with cranberry sauce, an unequivocally American Thanksgiving dish.

This choice of meat and garnish possibly symbolized the ship's final destination of America, which held (and still holds) Thanksgiving and its culinary delicacies in high regard. Second-class travelers consisted of professionals like teachers, tourists, and staff of some of the first-class passengers, many of whom had left everything they knew in Europe to begin a new life in the United States. The menus' mix of English and American fare may have been a playful combination of the mix of the "old" and "new" things these passengers were about to experience — although tragically, many of them would perish just hours after this fateful meal.

One final dinner

When the sun rose on April 14, 1912, passengers had been aboard Titanic for four days and, with an expected New York arrival date of April 17, they were excited to reach the land that promised opportunity. During the day, they might have walked the decks, played a variety of games like chess and shuffleboard, and spent time in the library, gymnasium, and Turkish baths. As the second class sat down to dinner that night, they marveled at the assortment of foods which were far better than the meals of any other ocean liner at the time.

With a pianist playing in the dining room, there was a first course of consommé with tapioca followed by a choice of roast turkey with cranberry, spring lamb with mint, baked haddock, and curried chicken. Side dishes included peas, turnips, an assortment of potatoes, and rice. The enticing desserts were plum pudding, wine jelly, "cocoanut" sandwiches, ice cream, cheese, fruit, and nuts. Many in second class surely felt like royalty enjoying these delicious foods, and they likely retired to their rooms that night well-fed and optimistic for the next part of their lives. It's crushing to know that over half of them would not see the sun come up the following day.

The tragedy is commemorated around the globe even today in a number of ways, including special dinners featuring dishes that mimic those that were actually served on the ocean liner on its final night.