1865 Inaugural Ball Menu

Abraham Lincoln's second Inaugural Ball in 1865 was a lavish affair for 4,000 people with a midnight buffet. Which didn't turn out quite as planned.

Oysters, roast beef, veal, turkey, venison, smoked ham, lobster salad and a seemingly endless display of cakes and tarts spread across a table 250 feet long. The hungry crowd charged the food, and the lavish event devolved into a food fight of sorts. “In less than an hour the table was a wreck…positively frightful to behold,” wrote the New York Times. Men hoisted full trays above the masses and took them back to their friends, slopping stews and jellies along the way. “The floor of the supper room was soon sticky, pasty and oily with wasted confections, mashed cake, and debris of fowl and meat,” reported the Washington Evening Star.

The menu itself seems odd to modern diners, as half the offerings were meat and the other half sweets, which is explained by the caterer being a confectioner. But where are the vegetables and bread? Some dishes aren't seen much anymore, like smoked tongue, stewed terrapin, calf's foot and wine jelly, and burnt almond ice cream. Read more about these dishes at Smithsonian. Link


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The menu itself seems odd to modern diners, as half the offerings were meat and the other half sweets... But where are the vegetables and bread?

We had a more civilized and refined cuisine back then before all these "health food" and "living past forty" fads developed.
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