09/02/05 - an american meal

In today's excerpt - Jean Rio, born to privilege in upper-crust London society, comes ashore in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1851 en route to her ultimate destination in Utah. She knows nothing of America, and is constantly surprised by what she finds:

"Mrs. Blime provided her with sumptuous guest quarters, and Jean Rio, accustomed as she was to a lavish lifestyle, was stupefied by the opulence. 'For breakfast, they take coffee boiled in milk', she wrote,

'with eggs, ham, hung beef, dried fish, salads, hot soda cakes, bread and butter. For dinner [lunch] we had boiled redfish, stewed pigs' feet, rumsteaks, wild goose (rabbits and squirrels too are commonly eaten) with vegetables, pickles, and salad. Two tumblers are put to each plate, and wine and brandy are placed on the table and each takes which they please. The idea of pouring either in wine glasses, they laugh at—even ladies will drink off a tumbler of port as if it was water. Pies, tarts, cheesecakes, candy, fruit, and ice cream are brought on table after the meats are removed. French brandy poured into a glass and most bountifully sweetened with pulverized sugar finishes the meal. Tea as a meal they know nothing about, but at seven o'clock they take supper, which is quite as luxurious an affair as the dinner. By ten o'clock everyone is in bed and the streets are deserted.'

"Her hostess explained that while most of New Orleans' white inhabitants were Frenchmen, they were nearly all married to Englishwomen, and she suggested that Jean Rio could fashion a nice life for herself there rather than continuing on to this mysterious Zion. If Jean Rio entertained the notion at all, her extant diary does not reflect it."


Sally Denton


Faith and Betrayal: A Pioneer Woman's Passage in the American West


Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc.


Copyright 2005 by Sally Denton


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment