With my mind lost in the eighteenth century, I realized I had walked past the Hotel Victoria. I quickly turned around, retraced my steps and found myself in front of the doors to the restaurant. I stood looking in the windows for a moment to make sure my appearance did not reveal that I awoke from sleep only minutes ago. Reassuring myself that I looked presentable, I threw open the door to the restaurant. As the door closed behind me, I realized I must have walked into some sort of costume ball. Everyone in the restaurant was dressed in eighteenth-century fashions. I was angry that my employer had not told me to wear a costume for the evening. I felt very out of place. As I began to look for my company, I noticed something very strange. Everyone was speaking with an English accent. I became even more distressed. Not only was I out of costume, I did not know how to speak with an English accent. Suddenly, a woman, who vaguely looked like my employer, called me to join her dinner party of nine. This evening was becoming increasingly puzzling. My employer had neglected to tell me that I would be dining with eight other executives of the company. In an authentic English accent, the woman said they had been anxiously awaiting my arrival. Overwhelmed, and positive was I not going to get the job, I sat down in silence. Fortunately, conversation around me began quickly and I discovered that the woman who looked like my employer, was not an employer at all, but Lady Fricasse, who was married to Lord Fricasse of Turnip. To my complete shock, I realized I was not at a costume party. The people at the table were not acting. I had been transported to an eighteenth-century dinner party in England! I decided I must be reading too many books for my web project. I looked toward the door, wanting to escape this time warp. However, there would be no better way to describe food and eating habits for my web project than to experience them for myself. This time transport could be an excellent resource for the web project. I forced myself to ignore the little voice in my head that was worried about my ability to return to the Twentieth Century, and that also told me time transports were impossible.
on the people at the table, I heard the hostess introduce me to the other
guests. I had to hide my surprise when I was introduced as Lady Shortcrust
of Petit Pasties. The servants began to bring the dishes of food
for the first course just as I began to acclimate myself to my new situation.
So, trying to forget about the impossibility of time transport, I forced
my mind to think of the books about food I was reading, so I could anticipate
the types of food I would be served. I hoped
I would not be forced to eat any strange eighteenth-century delicacy such
The last dish was placed on the table, and I realized that I needed to remember quickly the cultural rules for dining in the eighteenth century. My ability to follow the appropriate social mandates for dining was especially important considering that the cultural rules, not the food served, were the focus of an eighteenth-century meal. My mind filled with excitement as my experience of eating an upper-class eighteenth-century meal was about to begin. With some luck and the knowledge I gained from reading books for my web project on food in eighteenth-century England, I was able to survive dinner without any serious problems. The only difficulty I had was attempting to take mental notes as I observed the manners of the guests and the dishes which were served.
After a complete upper-class dinner of two courses and dessert, I knew it would be days before my stomach recovered. When we finished eating, the party rose to leave for the opera. In the bustle of deciding who would ride in whose carriage, I made a quick move to the door from where I entered the room. I said a silent good-bye and walked through the door. I again found myself on the sidewalk in the Twentieth Century. I decided my adventure would be my own secret because no one would believe I had visited the eighteenth century.
All of a sudden, I became aware of someone calling my name and shaking
my arm. My roommate was standing in front of me. I was in my
apartment on the floor, surrounded by books and notes about eighteenth-century
food in England. There was a phone call for me. I looked at
our clock. It was 6:55 p.m. on Tuesday March 23, 1999. This
time, I truly had fallen asleep. I took the phone from my roommate.
On the other end of the line was one of my partners for our web project,
asking me what time I wanted to meet that night. I told her I had
found some great information. I discovered that despite the fact
that preparation for and presentation of dinner were complex and time-consuming
efforts, the quality of the food served was secondary to the presentation
of the food and the upper-class culture which accompanied it. My
partner thought I must be famished since I had been researching and writing
all day, and suggested that we meet for dinner. However, I declined
her dinner invitation because I was very tired. I could not bring
myself to tell her that, far from being hungry, I felt as stuffed as an
eighteenth-century dinner guest.
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