Turtle Soup and Cheeky Friends, 1914

Posted by on Apr 8, 2018

Hotel Pfister menu archived at the New York Public Library

January 29, 1914

Tonight I accompanied Fred to the annual Metal Trades and Founders Association Banquet at the Hotel Pfister. I wore a new dress, silk like watery jade, and the emu-feathered hat from Christmas.  I’ve always adored the Hotel Pfister.  It’s so grand, as magnificent as the hotels we stayed in on our last trip to Paris.

Tonight we started with savoury canapés, every bit as lovely as the ones served at Florence’s New Year’s ball.  The most delectable course followed with turtle soup, made from green sea turtles Fred says came all the way from the Cayman Islands.  I’ve come to hope for turtle soup, the meat as tender as veal but ever so much more exotic, at every soirée this season.  Lila says a party isn’t in fashion at all these days unless turtle soup is on the menu, so I was very glad we had some tonight.  I also greatly enjoyed the squab, succulent and perfectly done up, and the dessert of Nesselrode.  It was bitterly cold tonight, so the candied chestnuts were just the thing to hearten us all.

After the meal, Lila and I had a wonderful dry Moselle while the men talked trade.  Lila is such a bricky girl, never afraid to pipe up with exactly what she’s thinking in mixed company.  I find her refreshing and a bit shocking at times, and she does make an evening like this one far more memorable.  Tonight she marched right up to E.J. Kearney, who was re-elected as president, and said flat out that if he was going to remain in charge of our collective ship that he better make sure to keep the unions in line.  He chuckled at her brazenness but I knew she rightly meant it.  I couldn’t help imagining what it might feel like to voice my opinion to a man like that, clear as day for all to hear.  It might make one feel like a bird in flight, and I wondered how she’d been able to make a habit of such forthrightness.

When it was time to leave and Fred was collecting my fur wrap, I linked my arm through Lila’s and whispered that I relished her boldness.  I swore that any event taking place at the Hotel Pfister with turtle soup on the menu and Lila on the guest list couldn’t possibly be dull for a moment.  Ever cheeky, she tossed her head and laughed.


Though I’ve fictionalized the evening, the menu from the Hotel Pfister in 1914 included above is real.  A guest recently shared a list of Hotel Pfister menus from the early 1900s that are archived at the New York Public Library.  It’s fascinating to imagine what all the Victorian delicacies must have tasted like and how the hotel itself and its guests looked, arrayed in all their finery.  For more Hotel Pfister meals past, click here.

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