Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The bountiful table of the Maxwell House Hotel

In my upcoming novel, "By Streams of Water" (release date August 1, 2013), one of the main characters and her husband make a trip to the Maxwell House hotel in the 1870's.  Here is a recounting of that experience:

Edward had booked a suite for Kathleen in the fashionable Maxwell House hotel, which was at the corner of Church and Cherry Streets. Seeing the place in all of its new grandeur, she found it hard to think that it had so recently been a Union army barracks. It had housed Confederate prisoners, as well, a thought which made Kathleen shiver.
The front entrance, which was directly across from the Men's Quarter, was flanked by eight Corinthian columns and led into a magnificent rotunda. No decent woman wanted to be seen on Cherry Street these days, so the hotel had added a separate entrance for ladies. For that, Kathleen was grateful.
Once inside, there was so much to take in. The ladies entrance led to parlors and drawing rooms in such beautiful colors. There was a Dunham piano so that the women could have music while they chatted or while they promenaded around the mezzanine.
The hotel boasted steam heat, gas lighting, and a bath on every floor. In the main lobby, there were cabinetry of fine mahogany, brass fixtures, gilded mirrors, and breathtaking chandeliers. There were men's parlors in addition to the women's, and Kathleen thought these sitting areas were all lovely. She was not so enamored with the billiard rooms and bars...
...Once they were seated at the table, she couldn't make up her mind what to eat. Edward obviously delighted in going over the choices with her. The bounty reminded her of feasts that she had taken for granted before the war.
She looked up at Edward through fluttered lashes. “Oh, let's start with the turtle soup. No, let's have the gumbo.”
Edward nodded. “We can have the trout in anchovy sauce for the fish course.”
For the entrees, the couple decided on filets of beef, braised with mushrooms and Salmi of Prairie Grouse, with Spanish olives. They added fresh asparagus in butter, succotash, stewed tomatoes, and baked sweet potatoes. They followed that with yellow coconut drops and coffee.
“Oh, it was all so wonderful. I'm too full to move,” said Kathleen.
“I've never known you to be too full to dance.” Edward stood up and extended his arm to her. The couple made their way to the ballroom, where they joined in a waltz. Edward looked down at her tenderly. Then, he whispered into her ear, “I've missed twirling you about in my arms.”
“I've missed this, too,” she whispered."

 copyright Elizabeth A. Mundie 2013

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