Monday, May 14, 2012

A Night To Remember

I've been obsessed with the Titanic since I was a little girl.  Long before the Titanic was TITANIC: THE MOVIE!, long before there was Jack and Rose and Celine Dion, before there five hundred specials like TITANIC: THE FINAL MYSTERY SOLVED!, on the History or Discovery or Learning Channels.

I've been obsessed with the Titanic before they even found the wreckage of the ship.

For anyone who doesn't know, that was in 1985.  I've been obsessed with it since about 1983.  That's when the brilliant-but-cancelled, short-lived, one-season television show starring now-sadly-deceased 80's heartthrob Jon-Erik Hexum, VOYAGERS, did an episode set on the Titanic.  In that episode, the time-traveling Hexum, along with his kid sidekick, had to set history right by getting the Mona Lisa off the doomed ship.  Kid Sidekick tries to save the ship, but Older And Wiser Hexum tells him that he can't change history.  Sometimes tragedies happen.

I'm not sure exactly what it is about the Titanic that has fascinated for nearly thirty years.  I suppose it's a combination of things: that it was the largest moving object in the world, that it was supposed to be "unsinkable," that it was the most luxurious ocean liner ever built, that it was a floating example of a terrible class system, that it was one of the last bastions of chivalry (I doubt it was women & children first on the Costa Concordia), that the band played on as the ship went down.  Because I'm so far removed from that era, it's easy to see the romance of it (as the box office numbers can attest to).  And at the time when I first learned about the Titanic, they hadn't found the wreckage yet.  People had died trying to find it.  It was largest moving object in the world and no one could find it.

Also, in the early years of my obsession, I checked a book out my school library about ghosts and curses, and in it there was a story about how there was a cursed Egyptian mummy being transported from The London Museum to New York on the ship.  An Egyptian curse?!  It really doesn't get any cooler than that.

So, yeah.  I've been obsessed for a long time.

The backyard is transformed
A few years, it occurred to me that the 100th Anniversary of the sinking was coming up, and that there was no way in hell that I was going to let that date pass without doing something.  Something big.  Something like...I don't know...inviting a bunch of my friends over, making them dress up in costume, turning my backyard into a wonderland of candlelight and recreating the final dinner served in the first-class dining saloon.  You know, something simple.  Ha!
Host & Hostess

So on April 14th, 2012, my most wonderful and intrepid friends indulged this crazy whim of mine and were treated to the most elaborate dinner that will probably ever be served in my house.

Course Five: Beef, Lamb, Duck
Guests arrived at eight, and entered the Grand Saloon, aka the backyard, which had been set up with an elegant table and soft lighting.  Period-appropriate music filled the air (via an iPod; sadly, the budget did not allow for the live string quartet I originally wanted).  Champagne flowed all night.  Six courses were served.  Oysters, cream of barley soup, poached salmon, duck, filet mignon, lamb, eclairs, peaches in chartreuse jelly and French ice cream.  A different wine for each course.  And champagne.  Did I mention the champagne?

It was one of those nights were time stops and nothing matters but good friends and good food, the stars above and the laughter around the table.  At 11:40 pm, the exact time the Titanic hit the iceberg, we played "Nearer My God to Thee" (the hymn the band supposedly played while the ship was sinking) and had a moment of silence.  I'll be honest, though, we were all extremely, uh, merry by that time and the moment of silence was rather giggly.

I've never lost sight of the fact that over 1500 people lost their lives that terrible night 100 years ago.  Part of my fascination with the ship comes from the incredulous question How could they let this happen?  How could they put lifeboats for only half the people on board?  How could the Californian, less than ten miles away, ignore the distress calls?  How could they lower lifeboats, built to carry eighty people, with only twelve people aboard?

The Wreckage
But oh, it's hard to think about that when you're sucking a delicious oyster out of its shell.


  1. Super fun, Nicole. I'm so glad your Titanic dinner was a huge success and it looks like it was! Hooray!

    1. It was an honor to be one of your guests! An amazing evening I'll never forget!