What’s On The Menu?
The whole evening celebration of the 21st birthday of the Ginner-Mawer School sounds as if it were a delightful affair, totally suited to the aspirations and inspirations of the two women who were putting their hearts and souls into the endeavour (as described in The Link, October 1937, pp.20-23).
The writer of the magazine article stated “…everything was just right, which, after all, is what one would expect from a School one of whose aims is a perfect balance between the mind and the body.” A clumsily written sentence perhaps – but it does demonstrate the Ginner-Mawer ethos, and was in part to a reference to the fact that there was a lot of food available to eat!
I have been unbelievably lucky in having been shown a photo of the actual programme from the evening, which also includes the menu. I don’t recognise many of the courses, so have had a stab at working out what they were. Please do get in touch with me if you can help further.
There were seven courses (if one counts coffee at the end as a course all of its own). In my own life I can name ‘starter’, ‘main course’ and ‘dessert’ (or more typically, ‘pudding’, lol) – however this does not fit in with this superb menu where I can name ‘starter’ or ‘entree’, ‘dessert’ and ‘coffee’, but I don’t know how to name the four courses in the middle. So here is my best attempt at it.
The starter was a choice between (or a mixture of, I’m not sure) grapefruit and/or Hors d’Oeuvre Assortia, which I am guessing is an assortment of mini bites.
Next up is Consomme Filateur, or Creme Argentee. Consomme is a type of clear soup, and I think that filateur might refer to fine vermicelli. So, a clearsoup with bits of noodle floating in it? Or you could have Creme Argentee, which I think is also a soup. So perhaps this course was a choice of two different soups, one a clear soup and the other a ‘silver’ soup (‘Argentee’ meaning ‘silver’ – I have no idea what silver soup might be, but presumably thick and creamy!)
Following the soup, we have Delice de Sole Meuniere served with Pommes Macaire. This would seem to be a classic French fish dish of Dover Sole, lightly pan fried and covered in lemon butter sauce. Show me the way to the table… Complimented by crisp fried potato cakes (twice cooked potatoes, firstly baked and the flesh scooped out, then moulded into small, flat-sided cakes and fried on both sides.
Next up comes the meaty bit: Carre de Pre-Sale Dubarry, served with Choufleur Polonaise. This was probably Rack of Lamb, pre-salted and served with cauliflower topped with chopped hard-boiled egg yolks, breadcrumbs and parsley. The nearest I could find on the internet was something called a carre d’agneau which is the French version of rack of lamb – roasted with the rib ends exposed and the bones at the bottom of the rack removed for easy slicing.
Is the lamb followed by chicken, or did guests choose either lamb or chicken, as opposed to both? From the layout of the menu, I would guess they were served both. Any ideas?
In case you were still feeling unsustained (or would it have been an alternative?), next up came the cold meats: Poulet Froid au Jambon, served with Salade de Saison. This one I could guess at without the help of Google Translate – Cold Chicken or Ham, with whatever salad was in season. (This, I think, is something that we will need to return to in the UK. As I write this, in February 2023, supermarket shelves are devoid of salad, fruit, and vegetables because we have all become so used to eating whatever we want, whenever we want it. Now that there are world economic, climate, and supply problems, the UK can no longer get its foreign-grown produce. We will need to learn a thing or two about how, during the middle of the last century, even London’s top restaurants could only serve what was in season.)
Then comes the sweet section of the meal: Poire Glacee Alma served with Gaufrettes. I couldn’t find an exact match for poire glacee alma – but presume it was an ‘iced’ or ‘glazed’ or ‘caramelised’ pear, served with ‘gaufrettes’ which are thin wafers with a slightly sweet flavour, like a crispy French waffle.
I don’t eat meat, but if I did, I would have had a go at re-creating this menu. What a stunning meal it must have been! I can easily sort out the final course, though, coffee. I wonder how they took it? With cream, probably, drizzled over the back of a silver tea spoon and swirled in a wonderful spiral shape.
The printed programme for the evening (see photo) belongs to Jack Tannett who is the Great Nephew of Mildred Robley-Browne (nee Peters), a long-standing and much valued member of the Ginner-Mawer family.
Mildred Robley-Browne was an important guest at the event, here is what was written in the description of the evening which was printed in the School magazine (author unknown) “Mrs. Robley-Browne, proposing the toast of the Ginner-Mawer School, re-called her past associations with it, and told us that she was one of the original ‘Ginner-Mawers.’ She spoke of the great importance of dance and mime in education, emphasizing the opportunity for emotional outlet that they offered. Mime is a compulsory subject in her school, and she suggested to the teachers of the future that there was a wide field to be explored in remedial work.” (The Link, October 1937, p.20)
A full biography of Mildred Robley-Browne has been written by Jack Tannett, using incredibly detailed diaries and papers from the archive of Mildred’s husband, Surgeon Captain Robley Browne. Here is the link: https://tannettfamilyhistory.ca/
I can imagine that this incredibly sumptuous meal in wonderfully luxurious surroundings was looked back upon fondly just a few years later, in the midst of World War 2…