The Dish On Dining At Downton Abbey
Photo courtesy Francine Segan.
Anyone who’s a Downton Abbey fan(atic) can’t get enough of the series. If you count yourself among that faction (or just like history…and food), you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of the Granthams, Crawleys, Mrs. Hughes and all the rest of the Downton family (upstairs and downstairs) at Ventfort Hall in Lenox, MA. On Saturday, February 21, food historian, author and TV personality Francine Segan will bring you into that era with her talk, “The Art of Dining at Downton Abbey.” It’s part of the Tea & Talk series at Ventfort, and a lavish high tea will follow Segan’s presentation.
Segan, a Downton Abbey devotee herself, frequently lectures on the food of about 20 different eras and cuisines (she’ll be giving this particular presentation at the Smithsonian next month). With the popularity of the British TV series, her talk about Victorian dining has morphed into one about the Edwardian period; she adds to it by going into the 1920s, which ushered in a food revolution. She begins each lecture by anchoring guests to the time period, showing now-obsolete objects for cooking and dining and then focusing on the food-centric activities of the period: dinner parties, cotillions, the etiquette of the upper classes.
Photo: “Opera Lover’s Cookbook” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang), by Francine Segan.
A James Beard-nominated author of six books, Segan does her research the way the Granthams might have: by mining the treasures of libraries. In fact, for this era’s research, she found much of what she was looking for right in Lenox, just a few miles from her weekend home in Great Barrington.
“The Lenox library has rare books in a vault, including home diaries,” Segan says. “There’s nothing like holding a hand-written, leather-bound book that contains the bookkeeping records for a manor or notes on what recipes didn’t work for the mistress.”
The tea at Ventfort will include sandwiches and other savories and sweets and a “top-level tea,” says Linda Rocke, marketing coordinator. Much like what Mrs. Patmore might have prepared.
Tea & Talk: The Art of Dining at Downton Abbey with Francine Segan
Saturday, February 21, 3:30 p.m.
Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum, Lenox
$35 with advance reservation (recommended), $40 day of event