Monday, July 18, 2016

Mad dash in the White Sulpher Springs diningroom - in 1832

The wealthy elite would go to the Virginia (now WV) spa for health and society... and had to race to get a seat in the dining room (left).  And bribe the cook. And enjoy a "hail storm" (mint julep). John H. B. Latrobe, described the rough and tumble dining rules and sketched several of the sights in 1832.

John Hazelhurst Boneval Latrobe, the lawyer son of the architect of the US Capitol Benjamin Latrobe, saw a hail storm for the first time - a Mint Julep. His reminisces and images are in John Semmes' biography, John H. B. Latrobe and his Times, 1803-1891 (Baltimore: 1917) -

“White Sulphur is a pleasant place to live. There is something eminently aristocratic about the place, and you feel that you are with your fellows here, more than at any other place of its kind in Virginia, quite as much so as at Saratoga or Ballston [Springs in NY]…

Crowds collect around the dining room when the bell rings, and when they are opened there is a rush, like that at the booth at a contested election. Every man, woman and child rush to any seat which they may happen to find, and in a very short time the food upon the tables disappears consumed by the hungry mob.

If you have a servant of your own, he must bribe the cook. If you have no servant, you must bribe one of those attached to the place, or you run the risk of getting nothing. Bribery furnishes you with the best of what is to be gotten in the place, and avoids the rushes at meal time. Bribe high and you live high; fail to bribe and you starve; look sharp and eat fast, you forget good manners.

Fight - literally - a fight between waiters
The day after I arrived, two waiters quarreled over an apple pie; one floored the other and neither got the pie, which was floored in the scuffle—and this scene took place while the guests were seated at the table.

Order to eat
This is the motto of the dining-room of the White Sulphur. After the guests have dined, then come the working men and laborers on the place. After they have finished, then come the servants. Whatever a servant provides for his master belongs to him if his master does not eat it.

And the hail storm
I saw here for the first time a hail storm so called, that is to say, a mint julep made with a hail storm around it. The drink is manufactured pretty much as usual and well filled with a quantity of ice chopped in small pieces, which is then put in shape of a fillet around the outside of the tumbler where it adheres like a ring of rock candy, and forms an external icy application to your lower lip as you drink it, while the ice within the glass presses against your upper lip. It is nectar, they say, in this part of the country.”

©2016 Patricia Bixler Reber
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