appetizers & recipes: hors d'oeuvres: oysters
We continue our dedication to the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. We have chosen to focus on the survivors of the tragedy, particularly women, as very few men survived. The survival demographics of the passengers (this does not include the staff and crew), in brief, looks something like this: Female/ Total: 416 Survived: 304 Died: 112 Children/Total: 112 Survived: 56 Died: 56 Male/Total: 768 Survived: 130 Died: 638
Male passengers (no matter what class passenger) had the lowest survival rate. Male staff and crew members even fared a bit better, with 195 surviving of the 896 who served aboard the Titanic. Female staff members had the highest survival rate with 20 out of 22 surviving.
When all numbers are tallied there were 2214 people aboard the Titanic and only 705 survived, women whether passenger or staff member had the highest survival rate.
One of the lucky ones, Edith Louise Rosenbaum, a first class passenger, survived the Titanic because of a pig. Having watched Edith in an interview (British Pathe) it was clear she was good company for our focus on Margaret Brown.
Edith Louise Rosenbaum had quite a bit of pluck, which is quite evident in the interview, which we highly recommend watching by clicking here. (The footage also includes an interview with a gentleman who survived despite being in the steerage class. Ironically, his name isn’t given in the interview. )
Like Margaret Brown, Edith Louise Rosenbaum lived an unconventional life for her time. She was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Cincinnati, Ohio on June 12, 1879 and at an early age demonstrated a love for fashion and journalism. She was a fashion writer, consultant, importer, buyer and stylist, but began her career in 1908 as a saleswoman for Maison Cheruit in Paris.
She became the chief foreign correspondent to “Women’s Wear Daily” (A trade magazine that still exists today). In 1912 Edith Rosenbaum was running a buying and consulting service based in Paris while also designing her own line of clothing for Lord and Taylor.
Tragedy struck Rosenbaum’s life a year before she boarded the Titanic. In 1911 she survived a serious car accident in France. Unfortunately, her fiancé did not. German gun manufacturer, Ludwig Loewe was killed in the accident.
In the spring of 1912 Rosenbaum made the fateful decision to change her travel plans, landing her on the Titanic:
“Returning to Paris, I booked on the George Washington, which was to have left on April 7th, but when I found that this wonderful new boat, the Titanic, leaving on the 10th, would give me the opportunity of reporting (as I was the correspondent of “Women’s Wear”) the Easter fashions at the Races, and arrive at New York the same time, I naturally cancelled my passage and decided to sail on the largest, most wonderful unsinkable boat!!!”
Rosenbaum was able to book passage. She stayed in cabin A-11 on the Promenade Deck and also paid for cabin E-63 for all 19 of her wardrobe trunks. In the interview video (mentioned above) she states that before going to the deck she locked all 19 trunks and took all 19 keys with her.
Rosenbaum also made sure that she took her Maxixe (named for a dance) the pig. Her pig music box was the right size to be mistaken for a baby and that fact saved Rosenbaum’s life. She refused to get into a lifeboat until other women and children were first put into the boats. Someone noticed her refusal, but in the confusion thought that Maxixe is a baby and grabbed the pig, putting it into a lifeboat. At that point Rosenbaum had no choice, but to join her prized possession and she jumped into the boat.
Once in lifeboat #11 Maxixe was able to be of use as Rosenbaum would wind the piggy’s tail, entertaining the children in the lifeboat while they awaited rescue on that freezing night. Maxixe became a hero.
Her life was lived to the fullest before and after the Titanic tragedy. Rosenbaum never married. She became one of the first female war correspondents during WWl, using the pen name Edith Russell as she felt “Rosenbaum” sounded too German. She became friends with the actor Peter Lawford who was married to Patricia Kennedy. Rosenbaum became godmother to their children. She was a technical advisor on the set of “A Night to Remember”, a movie about the sinking of the Titanic. And, she bred dogs for the famous French performer Maurice Chevalier.
Edith Louise Rosenbaum passed away on April 4, 1975 at the age of 98. Survivor of the Titanic, Fashion and War journalist, socialite and celebrity, Rosenbaum, like Margaret Brown was a woman who paved the way for the “modern” woman and both Rosenbaum and Brown were able to do so because of old fashioned chivalry; women and children first. The irony is not lost on us!
Let us proceed with the first course of the last dinner on the Titanic. The menu simply says “Hors D’Oeuvres: Oysters” so we will serve, oysters, simply. They are elegant, and I imagine because they were easy to serve one reason why they were chosen for the beginning of a 10 course meal.
How to Serve Oysters
Fresh oysters (as many as you’d like to serve)
1. Scrub oysters with a brush, under cold water.
2. Using an oyster knife (do not use a common knife) and with a very thick kitchen towel in your hand place the cleaned oyster into the towel, palming the oyster as it rests in the towel. The towel will keep the oyster from slipping while protecting your hand to an extent, but don’t rely on it to be foolproof. Be very careful!
3. Pry open the hinges of the oyster shell with the oyster knife. The shell will open wider by twisting the knife once it has pried open the shell a bit.
4. Loosen the meat from the shell by sliding the knife under it. Let the meat remain in the shell once it is loose.
5. Place oysters on a chilled platter and serve immediately with lemon.
Model: Canon EOS 5D