Breakfast in Lübeck, 1847 and 2017

Kerstin at the breakfast buffet at Hotel Anno 1216.
(watercolor, Sara Azzam, 2020)

Lübeck, October 2017

Dressed in the fashion of 1847, Kerstin and I enter the breakfast parlor at Hotel Anno 1216. The early morning sun lights up the room. The décor of the room is exquisite. The table settings are elegant and on each table is a fresh cut tea rose.

We get a warm welcome from the staff who shows us to our table and asks for our preferences regarding coffee. Kerstin has ordered a continental breakfast. There are no vegan choices here, so I will just pick a few grapes and orange slices off her plate and pair it with my emergency protein bar.

Through the old, large windows we can see the sunlit brick wall of a building across the street. It was at this location that the wool merchant, AP Rehder, and his family lived in 1847. And it was the Rehder family who hosted Augusta and her mother on their first visit to Germany. Augusta might have been sitting in their breakfast room looking at the house where we are now sitting. And interestingly, a few years later, AP Rehder bought the house which is now or hotel, Hotel Anno 1216.

Kerstin helps herself to juice that is available on an antique buffé table. The scene looks like a painting. Kerstin, dressed in a dark blue dress adorned with a lace collar and with her hair tied in a bun, is poring sunlit orange juice from a crystal glass carafe. I make a mental note to paint the scene when we get home from our journey.

As Kerstin is enjoying her continental breakfast (and I am picking the garnish off her plate), we wonder what type of breakfast Augusta would have had in the Rehder’s breakfast room across the street. What did they eat for breakfast in Lübeck in 1847?

The Family of Mr. Westfal in the Conservatory. Painting by Eduard Gaertner, 1836. Breakfast in the conservatory owned by the prosperous Berlin wool merchant Christian Carl Westphal, who was also a passionate horticulturist. (The Met)

The Buddenbrook Breakfast

The Nobel Prize winner, Thomas Mann, described in his novel, Buddenbrooks – a novel about a wealthy merchant family in Lübeck – what Tony, the teenage daughter had for breakfast in 1846:

Tony came down at nine o’clock and found her father and mother still at the table. She let her forehead be kissed and sat down, fresh and hungry, her eyes still red with sleep, and helped herself to sugar, butter, and herb cheese.

“How nice to find you still here, for once, Papa,” she said as she held her egg in her napkin and opened it with her spoon.

Tony, her mouth full of bread and butter, looked first at her father and then her mother, with a mixture of fear and curiosity.

“Eat your breakfast, my child,” said the Frau Consul. But Tony laid down her knife and cried, “Out with it quickly, Papa – please.” Her father only answered: “Eat up your breakfast first.”

So Tony drank her coffee and ate her egg and bread and cheese silently, her appetite quite gone.

Breakfast seems hardly to have changed in the last 160 years – coffee, bread, butter, cheese, eggs…

But did they have grapes and orange slices for garnish? Probably not. Happy we got some.


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