For a lot of people these days, a three course meal consists of a cheeseburger, fries and a drink, more often than not eaten and drunk whilst standing up, driving, lolling on a public bench in extremely causal clothing or any combination of the three. The upper classes of Victorian England would have an apoplectic fit if they could see us now.
For better or worse, times have changed quite dramatically. The English of the Victorian age made an event out of every meal, and you had to come to it properly attired. From breakfast to afternoon tea to dinner in or out, meals were virtually choreographed.
The difference is not so much in the actual fare, which still tends towards beef, poultry, fish, other meats and fresh or canned vegetables plus bread and/or potatoes. It should not be forgotten that much of the citizenry of Victorian England consisted of poor labourers who never got enough to eat, much less a sumptuous meal like those described herein.
For the privileged classes, however, eating and drinking was a matter of immense enjoyment. Breakfast alone usually consisted of omelets, scones, fruits, bacon, sausages and any number of other options. Informal attire might be accepted if it was just the family members dining at home. If guests were present, formality usually reigned, regardless of the time of day.
A Victorian dining room would probably be considered a banquet hall today. For dinner with guests, not only would the diners be dressed for the occasion, but the hostess would employ every bit of her finest tableware. That might well include six or seven different forks plus the same number of knives, plus assorted stemware for water, wine, sherry etc. – and one dinner plate plus a bread plate.
Servants carried plates of different courses to the table after whisking away the used ones, and six or seven courses were the norm, not the exception. Soups, appetisers, four or five kinds of meat and assorted vegetables, and an array of desserts could be expected, with time between courses for digestion and conversation.