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The Disgusting Truth About The Food On Downton Abbey

Much of Downton Abbey's appeal came from its commitment to authenticity when depicting its early 20th century setting.

Creator Julian Fellowes knows the value of faithful recreations. Everything had to look good: The costumes were real corsets and real collars, and the furniture was appropriate for the period. Dialogue had to match the setting as well, with characters using the proper expressions and etiquette for their class and station whenever possible.

Unfortunately for the cast and crew, some sensations don't translate through the viewer's television, and those were less of a priority. The main purpose of the food cooked by Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and her kitchen staff for the show's opulent white-tie meals was to look good on camera, which sometimes entailed sacrifices not just of taste but also of smell. How does the idea of a recycled lobster make your stomach feel? Let's investigate one of the grosser stories coming from the set of Downton Abbey.

What was Downton Abbey's Lobstergate?

Though you might think it would be easier to use a plastic lobster or other trick, Sophie McShera (Daisy Mason) told Rachael Ray In Season that the food on Downton Abbey was almost all real, in a sense. It just had to sit out under hot lights and through multiple takes, which could take days. "They spray things to make them last longer under the lights. They freeze things that are on the turn and bring them back," McShera said.

"It was beautiful and looked terrific on camera," Lesley Nicol said of the lobster, "and was very expensive. They took it away as it was beginning to go. They froze it, and then brought it out another day, and by the time it had thawed it was bad." Bad enough, she said, for the cast to refer to the incident as "Lobstergate" afterwards.

The lobster was not the only offender. McShera spoke of the food stylist tricks that made the food look better but smell and taste worse, such as covering olives in meat gelatin. "Sometimes it was very smelly in that kitchen," McShera said.

It looked great, and for a period piece like Downton Abbey, that's what counts.