Katie Bender’s Commercial Restaurant served top-notch Christmas dinner fare
Frontier Historical Society
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
“Once more the Christmas season is upon us – the brightest, best and sweetest of all the festal occasions. This is the time when our hearts are made glad, our finer faculties are quickened, joy and good cheer everywhere abounds.”
– Glenwood Post,
Dec. 24, 1898
The joy and festiveness of the Christmas season was custom made for Glenwood Springs restaurateur Katie Bender. A woman who year-round relished the serving of a good affordable meal to her fellow residents and city visitors, Bender expanded her fare during the holiday season. The dinner she offered at her Commercial Restaurant at 308 Seventh St. on Christmas Day 1898 was no exception.
Bender was extraordinary among Glenwood Springs business owners. During a time when businesswomen were few and typically behind the scenes, she had taken the leap into a profession that demanded long hours and good staffing.
She initially came to Glenwood Springs in 1888, and after her husband’s death launched her dining establishment. From food to china to her silverware engraved with her initials KCB, no detail was too small for her to notice. Her standards of quality, generosity and activism made her a respected and prominent force in the Glenwood Springs business community.
Bender planned her Christmas meal carefully, offering a full dinner for 25 cents – roughly $7 at 2009 prices.
Her meat selection included young turkey with oyster dressing and cranberry sauce; suckling pig with sweet potatoes; goose stuffed with apple sauce; prime rib au jus; leg of mutton with current jelly; and sweetbreads with tomato sauce.
Vegetables included mashed potatoes, stewed corn and green peas. For fish lovers, she served smoked halibut with bechamel. Her two soups were consomme au riz – a clear broth containing rice – and mock turtle soup – a hearty soup made from beef parts and vegetables mimicking the taste and texture of actual turtle soup.
If the diner had any digestive room to spare, he or she could top off the meal with English plum pudding, hot mince pie, apple pie or cake.
Delivering this menu meant a great deal of work for Bender and her staff on a day when others were observing the holiday. But even when the times were the busiest, she never failed to express appreciation to her employees. Those working for her always received gifts at Christmas time, and generally those gifts were generous.
As Christmas Day 1898 closed, undoubtedly Katie Bender looked back on the holiday season and was satisfied. The bounty of a well-served dinner united neighbors and visitors in celebration.
And for Bender herself, she had again thoroughly enjoyed the festiveness and the giving of the season. Ten years had passed since her arrival to the community she called home. And as she also started her 52nd year of life, she let the warmth of the community and her friends surround her.
For Katie Bender, who gave so much of herself, the love and respect she received from Glenwood Springs was perhaps the greatest gift she could receive.
Willa Kane is former archivist of and a current volunteer with the Frontier Historical Society and Museum. “Frontier Diary,” which appears the first Tuesday of every month, is provided to the Post Independent by the museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Fall, winter and spring hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.
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