Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Etiquette and Moralizing Character

Petrus Alphonsi's rules for diners explained a necessity of eating only from one's own bowl, taking small bites, wiping the mouth before drinking, and emptying the mouth before speaking. – "Alfonsi's fame rests mainly on 'thirty-three tales' composed in Latin, at the beginning of the 12th century. This work is a collection of oriental tales of 'moralizing character' or manners." – Mary Ellen Snodgrass

Storyteller and moralist Petrus Alphonsi's Disciplina Clericalis, or Training for a Gentleman, (ca 1100 CE) written in the form of a dialogue between father and son, explained the rudiments of offering guests water for washing hands. Rules for diners explained a necessity of eating only from one's own bowl, taking small bites, wiping the mouth before drinking, and emptying the mouth before speaking.

Similar guidebooks reminded the polite guest never to dredge food in the salt cellar. Correct salting required lifting grains of salt by means of a clean knife blade or extracting a pinch a time with clean fingers. An Italian guide, The Treatise on Courtesy, (ca 1200 CE), of Tomasino di Circlaria (or Thomasin von Zerklaere), rooted its advice in musings on gentility and correct behavior a table. The sensible precepts set forth in and other early European books on manners has changed little up to the present time. – Encyclopedia of Kitchen History

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor of the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Etiquette from Fingers to Forks

Fingers were once used to perform the office now assigned to forks, in the highest and most refined circles of society. — (Above) A rare "bird set" in the Chantilly pattern.

The Duchess of Beaufort, dining once at Mme. de Guise's with King Henri IV of France, extended one hand to receive His Majesty's salutation, while she dipped the fingers of the other hand into a dish to pick out what was to her taste. This incident happened in the year 1598. It demonstrates that less than three hundred years ago the fingers were still used to perform the office now assigned to forks, in the highest and most refined circles of society. 
At about this time, in fact, was the turning point when forks began to be used at the table as they are now. 

When we reflect how nice were the ideas of that refined age on all matters of outer decency and behavior, and how strict was the etiquette of the Courts we may well wonder that the fork was so late in coming into use as a table furnishing. The ladies of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were not less proud of a delicate, well kept hand than those of our own days, and yet they picked the meat from the platter with their slender white fingers, and in them bore it to their mouths. The fact is all the more remarkable, because the form of the fork was familiar enough, and its application to other uses was not uncommon.—J. Von Folke in Popular Science Monthly, via the Press Democrat, 1899

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J.Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Toothpick Etiquette Lesson

It is narrow and provincial to despise people for their disregard of certain small rules of etiquette. The things we despise them for, which may be glaring errors in Seattle or New York, may be again, as like as not, the correct thing in Paris and London

 A Visit to London and a Little Lesson In Etiquette

“I ran over for a short visit to London,” said a globe trotter. “On the boat was a pretty widow from Altona who disgusted and amused all hands one day by saying; 'I am surprised that a fast and expensive boat like this should fail to supply us with toothpicks."
  She thought toothpicks indispensable, like napkins or forks. For thinking so, we set her down as a hecker. 

But wait. I dined during my visit in London at Prince's, in Piccadilly and at the Savoy, in the room that overlooks the embankment and the river, and at the Carlton, where I paid a dollar for a plate of soup, and at all of these restaurants, which are admittedly the finest, the smartest and the most fashionable in the world. At all of them there were toothpicks on the table, each toothpick done up in a sterilized envelope.' This taught me a lesson. It taught me that it is narrow and provincial to despise people for their disregard of certain small rules of etiquette. The things we despise them for, which may be glaring errors in Seattle or New York, may be again, as like as not, the correct thing in Paris and London.”— New York Press, 1906

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Fork Etiquette

(Above) An Albert Coles, coin silver, pickle fork– These were popular in the mid-19th century. Often sold in sets with knives, for eating pickled foods, they fell in and out of fashion quickly. Foods like pickled eggs, pickled pigs feet, pickled peaches, pickled asparagus, etc... were  elegantly eaten by using these forks.
(Above) Corn on the cob with a wide variety of forks and holders.–Green corn was a popular Victorian era food to serve. Rarely seen on fine dining tables today, corn on its cob was served then, as finger bowls were also at the table for each guest.
(Above) Two different melon forks, one in silver plate with a hollow handle and the other, in sterling. In France, melon forks were usually sold in sets with knives. In the U.S., most were sold as individual forks for dining.

(Above) A pie, pickle or even a "Nelson fork" — Some fork designs were sold for different purposes in different regions of the U.S. and in Europe. Other utensils were modified a bit to suit new foods, as foods that were considered delicacies, fell into and out of,  fashion. A "Nelson fork" was a fork adapted for eating with one hand, after British Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson lost his arm while fighting Napolean at Tenerife.

(Above) An individual, Victorian cheese fork. These can be brought out with the fruit and cheese course or placed for each guest above the plate with a fork and spoon for dessert.


(Above) Two individual corn forks, a small and large, and one individual corn scraper. Corn forks were made with one side a bit thinner and sharp, for scraping the kernels from one's corn at the table, if one was not given a corn scraper or corn stripper. Corn scrapers or strippers, were used like forks, but they were designed with "teeth" to cut the kernels off a cob at the table. The rule that no more than 3 forks are to be set to the left of a place setting, meant that some forks or dining tools, were brought out with the food itself, for each guest. Otherwise, Victorian era place settings would be too large for a regular dining table to accommodate more than one guest at each side of the table.

I have a theory a bit different than the common belief shared by many who have written books on Victorian habits and dining. The majority of them propagate the belief that it was a fear of foods being tainted by other humans, which created such a demand for the vast amount of designs for silver utensils in late 19th to early 20th centuries. (With our abundant use of hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial soaps, what will future generations say about us?) It’s true, there were inventors with patents obtained for sanitary cups, clips for drinking glasses, utensils and straws, etc... during the late 1800s and early 1900s. But I believe it was a complex combination of factors that drove the rush to create new pieces of table silver. The first may have been what lay in tin cans. 

When a Parisian candy maker named Nicolas Appert won 12,000 francs in 1809, it was for his inventing a new way to preserve foods. Prior to that time, pickling or salting and drying were the preferred methods of preserving foods. Napoleon had offered the prize of 12,000 francs, while preparing to invade Russia. With severe malnutrition decimating his troops, he knew he needed another way of stocking and preserving foods for something as involved as his Russian campaign. Appert used widemouthed, corked glass bottles that he filled with food, and heated in boiling water to find that solution. This new method of safely preserving foods, led to the invention of “tinned foods” or, the tin can, by Englishman Peter Durand. Tin cans would soon be used for feeding the British navy and army. New “tinning” or canning also meant more foods were available to the masses, as spoilage was no longer an issue. Price was still a concern for most consumers outside the military, though. 

"I thought about how mothers feed their babies with tiny little spoons and forks so I wondered, what do Chinese mothers use? Toothpicks?" –Comedian George Carlin ~ (Above) The smallest forks in the fork family are for cherries and berries. They also work well when eating kumquats. 

Early tinned and canned items were too expensive for those in the lower, and even middle-class income brackets, at the time. Sardines were one imported tinned food that the wealthy could afford to serve, so sardine servers, dishes and tongs, like those pictured, were offered in abundance at the time. Tinned sardines and other such foods, offered an elegant way to not only outdo one’s neighbors, but an easy way illuminate one’s home.

A very well lit home was coveted in an era when candlelight and gaslight were the only substitutes for the sun. Mirrors, tin ceilings, gold and the all important, silver dining accoutrements, combined with sparkling crystal, all reflected one’s well-placed candles and chandeliers. Pricey wall sconces were designed with numerous concave "reflectors," adding to a sconce's output of light. The number one factor for such a variety of silver and gold laid out at one’s table was surely light.   
(Above) Combination fork and spoons, like these for terrapin (turtle soup) or ice cream and desserts, were very popular for entertaining in the Victorian era.

Another important factor was that once an inexpensive form of silver plating was devised – electroplating– , the ownership of silver was no longer limited to the wealthy. Housewives and new brides could afford much less expensive silver items, which certainly added to the growing numbers. As silver had only been available to the wealthier in society, an overwhelming public demand soon grew for utensils or servers, designed with anything or everything edible, or drinkable, in mind. 

Marketing strategies were clever, too. If you didn't know you "needed" silver for your table, advertisements in women's magazines and newspapers, told you they were necessities. They were touted as "heirlooms of the future", so even if you hadn't felt a great need for them, all your descendants would certainly appreciate your thoughtfulness. One wouldn’t want to deprive their grandchildren of orange spoons with gold-washed, vermeil bowls, or bonbon spoons, like those pictured? Of course not!" –– Etiquipedia© Site Editor, Maura J. Graber, from her upcoming book, "Reach for the Right Fork"

Monday, September 18, 2017

The European Etiquette Evolution

For many years after the fork's introduction, they were considered a ridiculous affectation and foppery. Before forks, using the "fingers of courtesy" were the best mannered method of eating.

 Some Curious Table Manners of 
Europe's "Good Old Days"

It was into in the fourteenth century when the first evidences of art in the shape of silver cups were noticeable on the buffet. The dishes were made of pewter or wood, and spoons of bone, wood or silver. Knives were rare, and on that account guests invited to feasts carried their own knives. Forks came in general use still later, and for long years after their introduction they were considered ridiculous affectation and foppery, and not nearly so convenient as one’s own fingers. 

The Lord and his Lady dipped their fingers into the same plate and sipped their wine from the same cup. Even the Queenly Elizabeth, with all her elaborate ideas of etiquette, was content to carry her food to her month with her fingers, and at first despised the newly invented fork as unseemly and awkward. Very gradually the dinning-hall grew in comfort and splendor. Dishes of gold and silver were made, and so eager were the nobles for them that they would sacrifice any thing to possess them. 

The salt-cellar was for a long time the article of highest importance on the board. It was a great affair and stood directly in the center of the table; It was the dividing line; the nobles were seated above the salt, the commoners below; hence grew the proverb: “Below the salt.” The passing of salt was a ceremonious custom, the guest throwing a pinch over his left shoulder and murmuring a blessing. The salt-cellars were of the most curious devices. Sometimes they represented huge animals, sometimes a great, full-blown flower on a long, slender stem, and again they were in the shape of a chariot, mounted on four wheels, on which they were easily run down the table. 

The first glass cups came from Venice during the sixteenth century, and from that time on,  society began to lose many of its primitive ways, and became, in a sense, more refined. Henry VIII was born with luxurious tastes; he had his banquet chairs supplied with velvet cushions, and about this time the parlor or “talking room,” as it was called, was introduced; and here the dames took refuge when the dinner advanced beyond prudent limits, as it invariably did before the finish. 

The cook that presided over the kitchen in those days was not the counterpart of our nineteenth century Bridget, but he was an artist, and generally a man of quality. The ladies of the household, oven those of noble birth, attended to many domestic duties, making the bread, preserving the fruits, while to understand the proper use of starch, was considered a great accomplishment. – The Enterprise and Scimitar, 1888

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Etiquette for Canada

This is basic handshaking etiquette. Overall, it is good advice for any country where handshakes are expected — First, shake hands firmly. This gives the impression that you are genuine and confident. Hold the handshake for one or two seconds and shake steadily from your elbow. However, avoid an overly powerful handshake; Do not crush the other person’s hand in yours.

Customs and Etiquette Written 
for Those Moving or Migrating to Canada

There is a certain set of etiquette expectations that Canadians have in any professional or social setting, from how you shake hands to your basic manners.

First, shake hands firmly. This gives the impression that you are genuine and confident. Hold the handshake for one or two seconds and shake steadily from your elbow. However, avoid an overly powerful handshake; in other words, do not crush the other person’s hand in yours.

Making eye contact is an important, and often neglected, sign of mutual acknowledgement and respect. Also continue to make natural eye contact with others, without staring uncomfortably. If you’re in a meeting or interview with several people, move your gaze between the people in the room.

General good manners are also very important. Do hold a door open for someone else, male or female, let your boss exit the elevator first and do not interrupt others while speaking.

Don’t be shy to say “I’m sorry,” “Please,” and “Thank you.” While in some cultures, it’s all important to “save face,” which makes apologizing difficult, but in Canada those words can smooth things over quickly, instead of allowing ill feelings to harbour. Also, say “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me” when walking by a person too closely. Walking into somebody’s “personal space” is considered enough grounds for an apology.

If you did not hear something properly, do not say “What?”, but politely say, “I’m sorry, I did not hear what you said, can you please repeat it?” or “Pardon me?” Always make the other person feel confident and never bring them down.

Etiquette extends to your physical appearance as well. While Canada is a multicultural environment, there is something to be said for clean, crisp business attire. That doesn’t mean you can’t bring touches of your culture to your appearance, be it in colour or jewellery, etc., but subtle is best.

The same thing goes for grooming. Be aware of food smells clinging to your clothes, which can turn some people off. And personal hygiene. In other words, keep some breath mints on you!

Don’t forget to smile. It’s a sign that you’re a positive person, even in times of difficulty. When speaking on a phone, smile into the phone as well. While the person you are speaking with cannot see you, they can feel your smile radiate positive energy!

A few words must be said about etiquette with neighbours. Often, when you move into your first house in the new community, your neighbours will knock on your door. Most of the time they want to present you with a card or a gift basket, to congratulate you on your new home. Be polite to your neighbours, always say hi when you see them on the street. If you do not wish, there is no need to engage in a lengthy conversation, but it is important to acknowledge them when you see them.

Canadians are often more uptight about inviting people into their home. It is unlikely that they will keep the door open for you to walk in any time of the day to have tea. People will schedule parties or coffee dates, but most of the time this will be somewhere outside the house. Many neighbours live side by side many years, and never see the inside of each other’s houses.

If you do happen to invite people over, remember, that in Canada, people gather to socialize, not to feast! In many cultures, it is very important to serve a huge table of food. For many it is taken as an offence if somebody comes to your house, but does not eat what you serve them. However, this is not the case in Canada. When inviting people, place snacks or finger food on the table.

Another interesting thing to note is that neighbours are often very vigilant about rules. Canadians are brought up with an understanding that they must report a crime or any suspicious activity. Do not be surprised that the neighbour who gave you a warm welcome when you just moved in is the same person who called the by-law officer because your car was not parked properly. — Fom by , March 2012

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Friday, September 15, 2017

Table Etiquette of 1899

Mary Barr Munroe was a Miami pioneer who contributed much to the community life of Coconut Grove. Mrs. Munroe founded the southern Tropical Audubon Society. As a member of the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs, she was instrumental in the establishment Royal Palm Park (later the Everglades National Park.) Mrs. Munroe also started the Coconut Grove Library in 1895 and taught many children in Coconut Grove how to read. She strongly believed, and proved, that women can make a great difference.
Helpful Hints on the Uses of Knives, Forks, Spoons and Fingers
Those who are very particular, hold the large end of a spear of asparagus with a fork, while with the tip end of a knife they daintily separate the tender green tops from the white end, which is then put aside. Others take the white end between the fingers and carry it to the mouth. Both are correct, but the former is much more dainty and easily done. 

The etiquette of eating a soft boiled egg has been the subject of more than one clever essay. The English custom is to eat it directly from the shell, when of course a small egg cup and egg spoon are necessary. The American way is to break the egg into a cup or glass by striking the egg in the center and turning the contents into the glass. In this case it is usually eaten with a teaspoon, as an egg spoon, unless extra large, would be too small, and we have seen the egg held by a corner of the napkin, but this is not only tiresome but difficult to do nicely without soiling the napkin. 

Celery is always taken from the dish and carried to the mouth by the fingers. If individual salts are not provided, it is etiquette to use one half of the butter plate for salt. If salt shakers are used, hold the celery in the left hand just over the rim of your plate and gently sprinkle it with salt, and the old custom of putting a spoonful of salt on the cloth is still in practice. 

When corn is served on the cob it must be taken in the fingers, only managed very daintily. We have seen pretty little doylies for the purpose of holding it, but it is a question if that is not carrying table linen too far. Many housekeepers, and especially in the south, serve corn as a separate course, when finger bowls are placed by each plate and removed with the course. 

Lettuce when served without dressing is always pulled to pieces with the fingers. This is usually the lady’s duty and there is no prettier picture than that of a young lady preparing a plate of fiesh, crisp lettuce leaves in this way, for the tender green shows off to perfection her dainty white hands and she may be as exquisitely neat about it as she likes, and it is one of the most fascinating and becoming of table duties that a hostess can possibly provide for her lady guests, to assist in helping the gentlemen at a social or informal meal. 

Watercress is also taken in the fingers and the prettiest way of serving it is to obtain a long low sided basket or dish, in the bottom of which lay a folded napkin, then heap the cress so as to fill the basket and you have not only an enjoyable, but a very ornamental dish for the breakfast table. 

When a slice of lemon is served with fish or meat it is much more correct to take the slice in the fingers, double the ends together and gently squeeze the juice over the article than to use a knife for that purpose, as is sometimes done. It is always proper to help one's self to bread, cheese and lump sugar, if tongs arc not provided, with the fingers. 

Never use your own knife, fork or spoon to take from the dish. It is also correct if a plate of hot, unbroken biscuits is passed, to not only break off for yourself with your fingers, but for your neighbor also. When things are passed, help yourself as quickly as possible, for you must not keep others waiting and never insist on some one else being served before you, if the host or hostess has honored you first. —Mary Barr Munroe in Good Housekeeping, 1899

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia