Sunday, May 31, 2015

Etiquette of Victorian British Housewives

"Hot cakes or rolls are delicacies never seen on an English breakfast table. After the interview with the cook the lady of the house is full mistress of her own time."



The Ideal of Comfort Is Good Service, Even If the Table Be Less Plentiful


In an article on the English middle classes, Harper's Bazar, gives some very entertaining details about the manners and daily customs of an English household of the "upper" middle class, among them the following:

An American woman wonders when she learns how many servants are needed to run such a household. The cook must have her one or more kitchen maids, there must be a couple of footmen and a parlor maid, two or three chambermaids and a lady's maid, and in large houses this would seem but a small stall. Visiting hours are so arranged that the Englishwoman has her morning practically to herself. She is well fortified for the day. She had her cup of tea before getting up. Then at 9 came breakfast with her husband and children—an informal meal, with no servants in the room. At this she drank another cup of tea, ate her rasher of bacon and toast and finished with marmalade. The menu is bacon and marmalade winter and summer, spring and autumn. Hot cakes or rolls are delicacies never seen on an English breakfast table. After the interview with the cook the lady of the house is full mistress of her own time. 

She can count upon no one, except perhaps an intimate friend, calling before 3 or 4 in the afternoon, so that it is rarely she is interrupted for formal social duties. Luncheon is a very important function, from which children are banished to the nursery. It might be called more correctly a dinner—hot joint and vegetables, a pudding, cheese and fruit. Shopping hours are much the same as with us. Between 12 and 5 the shops are most crowded. The most popular time of all, however, is from 3 to 5. And then, if luncheon must be had away from home, it is in the genuine English restaurant —in the Holborn or the Criterion or the St. James—it is eaten. Not for the British middle class women are the pleasant little French and Italian haunts. At 5 o'clock tea is served. It is brought up to the drawing room on a tray, and is the most informal and delightful of all English meals. Thin slices of bread and butter and cake—homemade, if possible—are eaten with it, and on a day "at home," it answers as an excellent substitute for conversation.  

After tea it is time to dress for 7, 7:30 or 8 o'clock dinner. Dinner, the master of the house now being at home, is a very formal affair, far more so than it is with us. The manner in which it is served is of more account than the dishes of which it consists. Our standby, soup, you need never expect to get very good, if you get it at all. Upon the inevitable joint andthe no less inevitable tart you can as surely count. With dinner the day ends. The hours that remain are devoted to amusement, whether that means sitting around the fire in the embarrassed silence, broken by spasmodic "aobs" that in England is called talking, or going to the theater, where stalls and balcony are usually filled by the wealthy "upper" middle class. —Philadelphia Record, 1891 

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Friday, May 29, 2015

An Etiquette Ferry Tale

A few trips between here and Oakland will perhaps open your eyes to the fact that there is room for original interpretation as to what constitutes manners.

The old adage about one half of the world not knowing how the other half gets away with it, does not apply to commuters. Settle down in almost any part, of any ferry boat going in any direction and before the gentleman from Denmark or thereabouts says: "All ashore," you can get first hand ideas on many points of view on many subjects.  

Take etiquette, for instance. From the fact that its rules have been codified, as it were, one might think that etiquette was in the nature of an exact science. A few trips between here and Oakland will perhaps open your eyes to the fact that there is room for original interpretation as to what constitutes manners. 

It was on one of the morning boats from Sausallto. She sat on the after deck and told a girl friend the story of her life from a date in the past, when, it appeared from the conversation, their paths had separated. "No, I ain't seen May sines I was married. She'n me had an awful fallin' out. You see 'twas this way: May sent me a wedding present. I'd acknowledged all my engagement presents, but didn't think it would be etiquette to acknowledge weddin' presents till I was married. I had all my acknowledgments written and was goin to mail them the minute I was married. The day before the weddin May rings me up. 

"Oh, you ain't dead?' she says, sarcastic, when I answers the 'phone. '"Why. the idear. May! What's the matter?' says I." 'Nothln'!' she says with a sneer. 'But if my present aint worth acknowledging you'd best send it back.' '''You mis'rable contemptuous cat." I says. 'If I had you here,' I says, I'd scratch your eyes out. Don't you dare to tell me nothln' about etiquette!' 

"I slams down the 'phone. I returned her present, but she come to the weddin' all right an' enjoyed herself makin' sneerin' remarks about the furniture. No, May an' I ain't been friends since."— From the San Francisco Call, July 1912

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Etiquette and RSVPs

"Good breeding demands that an answer always be given to a question, unless the question be impertinent."
                
On Social Life and RSVPs

This week the question comes, "Is it necessary to send acceptance or regret to an invitation for a come and go reception?" Up to the present writing no definite answer to that particular question has been found in any books of etiquette that were accessible. However, perhaps a suggestion will be acceptable in lieu of a mere incontrovertible reply; and the suggestion is —"put yourself in her place." 


You have sent, out four hundred invitations bidding your friends come to you on a certain day or evening, you receive regrets from one hundred. Does that mean that three hundred are coming, or one-hundred-and-fifty, or in other words how many gallons of ice cream are you going to order; how much chocolate, or coffee or both shall you have made, and how many chickens, or lobsters, etc..., etc..., etc... ?


Mrs. J. Sherwood and various other authorities on the subject of social etiquette refer to the manner and style of wording acceptances or regrets to functions of one kind and another, as if the fact of answering in some way went without saying—it probably does. A matter of two minutes, a sheet of paper, envelope and postage stamp and the mailing is done. Why question it? Good breeding demands that an answer always be given to a question, unless the question be impertinent: why not then a reply to an invitation which is almost the least civility that can be paid to an invitation which is usually meant to be a courtesy?

Long before a stamped envelope and a reply card were added to wedding invitations, it was good manners to send a handwritten reply– "A matter of two minutes, a sheet of paper, envelope and postage stamp and the mailing is done. Why question it?"


Mrs. Sherwood says: "In our new country the relations of men and women are necessarily simple. The whole business of etiquette is, of course, reduced to each one's sense of propriety, and the standard must be changed as the circumstances demand." Notwithstanding which, if you meet a friend in the street and she says: "I want you to meet some friends in my home such and such a time,'' you don't stand and stare at her, nor turn on your heel and leave her. Should not written invitations, even to a "come and go reception," have as much attention as one given by word of mouth?
— Los Angeles Herald, 1895


Whether an answer's requested or not by the letters R.S.V.P. (repondez, sil vous plait—" answer, if you please"), it must be sent in a day or two, and written in the same formal style as the invitation, the acceptance of which may be thus expressed: "Mr. T. accepts with pleasure the polite invitation of Mrs. A. for the evening of _______ ." 
A refusal should be written as follows: "Mr. T. regrets that he can not accept the polite invitation of Mrs. A. for the evening of ________."When an invitation is accepted, it must be, if possible, faithfully complied with. It is not seldom that an invited person takes an uninvited friend to a ball or evening dancing-party, but he ought not to do so without first asking permission of the giver of it. As he is not likely to be refused, he must hold himself entirely responsible for the character and conduct of his companion, who, previous to and after the party, should send a card.  From "Bazar Book of Decorum" 1870              



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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Etiquette, Common Sense and Defiance

One who does not wish to wait till the meal is over before drinking coffee, must either cool it in his saucer or drink it hot, or wait and drink it after breakfast, and all because of the absurd notion that it is not a good manners to pour coffee into your saucer!

Liberty Versus Custom 

Found Under "Household"


Among all the declarations of liberty which American mankind is so fond of making, it seems strange that there is no league, association, party, or other combination to defend honest man against worn-out or absurd customs. For example, will any man tell me why I am forbidden by what is called "good manners" to pour my tea into a saucer, and cool it there? Much reproach has been heaped upon "strong" tea and coffee which properly belongs to "hot" tea and coffee. Everyone knows how much the efficient action of chemical agents is intensified by heat. Scalding tea is far worse than strong tea; but to be both scalding and strong is an attack upon the human body which no man ought to venture who has any regard for health. But etiquette forbids me to cool my coffee in any other manner than by waiting.



Coffee cups, in houses where the secret of making good coffee is known, should be like the human heart, large and deep, and in such cases the beverage will, like true affection, cool very slowly. Hence, one who does not wish to wait till the meal is over before drinking coffee, must either cool it in his saucer or drink it hot, or wait and drink it after breakfast, and all because of the absurd notion that it is not a good manners to pour coffee into your saucer!
                                    
I rejoice in pouring forth the fragrant liquid into a capacious saucer, and, before the wondering eyes, to raise the beverage to my lips. Superstition is rebuked! Health is justified of her children!

The spirit of "Seventy-six" ought to rise with every afflicting gulp of hot coffee! The custom is wanton and cruel. It is tyranny over the inner man, carried on by force, if not by the sword. I count it, therefore a duty to humanity to set at defiance the edicts of this liquid despot— hot drink. For the welfare of mankind I refuse to burn my mouth, or scold my stomach! In behalf of mute devotees of etiquette, I raise a plea for relief! Meantime, endowed with courage, and armed with principle, I rejoice in pouring forth the fragrant liquid into a capacious saucer, and, before the wondering eyes, to raise the beverage to my lips. Superstition is rebuked! Health is justified of her children!
Scalding tea is far worse than strong tea; but to be both scalding and strong is an attack upon the human body which no man ought to venture who has any regard for health. But etiquette forbids me to cool my coffee in any other manner than by waiting.

Even more will be shocked, when I avow myself as an advocate of the rights of the KNIFE. Now, custom has it reduced to the mere function of cutting up one's food. That done, it is laid down and a fork serves every other purpose. By practice, one gains unexpected dexterity in using a fork for purposes to which it is ill adapted. The Chinese, in like manner, make awkward chopsticks rarely serviceable, by practice little short of legerdemain; but is that a good reason for the use of chop-sticks?

                                   
Selection of 19th C. fork designs

A fork, as now made, is unfitted to pierce any morsel upon its times, and yet they are sharp enough to afflict the tongue if carelessly used. They are split so as to be useless for liquids, and yet they are used as if they were spoons. The fork compels the manipulator to poke and push and pile up the food material, which tends to fall back and apart; it is made to peruse the dainty tidbits, in which often the very core of flavor resides, around the plate in a hopeless chase, and at length, a bit of bread is called in as an auxiliary, and thus, while the slim-legged fork, in one hand, is chasing a slim liquid mouthful, wad of bread in the other goes mopping and sopping around to form a corner, and between the two is at length accomplished what is called genteel feeding! 


Meanwhile, a broad knife is fitted for the very function which the fork refuses, and the wad of bread ill performs. The reasons for refusing that knife as an active feeding implement are worthy of the awkward practice. "It is liable to cut the mouth," no more than a fork is to stick into lip and tongue.


If men ate with razors, there would be some reason for avoidance. But table-knives are blunt-edged. It is even difficult to make them cut when one tries, and if they are properly used, the back of the blade will be turned into the mouth. We do not object to the fork; but we demand a restoration of the knife from banishment. We do not desire to enforce its use, but such a liberation as shall leave one free to use the knife for conveying food to the mouth when that is most convenient, and the fork, when that is preferred. Equal rights we demand for black and white, for home-born or emigrant, for rich and poor, for men and women, and for forks and knives. 

H.W. Beecher in The Elevator Weekly Journal ~ "Equality Before the Law"


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Sunday, May 24, 2015

19th C. Norwegian Etiquette and Hospitality

Stained glass of "Maid of Norway": On the death of Alexander III, his only surviving descendant and the recognized heiress to Scotland was Margaret, known as the Maid of Norway.
In no land is hospitality more open-handed and more unaffected than in Norway, and, though these features are naturally becoming blunted along the beaten lines of travel, the genuine goodness of heart, fine "gentlemanly " feeling, and entire absence of that sordidness which is so often seen even in primitive regions, cannot fail to strike the unprejudiced observer. Nor is etiquette ignored by even the rudest of people. In the cities the stranger is apt to make many blunders. In the country, however, this is not less marked, though perhaps the visitor will be less conscious of its presence.
Every cup of coffee must be filled to overflowing; otherwise the host would be thought stingy.
One of the peculiarities of the Norwegian farmer is that, when visiting a friend, he must ignore all the preparations made for his entertainment. He will see the coffee roasted and the cups set out, and then, just when the good wife is about to offer him her hospitality, he gets up, bids the family good-bye, and is only persuaded to remain after some resistance. Every cup must be filled to overflowing; otherwise the host would be thought stingy. When milk, brandy or beer is offered, the guest invariably begs that it will not "be wasted on him," and then, after emptying the cup, declares that — "it is too much" — going through the same formalities, it may be, three or four times. 
  
In the farmhouses or upland "saeters," the guest is left to eat alone, silver forks and spoons being often substituted for the carved wooden ones used by the family, and a fine white cloth for the bare board, which serves well enough on ordinary occasions. To a punctilious guest this may not be a drawback, for at the family table, as, indeed, among the peasants in Scandinavia everywhere, the different individuals dip their spoons into the same dishes of "grod" a sour milk; but for one desiring of studying a people, a load of foreign prejudice is a grievous burden to carry about.
In the farmhouses or upland "saeters," the guest is left to eat alone, silver forks and spoons being often substituted for the carved wooden ones used by the family.
When a child is born the wife of every neighbor cooks a dish of "flodegrod" (porridge made with cream instead of milk), and bring it to the convalescent, there being a good deal of rivalry among the matrons to outdo each other in the quality and size of the dish. When any one has taken food in a Scandinavian house he shakes hands with the host and hostess in rising from the table, and says, "Tak for mad ('Thanks for food"), to which they reply": "Vel bekomme" ("May it agree with you.'')
Depiction of a Norwegian bride, 1899.
In many parts of Scandinavia all the guests shake hands with each other and repeat the latter formula; and in Norway, at least it is the fashion for a guest to call on the hostess a few days later, and when she appears, to gravely say : "Tak for sidst" ("Thanks for last time,") great gravity on this formal visit being a mark of good breeding. 
From the Daly Alta California, 1886

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Etiquette Classes at Kansas College, 1911

To be a veritable Chesterfield at table,"Don't eat pie so ravenously that it will get in your ears!" 

At the Kansas Agricultural College— by means of formal and informal lunch and dinner parties under an instructor's supervision—the whole senior class will study how to eat according to the laws of etiquette. 
"Practical Cookery and The Etiquette and Service of the Table, Manhattan Department of Printing, Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science" ~ The book went through many revisions over the years, and at first was mainly recipes and instructions. This revised copy is from 1941
A rather pleasant study, by the way, if the college cooks will do their best. Already have these seniors made out a list of nine "dont's" for their own use and that of younger students, which assures one of their firm determination to be veritable Chesterfields at table. 

Thus: 

  • Don't balance peas on your knife. 
  • Don't eat potatoes with a spoon. 
  • Don't eat pie so ravenously that it will get in your ears. 
  • Don't tie your napkin around your neck as if you were getting a shave. 
  • Don't dip your soup into your vest pocket.
  • Don't make the extraction of soup from a spoon sound like escaping steam.
  • Don't leave your spoon in your coffee and run the risk of knocking your eye out.
  • Don't butter your bread with your thumb.

Hereafter, when anyone scoffingly inquires, "What's the matter with Kansas?" the question can have no possible reference to her table manners. 

—From the Pacific Rural Press, March 1911


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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Etiquette for 19th C. State Dinners

The long White House tables, all dressed up, for a State Dinner being held in honor of Admiral Dewey

State Dinner Etiquette
Just What the Host and Guests are Expected to Do 


The usual hour for a state dinner is 8 p.m. As the guests arrive, which should be fifteen minutes before the hour set, they are shown to the rooms for the removal of wrappings, and descend by the private stairway to the grand corridor and proceed direct to the East Room, where the President and lady await them. 
                                     
Benjamin Harrison was the President of the United States in 1890. This is a photo of the "Harrison Presidential china." For more on Presidential china, read our post on The Etiquette of White House Table Service and State Dinners or Etiquette and Dishing on White House China for State Dinners
Each gentleman, upon entering the room, is handed by an usher, a small envelope containing a card inscribed with the plan of the table and bearing the name of the lady he will escort. On the diagram, the number of the seats he and the lady will occupy are marked. After being received by the President, he examines the card and immediately joins the lady he will accompany to the State Dining Hall. The lady whom he has brought remains with him until her escort appears. 
                                            
"The President with the first lady guest, leads the way to the State Dining Room, followed by the remaining guests. The residing lady, escorted by the principal man, close the line." The first lady guest was the female guest of greatest importance. The residing lady was who is now known as the "First Lady" or "FLOTUS." For more who the original "First Ladies"of Washington D.C. society were, read our post on 19th C. Washington Societal Etiquette  Above~ A stereoscopic view of the unset White House tables.






All the guests having arrived at the appointed hour, the steward announces the dinner is in readiness. The President with the first lady guest, leads the way to the State Dining Room, followed by the remaining guests. The residing lady, escorted by the principal man, close the line. The Marine band meanwhile performs a suitable march. In the dining room, the guests find their places and take the seats assigned them by the plate cards, which correspond in location with the diagram handed them upon entering the East Room.
A corner of the East Room, modern day.

There are four services at all State dinners. The dishes in their order are served on silver salvers by waiters, the guests helping themselves. The chief waiter serves the President first, and then proceeds toward the the right, and the second waiter toward the left. The same course is observed on the opposite side of the table, beginning with the presiding lady. No one is ever served twice. The plates of one course are removed as soon as each guest is finished, and the plate for the next is put in its place.
"There are four services at all State Dinners. The dishes in their order are served on silver salvers by waiters, the guests helping themselves."~ The first White House Cookbook was published in 1887. Not only did it have Presidential favorite foods, recipes and the menus from important meals and events held in the Executive Mansion, but it also had "recipes" for cosmetics and cleaners, basic etiquette of the day and tips on child rearing. It really had everything a lady of the Victorian Era ought to know. Its menus, recipes and helpful tips, made this a favorite cookbook of wives across the U.S. 
At the close of dinner, which lasts about three hours, it has been the custom of late years for the gentleman to leave the table with the ladies and not return. The custom during the earlier administrations was for the ladies to have their coffee served in the drawing-room, and for the gentleman to return to drink a single glass of wine to the health of the President. Gentlemen wishing to enjoy a cigar retire during the coffee to the corridor of the foot of the private stairway, but join the ladies when the presiding lady makes the motion to retire. After the promenade through the suite of parlors, the gentlemen surrender the ladies to the gentleman with whom they came, and with their own ladies take leave of the President and his lady. They should receive their wrappings and leave the building quietly and promptly. The last of the guests should have retired within thirty minutes after leaving the table.
 –From the Washington Star, March 15, 1890 

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Etiquette for Properly Making Tea

Tea is an extremely delicate article!


A CUP OF TEA

How To Make It Properly, and How to Spoil It ...  from The London Telegraph, 1889



"It seems a simple thing enough; yet of the millions who use this refreshing and agreeable beverage a very small proportion understand bow to prepare it. But if not properly made, tea is deprived of a great deal of its value, and sometimes rendered absolutely injurious. The water to be used should boil, and it should be poured on the tea immediately it boils; if allowed to overboil the peculiar property of boiling water which acts upon tea evaporates and eventually disappears. Tea should not be a decoction, but an infusion. If allowed to stew, it becomes little better than a decoction of tannic acid. Tea that is overdrawn is hurtful to the nerves and to the digestion. As to the precise number of minutes which should be devoted to the process of drawing, some people will say five minutes, some seven, some will perhaps go as far as ten, but our experience is in favor of six; this suffices to bring out the flavor, quality and strength.
        
The replenishing of the teapot with fresh hot water is very objectionable.
Just as much tea as is wanted should be made — no more. Make fresh tea as often as it is required. The replenishing of the teapot with fresh hot water is very objectionable. As the thorough heating of the receptacle is of the first importance, the teapot should be made thoroughly hot before the tea is put into it. The earthenware teapot is preferred to all others by many connoisseurs, and it is superfluous to say that whatever utensil is used for this purpose should be immaculately clean.
                                    
Reading the tea leaves, do you see a better cup of tea in your future?
Tea is an extremely delicate article. Its susceptibility to the odors of commodities near it is a source of danger and deterioration, as it readily takes up the smell of coffee, cocoa, spices, cheese, bacon, or other articles of pronounced odor. The complaints sometimes made about tea would probably not arise if always kept in places free from such contagion. Tea should be stored in a warm, dry place; unnecessary exposure to the air should be avoided. Even when securely packed in the leaden chests in which it arrives in England, the change from the glowing lights of Eastern skies to the damp and humid atmosphere of this climate deprives tea of much of its beautiful fragrance. 
        
No burnt hands! No lifting the pot! No aching arms! No soiled clothes! It turns the drudgery of pouring a cup of tea into a pleasure! How fragile were American women? ~ An American made self-pouring tea pot from 1888
Tea of much better quality than is generally dispensed at our railway stations and refreshment rooms can be bought at 2s per' pound. A pound of tea would make 128 cups. This is "considerably less than a farthing per cup. You may well ask why is it that we should be still charged 4d and 6d "for a little hot milk and water slightly flavored with undesirable tannin."



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Table Etiquette and "Ruth Ashmore"


Lucky young girls were raised by parents, and governesses, who could afford "youth-sized" flatware for which to practice good table manners. Those who were not as lucky, were thrilled to read popular etiquette columns by the likes of like "Ruth Ashmore's" in the 1890's.





Table Etiquette from the 1892 Ladies Home Journal

As a people, we Americans have been laughed at for eating too fast, and we are credited as being a nation of dyspeptics, writes Ruth Ashmore in her interesting department, "Side Talks with Girls," in the Ladies Home Journal. Now, of course, this is generalizing, but you, the eldest daughter, have it in your power to make the boar at the dinner or tea-table one of real delight, it is an easy matter, one you will find, to start some pleasant conversation to get your father and brother interested in the talk of the day, so that you will eat your food more slowly, and you will achieve what the Frenchmen consider the great art—you will dine, not merely feed yourself. 


But there are a few little questions about table etiquette of the table that some girl wants to know, and these I am going to tell her. She must hold her knife by its handle, and never let her fingers reach up to its blade. Whenever it is possible, a fork must be used in place of a spoon, and that same spoon, by the by, must never be left in a coffee or tea cup, but laid to rest politely and securely in the saucer. 

Antique sterling, individual cheese fork
Glasses with handles are held by them. A goblet should be caught by the stem, the fingers not entwining the bowl part. Don't butter a large piece of bread and take bites from it; instead, break your bread in small pieces, one at a time. Butter it, that is, if you are eating butter, and convey it to your mouth by your fingers. 

Olives, celery, radishes, strawberries with stems, and asparagus are all eaten from the fingers. The old method of eating cheese with a knife has been given up, with a fork being used in its place. The use of many small dishes for vegetables is not in good taste: indeed, many vegetables should not be served at one time.—From The Ladies Home Journal, as posted in the Sacramento Daily Union, 1892



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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Etiquette; How Lettuce Changed It

California Iceberg Lettuce            

Lettuce Changed Table Etiquette in 1926

California is writing a new paragraph in the American book of etiquette, according to J. T. Saunders, freight traffic manager for the Southern Pacific company, who says that lettuce knives must soon be added to the list of table cutlery required by the perfect hostess.
      
Special lettuce serving forks, most often with lettuce serving spoons, were a Gilded Age neccesity. In fact, gilded tines were needed to help prevent corrosion to the silver, caused by citric acids, vinegar, etc... and other salad dressing ingredients.
“For ages past,” Saunders explained, “authorities on etiquette have insisted that lettuce at table must be cut, speared and conveyed to the mouth entirely with the salad fork. Just try this on a sector of crisp and tender giant California head lettuce, and you will quickly discover that it is not so simple as it sounds." Hence the need for a lettuce knife. 
                                  
Lettuce knives, or as they are now known – "salad knives" – and their corresponding salad forks, are slightly shorter than dinner, or place knives and forks.

“From 9,744 carloads in 1922, shipments of California lettuce to eastern markets this year will reach the amazing total of 27,000 carloads, a gain of almost 200 per cent in four years. In 1920 shippers on our coast division shipped only 62 carloads of the salad delicacy.
Salads were not popular in the U.S., until the mid 1800s. Their popularity, when they did become fashionable, was due to the fact that they were seen as very French. They were also a delicacy, as they needed refrigeration to keep fresh longer. Those who could afford large ice cellars, could also afford salad greens.
This year, from the same territory, approximately 12,800 carloads will be shipped. “Equally startling has been the growth of Imperial Valley lettuce shipments. From 1,079 carloads in the 1918-19 season, the Valley will, during the coming season, send eastward more than 16,700 carloads of lettuce." The famous California “Iceberg” head lettuce, developed and perfected by Imperial Valley growers, has created thousands of new lettuce lovers throughout the land. “There is no finer lettuce grown anywhere than in California and to this bears witness the fact that all the nation now eats lettuce. Fifteen years ago lettuce was regarded as a luxury, while today it is as commonplace in the American home as oatmeal and coffee.”
— The Sausalito News, November 1926 


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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Russia on Chinese Etiquette

In Chinese etiquette there are eight varieties of the bow ~"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Wei Wu Pu), the same in organization and function as it was in 1901 when it first came into existence as a result of the "Peking Protocol." The Ministry of Rites (Li Pu) succeeded the Department of Rites, without much change, but it incorporated the Court of Sacrificial Worships, the Court of State Ceremonials and the Court of Banquets which formerly duplicated some of the functions of the Department of Rites."  From "Government of China 1644-Cb," by Pao Chao Hsieh
_________________________________________________________

The Celestials Consider Europeans Barbarians


The Russians have been making something of a study of Chinese manners and etiquette, and their periodicals are reporting what has been learned. The latest number of Russkii Vestnik says it is not surprising that the Celestials consider Europeans barbarians when they see continually what they consider bad manners and breaches of etiquette on the part of white men. The proper thing, according to the Chinese notion, is diametrically opposed to the European idea.
Western depiction of a Chinese wedding ceremony in the mid-1800s. The bride is the one whose face is completely covered. ~ "The latest number of Russkii Vestnik says it is not surprising that the Celestials consider Europeans barbarians when they see continually what they consider bad manners and breaches of etiquette on the part of white men." (Russkii Vestnik or "Russian Herald," was the literary and political journal founded in Moscow in 1856 by M. N. Katkov with the assistance of P. M. Leont'ev)
For instance, when a Chinese welcomes a visitor to his house, be does not remove his hat, if he happens to have it on. He puts his hat on if he is caught without it. The seat of honor at the table is at the left of the host. It would be considered an offense if the guest inquired about the health of the hostess, or, still worse, expressed a desire to be presented to her.


A Chinese takes offense it told that he looks younger than he is. The older the man the more he is respected, independently of his qualities, and. therefore, a Chinese wishes to appear older than he really is. He willingly forgives many offenses, but should any one happen to tread on his foot he will refuse to accept the most humble apologies. When a son dies in a Chinese family the bereaved father considers it proper to show strangers a smiling countenance, no matter what his sufferings may be.  
"A Chinese, displeased with his situation, will not tell his employer the real reason for resigning, but will give poor health or the death of a relative as a pretext for leaving."
The Russian newspaper asserts that there is a minister of etiquette in China known as Li-Pu. Ancient books on manners are accepted by him as authority. The books include 200 volumes. Some of the rules are Draconian in their severity. A Chinese cannot even build a house according to his taste. No matter how rich he is, it is not proper for him to build a finer or a higher house than that of his neighbor if the latter happens to be of superior rank socially.


In Chinese etiquette there are eight varieties of the bow. Ignorance of Chinese ideas of propriety with regard to the bow has often caused embarrassment. A Chinese, displeased with his situation, will not tell his employer the real reason for resigning, but will give poor health or the death of a relative as a pretext for leaving. Such things have led many portions to regard the Chinese insincere, but this does them injustice. They are also unjustly considered to be cold, unemotional and indifferent to the sufferings of others. As a matter of fact this appearance of stolidity is only a specimen "of the wondertul self-control and the iron force of character with which this race is endowed."

– The Los Angeles Herald, 1899

   Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura Graber, is the Site Moderator for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Etiquette and Tea Time for Men

The Brighton, England, Swim Club enjoyed an "Aquatic Tea Party" in the 1880s. They were much more accustomed to tea drinking than the young gents in San Francisco 30 years later. It's doubtful anyone would see them bobbing and sipping tea in the San Francisco Bay in 1913.
Tea Hour in the Hotels ~ 
A Fashionable Function 
for Men in 1913

"Lemon or cream?" "Must I take it?" JLJ "Certainly. No young man can afford to be ignorant of the correct thing in tea nowadays." "That's why you lured me into this den of insipidity, then?" "Of course' but tea is not insipid, although it may be insidious. It shows that you have been unspeakably dull and behind the times that you don't take kindly to tea. Why, if you stay in San Francisco a few weeks you will gravitate to the tearoom without compulsion." 

"If that's the case, I'm precious glad that my vacation's up tomorrow. I'd be ashamed to have the fellows know that I'd been caught in a mess like this." "Hello, there's Binks! I'd never have expected to see him here." "Another proof of your ignorance of the fascinations of the tea hour. Oh, how nice! 'Binks'—Mr. Billington—is coming over here." The big college athlete, the hero of thousands, balanced his big body in a gilded chair. "Yes, thank you, tea for mine. No trimmings, just tea." The girl beamed upon him and called the attention of the other young man to this. There's proof that tea drinking is a manly pastime; whereupon the youth dutifully asked for a second cup.

Every table in the gray tearoom of the big hotel was taken. Young people whose holidays were about to end predominated, and chatter about the dances of the last fortnight and the call of the various schools and colleges to which they were about to return floated on the air and passed from table to table, for there were so many of the same set in the place that it seemed like a social affair rather than a gathering in a public dining room. 

                                           
"Tea? No, thank you; I will have a highball, if you don't mind," is the formula of many men who are willing enough to go to the tea room for a pleasant hour, but draw the line at succumbing to the gentle stimulus of the tea cup. 

Not every one in the big tearooms drinks tea. Some keen observer has said of men that they have to be very fashionable, indeed, to take their afternoon teas if they liked it. American men have been slowly led into participation in this habit, which they long regarded as exotic and therefore to be considered with suspicion. Even men who liked the taste of tea at home were shy of exhibiting the weakness in public places. 

Slowly but surely the influence of women, who hailed the tea hour not only as a pleasant one for themselves, but as a time when they might win men to additional relaxation, has had its effect. The number of men who are willing to seek the tea room not only for the sake of its social pleasures, but because they want to be refreshed by a cup of tea, is constantly increasing. 

However, there are still those uncaught by the lure of tea, even when prepared à la Russe, or otherwise doctored to virilize it by the addition of spice or liquors. "Tea? No, thank you; I will have a highball, if you don't mind," is the formula of many men who are willing enough to go to the tea room for a pleasant hour, but draw the line at succumbing to the gentle stimulus of the tea cup. 
Sickening sweet pastries? These look really good. I wonder what Binks was having...
"I wouldn't mind the tea so much if it wasn't for that sickening sweet pastry that you are supposed to eat with it," objected one man. "How about toasted muffins or thin slices of bread and butter?" "Oh, they are even more degenerate. I couldn't be seen eating them outside the privacy of my own house. I haven't yet quite gotten over the feeling that tea is a nice lady like drink and that I make concession enough in sitting by while some pretty girl makes eyes at me over her cup while I take my man's drink or smoke my cigarette. A girl looks as pretty as a man does foolish drinking tea in a beflowered tearoom, in my opinion." Those are terribly old fashioned sentiments. 
Looks like this young man has decided on bread with his tea! "While the winning of the men is a triumphant achievement, the tearoom remains sacred to many demonstrations of the peculiarly feminine."

The line between tea drinkers and those who partake of other beverages is not marked solely by sex. As more men come to drinking tea so many a woman prefers a more stimulating drink than that which comes out of a teapot, and may be seen sharing a bottle of champagne with a man or partaking of a cocktail or a highball. This passes without comment, but upon the still infrequent appearance of a girl who has lighted her cigarette in the tearoom the gaze and criticism turned upon her have given expression to the conservatism that still prevails in the tearoom, informal as it is in many ways. 

While the winning of the men is a triumphant achievement, the tearoom remains sacred to many demonstrations of the peculiarly feminine. It is a most convenient and delightful hour for dropping in from a shopping tour or to talk over arrangements for entertainments and all sorts of social and personal affairs. Above all, however, it offers excellent vantage ground for showing and observing the latest fashions at close range and with abundant leisure. 

"Don't you love the music here ?" one sweet young girl inquired of another. "No, indeed; I come here to talk, not to enter into competition with a foreign orchestra." "Well, I don't think the music is loud enough for that; I find that it is just enough to protect me from being overheard; also it gives one an excuse for leaning closer together when one is conversing with a friend." In the big hotels of the large cities the rooms devoted to the service of tea are seldom empty during the late afternoon, yet in all the pleasant throng there are few who pursue tea as do their English cousins because they can not do without it. For most of them the teapot is still the emblem of a pleasant hour and causerie. - News From San Francisco, 1913


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

Etiquette of the "Well Bred"

Though the original, priggish "Dame Grundy" may, or may not, have been a fictional character, one can find her in real life and in period dramas. Titanic's Ruth DeWitt Bukater was so overly pretentious and conscious of everyone's manners around her, she wasn't aware she was breaking a cardinal rule of glove etiquette. Molly Brown may have been viewed as ill-bred and vulgar, but she certainly wasn't having her tea with her gloves on! ~ Countess of Rothes: "Look, here comes that vulgar Brown woman." Ruth DeWitt Bukater : "Quickly, get up before she sits with us!"

Little, things so often indicate good breeding, and the manners of those with whom one associates, that a person can not be too careful in observIng the rules of etiquette. For instance, to say "What?" as an interrogation, when not understanding a remark or question, is considered rude and bad form. It is too brusque, according to the theories of Dame Grundy.   
Curiosity, amusement or disdain? Upon observing the "well-bred," the emotions can sometimes be hard to distinguish.
Either "I beg your pardon" or "well," as an interrogation, is correct, and children, particularly, should be trained on these points. To go in front of a person without saying "Excuse me," denotes carelessness in minor points of breeding; also leaving the room without going through the form of asking permission is a solecism, "Excuse me a moment," if the person is soon returning, is correct, or should the absence be for an indefinite time, "Excuse me" is enough to say. 

To seal an envelope the whole length of the gum on the flap is another trifling matter for which a person is judged unfavorably. Unless the envelope contains an enclosure that might slip through an opening, only the very tip of the flap should be fastened. And, while on the subject of stationery, no two things are more indicative of ill breeding than to put a stamp on the left side of an envelope or, indeed, any place but squarely in the upper right-hand corner; and for a woman to sign her name with a prefix of Mrs. or Miss. to a note or letter, if she wishes to indicate her formal name she should put the prefix in parenthesis beside her name in full, or, in the case of a married woman, she signs her own name with her formal name in brackets beneath, as "Mary Jane Smith." and below, ("Mrs. John James Smith"). This is a form that should never be forgotten. 
 Pride and Prejudice's Elizabeth Bennet found that "nothing was beneath this great lady's (Lady Catherine DeBourgh) attention, which could furnish her with an occasion of dictating to others." The Lady Catherine De Bourgh is another priggish, Dame Grundy, tsk-tsking at every perceived lack of "good breeding."
Leaving a spoon in a tea or coffee cup is not uncommon but it is ill bred, and to butter a whole slice of bread at once and eat from it is another social mistake. The slice must be broken into small pieces and each buttered as it is eaten. Loud talking in public places is vulgar, as it is to push and shoulder in a crowd. If every person would remember his or her manners at such times crowds would cease to be objects for dread. —From The Los Angeles Herald, 1909

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