Friday, May 22, 2015

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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