Thursday, November 24, 2016

Etiquette and Pilgrims' Meals

Pilgrim children usually stood at the table. Often they shared a plate. — "Willful waste brings woeful want and you may live to say, how I wish I had that crust that once I threw away." — Thomas Fuller

Pilgrim parents are strict with their children. Some of the rules sound familiar, like this one (from a book called The School of Manners) about speaking with your mouth full: 

When meat is in your mouth do not drink or speak or laugh — Dame Courtesy forbids.

But Pilgrim manners weren't always the same as ours. In their first years in America, they were too busy for regular meals. People just helped themselves right out of the cooking pot. They ate standing — in front of the fire, if the day was cold -— and then hurried off to work again.

When the family did eat together, the dinner table was often just some old boards laid on top of barrels. The cooking pot was placed in the middle, and the family gathered around.

Later, when the Pilgrims had more time —and more dishes — food was brought to the table on large, round platters called chargers

No one had his or her own plate. Instead, two people would share a trencher - a bowl carved or burned out of a block of wood.

A mother and father shared a trencher. Children shared, too. The Pilgrims thought that people who had their own trenchers were show-offs.

Some poor people didn't have wooden trenchers. Instead, they used pieces of stale bread as plates. They put the food on top of them, and after they ate the food, they ate the bread plates.

Almost nobody used forks. One Pilgrim, Governor John Winthrop, was given a fork as a present. It had only two times. The Pilgrims called it a "double dagger." 

They thought forks were silly. Why bother, they said, "Fingers were made before forks." —
 From "Eating the Plates" by L.R. Penner

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