... in Medieval Times, the Renaissance and Beyond
The Term "Etiquette"
|Rules of Court affixed to a post... Did our us of the word"etiquette" actually originate from the Old French, "esquiter"?|
In Syria, the theologian Gregor Bar Hebraeus (also Gregor Bar'Ebraya or Gregor of Abulpharagus) summarized in table wisdom and effects in Ethicon, (ca 1265 CE). Mindful of the spiritual value of food, he urged diners to be clean, eat quietly and sparsely, and welcome outsiders to the family table. He recommended that meals be preceded by a religious blessing and instructed diners to maintain an upright posture while eating. He also urged that, out of respect for God's bounty, no crumb should be left uneaten.
Gentility at Table
|The Luttrell Psalter; Sir Geoffrey at table surrounded by his family and two Dominican friars. Two servants wait on them...|
In the late Middle Ages, European behavior manuals introduced a new generation of advice to gentility and deportment. These guidebooks derived from the code of courtly manners intended to suit royalty and to quell altercations arising from the dispute over proximity to the king at table. Representative of these many volumes, which paralleled each other in tone and scope, were the German Der Winsbeke (ca 1200's), The Advice of a Knight to His Son: the Spanish Castigas y Doctrinas que in Savior Dava a Sus Hijas (Admonitions and Doctrines from a Wise Parent to His Daughters, 1406) in which a father advised his offspring on restraint in drinking and eating, and fairness in dealing with table servants; and the essayist Christine de Pisan's Enseignements`a Son Filz Jean de Castel (Instruction to Her Son Jean de Castel, ca 1430), and Livre des Trois Virtus (Book of the Three Virtues, 1405).
The English issued similar texts - Boke of Curtasye, 1440, The Book of Curtesey of Lytel John 1477, and Wynkyn de Worde's Boke of Kervinge (Book on Carving, 1513) which assisted kitchen workers and table servants with the proper placement of meats and vegetables on platters, slicing of tarts and pies, and ladling of sauces.
|Francesc Eiximenis, one of the most relevant writers of the 14th century.|
|Arnaud de Villaneuve, explained the role of sobriety and moderation in alleviating dullness and lassitude.|
In Germany, Tischzuchten (table etiquette guides), including author Sebastian Brant's satiric "Das Narrenschiff" (Ship of Fools, 1454) established the importance of propriety at table, including hand washing before meals. Renaissance guides moved from simple admonitions against unseemly behavior in serving and dining towards matters of deference to lords and ladies. Unlike medieval etiquette specialists, Baldassare Castiglione, author of Il Libro del Cortegiano (The Book of the Coutier, 1528), emphasized grace and elegance over pragmatism. One mark of elegance was the male diner's spreading of his napkin over one shoulder as opposed to the female custom of covering the lap. Less pretentious and status conscious was the Dutch humanist scholar Erasmus, who published De Civiltate Morum Puerilium (On Civility in Boys in 1530), which took up such matters as the wiping of greasy fingers and blowing the nose at table.
To avoid excesses and indignities, the English consulted such texts as Youth's Behavior, or Decency in Conversation Among Men, 1640, an anonymous work that remained a handy touchstone into the time of George Washington. The first printed guide, The Fine Gentleman's Etiquette; or Lord Chesterfield's Advice to His Son Verified, 1776, established pecking order between underlings and their superiors who could retaliate against discourtesy with a vengeance or ostracism. In 1800, Domestic Management offered such instruction to the house wife as to how to improve servants' manners. The footman, according to the text, should learn to open lobster claws in the kitchen rather than in the view of the dining room door. Gradually, the rules of proper behavior trickled down to the middle class via such books as Etiquette, or A Guide to the Usages of Society, 1836, which offered warnings against vulgarity or improprieties that would offend their betters. Thus, newcomers to wealth learned how to conceal their social inexperience. –From Encyclopedia of Kitchen History - Mary Ellen Snodgrass, 2004
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia