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 

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