The Gilded Age was the golden age of dining at its finest, which brought about new table etiquette for newly designed utensils, for everything edible and expensive, from turtle soup to nuts.
Table EtiquetteA correspondent, who is somewhat of a philanthropist in his way, sends up the following hints on Table Etiquette, for the benefit of the members of the club. We believe they will be superfluous to most of our readers, but as our correspondent begs us not to lose the opportunity of improving the present occasion we append them:
- Do not commence eating before your host gets through with his grace. I have known some men to bite a biscuit as large as a blacking-box into a half-moon, and have to hold it between his teeth, under a suspension of the rules during a blessing. This is disgraceful.
- Do not sup soup with a fork. Your soup will always have you at a disadvantage with such odds. Besides, it is “souperfluous.”
- In passing your plate to be helped, retain your knife and fork in your vest pocket.
- When asked for a dish, do not propel it across the surface of the table after the manner or game of shovel-board ; always pitch it gracefully, after the manner of quoits. This will be "quoit" sufficient.
- Never try to eat fish with a salt-cellar.
- While drinking, be careful not to empty hot coffee or anything of that sort into your neighbor's paper collar.
- Do not eat too fast. You will not “get left,” if you make up in heroic doses for that time.
- If you find anything auspicious in your hash, don't eat any more hash ; And if there is anything wrong in your butter, propose a toast or tell an anecdote.
- When you burn your mouth with a cold potato, don't whistle or make faces at the company, but shed tears in silence.
- Never leave the table without asking the lady of the house to be excused ; but if you happen to be at a barbecue or a free lunch, don't leave as long as there is a bone or a crumb in sight.
- Should you put too much pepper in your soup, and the tears come to your eyes in consequence, do not wipe your eyes and blow your nose in your napkin.
- As usual, when resting your elbows on the table that your neighbor's little preserve plate is not within reach, not that you need mind upsetting it, for that would only serve him right, but you may get your left sleeve jellied through his carelessness in not giving you room enough.
- Do not pick your teeth with your fork, or wipe it on the table-cloth after you have just extracted a long piece of sinew from a hollow in one of your double grinders.
- If you happen to partake of some dish with which you are unacquainted, don't spit it out on your plate with a splutter, as if you had been poisoned, because it might be supposed you had been accustomed to move in society. Simply rap on tbe table with your fork for the servant, and tell him, or her, to fetch a spittoon. By this time, all eyes will be upon you, and as the servant brings the spittoon you can eject the disagreeable mouthful with a proper air of disgust, remarking that you always hated French “kickshaws,” and preferred something the real origin of which you could guess at. By this proceeding you will let the people at the table see you know a thing or two, and are not to be easily taken in. –From the New York Dispatch, 1871
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