If the ladies could only see how pretty is their gesture when their diaphanous forefinger and thumb grasps a leaf of delicate green lettuce and raises that leaf from the porcelain plate to their rosy lips, they would all immediately take to eating salad à la Marie Antoinette.
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Theodore Child writes in Harper’s Bazar:
The Anglo-Saxons are afraid to use their fingers to eat with, especially the English. Thanks to this hesitation, I have seen in the course of my travels in the old world many distressing sights, I have seen a lady attempt to eat écrevisse with a knife and fork and abandon the attempt in despair. I have also seen men In the same fix. I have seen—oh, barbarous and cruel spectacle!- Anglo-Saxons, otherwise apparently civilised, cut off the points of asparagus and eat these points only with a fork, thus leaving the best part of the vegetable on their plates. As for artichokes they generally utterly defeat the attacks of those who trust only to the knife and fork.
Fingers must he used for eating certain things notably asparagus, artichokes, fruit, olives, radishes, pastry, and even small fried fish; in short everything which will not dirty or grease the fingers, may be eaten with the fingers. For my own part, I prefer to eat lettuce salad with my fingers rather than a fork, and Queen Marie Antoinette and other ladies of the eighteenth century were of my way of thinking. If the ladies could only see how pretty is their gesture when their diaphanous forefinger and thumb grasps a leaf of delicate green lettuce and raises that leaf from the porcelain plate to their rosy lips, they would all immediately take to eating salad à la Marie Antoinette. Only bear in mind, good ladies, that if you do wish to eat lettuce salad with your fingers you must mix your salad with oil and vinegar, and not with that abominable ready-made white “salad dressing,” to look upon which is nauseating.
May heaven preserve us from excessive Anglomania in matters of table service and eating. The English tend to complicate the eating tools far too much. They have too many forks for comfort, and the forms of them are too quaint for practical utility. Imitate Marie Antoinette, ladies: use your fingers more freely; eat decently, of course, but do not be the slaves of silly Anglomania or Newport crazes. To eat a pear or an apple conveniently, cut it into quarters, and peel each quarter in turn as you eat it. The peach, too, can be cut into quarters, if the eater is timid. Apricots do not need peeling, nor plums either. Who would be bold enough to peel a fresh fig or to touch such a delicate fruit, even with the purest silver instruments. — Marin Journal, 1890
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