Table manners in 1939


Etiquette in 1939 pic


How does one know which knife and fork to use when there is an unusually big array at an important dinner ?

No difficulty arises if one remembers that the various knives, forks and spoons are laid in the order in which they will be required, beginning with those on the outside.

When the dinner starts with hors d’oeuvres—those tasty morsels of smoked salmon and sardine, Russian salad and the like—the appropriate silver knife and fork will be placed on the plate. Similarly a fork will be supplied with the plate, or found on the extreme right of the silver, if oysters come first.

Soup is taken with the large spoon found on the right. Next, to the right and left, you will find the fish knife and fork, then a fork, or knife and fork for the entrée, according to its nature. Following will be the large knife and fork for the meat or poultry course, a spoon and fork for the sweet, and finally a knife for cheese.

When dessert is served a small knife and fork will be handed to you with the dessert plate.

Should you by any mischance pick up the wrong knife or fork—or both—do not feel terribly embarrassed. Just ask the waiter quietly for another set when the course arrives for which the utensils were intended.

The dessert course always worries me at a dinner —and generally on that account I refuse it! How should one deal with apples, pears, bananas and so forth?

Apples and pears are held on the dessert fork and peeled with the dessert knife. Then the fruit is cut into quarters, the core removed and smaller portions cut if desirable.

Peaches and similar fruits are held on the fork and skinned with the knife. The fruit is cut into halves, the stone removed with the aid of the knife and fork. Bananas are peeled with knife, cut into pieces and eaten with the fork. Grapes are squeezed into the mouth singly, the skin being kept in the fingers. The fork should be placed to the lips to receive the seeds.

I have noticed that some people use a fork and spoon for the sweet course in a dinner, while other use a fork only. Which is correct ?

Whenever the nature of a dish permits, a fork only should be used. This applies not only to sweets but also to other courses. When the entree, for instance, is a patty or the like, that should be eaten with a fork. A spoon should never be used alone; always use a fork as well, even for such dishes as custard and milk pudding.

With most of the courses of a dinner the procedure is obvious. Others are not so simple to deal with. How should one eat oysters, for instance, or asparagus? Continue reading

E.V. Knox on oysters


Cornelis de Heem (via Ocean’s Bridge with thanks)

Found – a typed manuscript with inked corrections in the hand of its author ‘Evoe’ i.e .E.V. Knox. Probably a contribution by him to Punch, or possibly read out by him at a feast or function. He attended many and was often called upon to entertain. No date, but posssibly late 1940s, the annotations being in biro. In format and sound it has echoes of the British Grenadiers song (‘..some talk of Alexander and some of Hercules..’) or Lear’s The walrus and the Carpenter. Take it away Evoe–


Of Fishes and Food


The oysters of Great Britain

Were bought to Julius Caesar;

He bolted them in unbitten

And smiled like Mona Lisa.

The Emperor Augustus

Preferred them put in patties.

His cook, whose name was Justus,

Could never serve him satis.

The Emperor Tiberius,

A man debased and selfish,

Was never wholly serious

Except about these shellfish.

Continue reading

The Rings of Baron Corvo

Biography of Baron Corvo
A.J.A. Symons

An interesting side note on the appearance of the great cult writer can be found in this speech by C.H.('Harry') Pirie-Gordon (1883-1969) co -author with Baron Corvo  of The Weird of the Wanderer (by Prospero & Caliban). Baron Corvo was also known as Frederick Rolfe. The speech was delivered at the first banquet of the Corvine Society in June 1929 16 years after Corvo's death. Caliban speaks:

"His Archblessedness the Grand Master has referred to the Baron's sub fuse (sic) and sometimes revolting vesture. I cherish happier memories of his sartorial appearance. While he was our guest, sometimes he appeared in the purple habit designed and devised by himself for the Order of Chivalry, of which we were both members, a habit sumptuous and amaranthine: at others, when dining with the doubtless bucolic society, which marvelled at his conversation and his lore, he would wear a dinner jacket of soft bluish-grey velveteen, with his clerical collar and silk stock, while on his fingers would appear one or more of the massive silver rings which he had designed for himself. These he kept, when not in use, in a box of powdered sulphur in order that they might constantly be black: two of these were the famous anti-Jesuit rings, to which he alludes in one of his stories. They were of immense thickness, and each was armed with a spur rowel, so set in the thickness of the ring as to be capable of revolving. He used to explain that if a man, wearing these, were to meet a Jesuit, he could dash one of them across the Jesuit's forehead, and escape while the holy man was blinded by his own blood pouring from the wound scored across his forehead. Another ring he had, which he gave to me, made of electron, which he explained as being an amalgam of gold and silver in equal parts. This was engraved with a Crow..."

The diners who throughout the meal had drunk larger and larger libations finally toasted the Baron in Corvo Gran Spumante and then "the meeting did not so much end as deliquesce..."