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Test Your Table IQ

August 06, 1992|RUTH REICHL

1--D

Salad Fork

"A French etiquette manual of 1782 enumerates serviette, plate, knife, spoon, fork and goblet for every guest, and warns that 'it would be utterly gross-mannered to do without any one of these.' . . . By the mid-nineteenth century," Visser continues, "the table bristled with cutlery. There were knives and forks made especially for cheese, for fruit, for fish, for shellfish, salad, melons, ice cream, cakes."

2--G

Fish knife

According to Visser: "Before the invention of stainless steel in the 1920s, the taste of blade metal was often said to ruin the flavour of fish . . . Special fish-knives were invented in the nineteenth century; they were of silver or silver plate, ostentatiously unsharpened, and given a whimsical shape to show that they were knives whose only business was gently deboning and dividing cooked fish." She notes, elsewhere in the book, "One formal rule is that there may never be more than three knives laid at any one place; if there are more courses than three, a servant must supply the other knives."

3--F

Ice Cream Fork

Because it was considered proper, in the 19th Century, to eat dessert with a fork, ice cream was a terrible problem at the table. The ice cream fork, which is really a spoon with tines, neatly solved the problem. While you sometimes still find ice cream forks at banquets and feasts, it was replaced, briefly, in the '80s by something called the "spork."

4--H

Fruit Knife and Fork, Nut Pick

When oranges and bananas were a real luxury in America, pearl handled fruit knives and forks were used to eat them. The main point was that the blades be made of silver, since the acid in the fruit brought out the metallic flavor of lesser metals. The third implement in the trio was a nut pick, which could often be found sticking out of a fancy fruit bowl, giving it the air of an innocent hedgehog.

5--E

Salt Dish and Salt Spoon

Says Visser: "The salt shaker has still a rather new-fangled, vulgarly practical air; it has not yet been quite accepted into the conservative usages ordained for salt on formal occasions. Salt, Anglo-Saxons sill feel, should be placed in a little heap . . . to be dipped into with each mouthful." She notes that at some fancy parties, each guest has his own dish of salt, in which case the spoon is not necessary.

6--A

Shrimp Fork

It's pretty--and it really is easier to eat shrimp cocktail with this small fork than with a big clunky one. Says Visser, "We now use fewer implements at banquets than we did in the nineteenth century, but there are still so many of them that correct table manners are often described as 'knowing which fork to use.' At a correctly laid table there is supposed to be no problem whatever. The diner starts with the outermost knives and forks and moves inward, the innermost pieces being the last used."

7--B

Ice Tea Spoon

What could be nicer than a spoon that is long enough to get to the bottom of a very tall glass--and functions as a straw as well?

8--C

Nut Shovel

"The provision of special implements for moving food from serving dish to plate, as opposed to placing it in the mouth, came about slowly," Visser tells us, as people began to feel a desire not to have their own food touch that of others. More and more cutlery began to be required. Ultimately it led to the invention of implements such as this one, which performs a function that could just as easily be performed by the fingers.

ANSWERS

1--D

2--G

3--F

4--H

5--E

6--A

7--B

8--C

Photos on H1.

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