Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Elizabethan Manners - Cutlery

Food was taken from the serving dish using the tip of your knife to spear it and place it in your trencher, where you would eat it with your hands. Knives of the time period had very sharp tips for this purpose. People were constantly being told not to put the knife in their mouths and not to eat the food off the knife (which of course means they did that constantly).

Spoons were used to eat soft foods and broth out of the common dish, which is why it was rude to leave your spoon in the dish when you had eaten your share. Individuals did not have their own bowls to eat soupy dishes.

Forks existed, but these were generally two-tined forks used for carving meat, and not for individual dining. Delicate little forks might be used to eat sticky suckets in the fruit or banquetting course, but this is a very high-class affectation. Use of forks at court was a sign of depravity mentioned in political satires against Henri III.

All this eating with your hands means that they need frequent cleaning (it is bad manners to lick them). Napkins are heavily used. Ladies must have put them in their laps as they are not visible. Napkins are not always available -- the medieval approach was to take the long table-cloth hanging down on the side facing the guests, put it in your lap and use it to clean your hands. Eating without some kind of tablecloth is Not Done.

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