Q Dear Miss Abigail:
Can I eat chicken with my fingers?
A Dear Cat:
I’m glad you brought up this important topic. It’s about time for a little review on dinner etiquette and the proper use of forks, knives, and other utensils. Shall we dig in?
As little noise as possible. The knife, fork, and spoon are handled as noiselessly as possible. Scraping the edge of the knife against the plate is unpardonable. It produces a grating noise that is excessively unpleasant. In sending a plate away to be replenished, the diner leaves his knife and fork or his spoon as the case may be, upon it.
Bread must be broken. In dealing with bread, use neither knife nor fork. It must be broken with the fingers. There is a story of an absent-minded and short-sighted prelate who, with the remark,’My bread, I think?’ dug his fork into the white hand of a lady who sat beside him. He had been badly brought up, or he would not have used his fork, and the white hand would have experienced nothing worse than a sudden grasp.
The moustache and soup. It requires some expertness and practice for a man with a moustache to take soup in a perfectly inoffensive manner. The accomplishment is worth some trouble.
The mouth. Some men, who should know better (and some women, too) forget that the mouth be should be kept closed while mastication is going on. This is a very important matter. Nature teaches us to keep the mouth open, as any one may see from the way in which children and uncultivated persons eat, but good manners enjoin upon us that to adopt the natural mode is to disgust and annoy those with whom we sit at meat. If these little things have not been learned in childhood, it is difficult to master them afterwards. Mothers should teach their boys (and girls) never to speak while food is in the mouth, and never to drink until it is quite empty. Who would not be mortified if he were to choke ignominiously at the dinner-table?
Foods touched with the fingers. Bread, biscuits, olives, asparagus, celery, and bonbons are the forms of food that may be touched with the fingers. There used once to be a rule that a bone might be picked, if only the finger and thumb were used in holding it. But that was in the days when table cutlery was far from having been brought to its present condition of perfection. There is now no excuse for handling bones ~ knives and forks suffice; and it is only in the lowest grades of society that they are found inadequate.
Source: Humphry, Mrs. “Madge.” Manners for Men. London: James Bowden, 1897.
~ pp. 67-69 ~