The Use of the Table Napkin - The Torments of Shyness - The Etiquette of Using Forks and
Mo sound of spoon or knife or fork is per-mitted, and the acts of eating and drinking should be absolutely noiseless. The lips should be closed during the process of mastication. When coughing or sneezing, the diner should turn her head well away from the table and from her neighbours, and put her handkerchief to her mouth. These may appear to be unnecessary remarks, but experience shows that they are requisite.
Olives, celery (when raw), salted almonds, bon-bons, cherries, strawberries, grapes, currants, and gooseberries, are taken up with the fingers. Oranges are cut downwards in halves, then in quarters, and the dessert knife passed under the pulp, releasing it from the skin. The fingers do not touch the orange. Apples, peaches, apricots, nectarines are often peeled in this way, but may be taken in the hand.
In a previous article we accompanied the inexperienced girl through the ordeal of arriving alone at her first dinner-party, being received by her hostess, apportioned to the escort who is to take her in to dinner, and, having arrived there, through some of the puzzles of the meal.
These latter are numerous, and among them is a small matter which has caused many a letter of inquiry to be sent to the authors of works on etiquette-viz., the nice conduct of the table napkin. This starched and slippery contrivance is of an unmanageable character, and it is to be wished that someone of high position and influence in the world would set the fashion of table napkins made of softer material, and certainly not starched. As it is, they are constantly falling under the table. It is almost impossible to retain them on the lap when wearing a silk or satin gown. A young girl feels diffident of asking her cavalier to dive after her napkin more than once during the dinner, and sometimes she is too shy to ask him even that.
It may be mentioned incidentally that those circles in which the table napkin is always called " serviette " are not by any means the highest. To call it so when in
A young woman is not supposed to accept conscientiously the sequence of different wines offered to her as to everyone else at table by the persons who wait. Some time ago a young girl was not supposed to take wine at all, nor was it correct for her to eat cheese. Many things have changed since those times. The girl of to-day would feel aggrieved if etiquette forbade her to enjoy a glass of champagne. But she would be regarded as a " seasoned " diner-out if she were to drink three glasses. And if. she were to accept, first, sherry with her soup, then hock with her fish, champagne throughout the meat, poultry, and game courses, and port or claret with dessert, she would certainly excite remark among those who had happened to observe the circumstance. A young and inexperienced girl has been known to make such mistakes as these out of mere shyness. She allows the various glasses to be filled, and then thinks it may be a solecism if she does not drink a portion of each.
Shyness also causes youthful guests to refuse many a dish that they would like to accept. And, unfortunately, it is almost always to the shy that such accidents occur as spilling a glass of wine, knocking over the salt, etc., shyness being the parent of awkwardness. I once saw a shy girl, when seating herself at the dinner-table, turn over into her lap the three oysters on the shell that had been left ready on an oblong dish as hors-d'oeuvres. Dish, shells, and fish were all on her knee for a few seconds, and her state of. confusion was pitiable. The neophyte suffers much from embarrassment over such incidents.
The difficulty of eating an orange with neatness has occasioned a curious conundrum: " How shall I eat an orange? " To which the answer is: " Take a banana."
At the sweet course, though both spoon and fork are placed at hand, it is considered unnecessary, and, in fact, in bad form, to use both at once. In the same way, a knife should never be used with the more solid dishes if the fork suffices. In India curries are eaten with fork and spoon, and Anglo-indians follow the custom in England. To be continued.