The seat for the carver should be somewhat elevated above the other chairs: it is extremely ungraceful to carve standing, and it is rarely done by any person accustomed to the business. Carving depends more on skill than on strength. We have seen very small women carve admirably sitting down; and very tall men who knew not how to cut a piece of beef-steak without rising on their feet to do it.
The carving knife should be very sharp, and not heavy; and it should be held firmly in the hand: also the dish should be not too far from the carver. It is customary to help the fish with a fish trowel, and not with a knife. The middle part of a fish is generally considered the best. In helping it, avoid breaking the flakes, as that will give it a mangled appearance.
In carving ribs or sirloin of beef, begin by cutting thin slices off the side next to you. Afterwards you may cut from the tender-loin, or cross-part near the lower end. Do not send any one the outside piece, unless you know that they particularly wish it.
In helping beef-steak, put none of the bone on the plate.
In cutting a round of corned beef, begin at the top; but lay aside the first cut or outside piece, and send it to no one, as it is always dry and hard. In a round of a-la-mode beef, the outside is frequently preferred.
In a leg of mutton, begin across the middle, cutting the slices quite down to the bone. The same with a leg of pork or a ham. The latter should be cut in very thin slices, as its flavour is spoiled when cut thick. 506
To taste well, a tongue should be cut crossways in round slices. Cutting it lengthwise (though the practice at many tables) injures the flavour. The middle part of the tongue is the best. Do not help any one to a piece of the root; that, being by no means a favoured part, is generally left in the dish. In carving a fore-quarter of lamb, first separate the shoulder part from the breast and ribs, by passing the knife under, and then divide the ribs. If the lamb is large, have another dish brought to put the shoulder in.
For a loin of veal, begin near the smallest end, and separate the ribs; helping a part of the kidney (as far as it will go) with each piece. Carve a loin of pork or mutton in the same manner.
In carving a fillet of veal, begin at the top. Many persons prefer the first cut or outside piece. Help a portion of the stuffing with each slice. In a breast of veal, there are two parts very different in quality, the ribs and the brisket. You will easily perceive the division; enter your knife at it, and cut through, which will separate the two parts. Ask the persons you are going to help, whether they prefer a rib or a piece of the brisket. For a haunch of venison, first make a deep incision, bypassing your knife all along the side, cutting quite down to the bone. This is to let out the gravy. Then turn the broad end of the haunch towards you, and cut it as deep as you can, in thin, smooth slices, allowing some of the fat to each person.
For a saddle of venison, or of mutton, cut from the tail to the other end on each side of the back-bone, making very thin slices, and sending some fat with each. Venison and roast mutton chill very soon, therefore it is usual to eat it with iron heaters under the plates. Some heaters are made to contain hot coals, others are kept warm with boiling water, and some are heated by spirits of wine; the last is a very exceptionable mode, as the blue blaze flaming out all around the plate, is to many persons frightful. Currant jelly is an indispensable appendage to venison, and to roast mutton, and to ducks.
A young pig is most generally divided before it comes to table, in which case, it is not customary to send in the head, as to many persons it is a revolting spectacle after it is cut off. When served up whole, first separate the head from the shoulders, then cut off the limbs, and then divide the ribs. Help some of the stuffing with each piece.
To carve a fowl, begin by sticking your fork in the pinion, and drawing it towards the leg; and then passing your knife underneath, take off the wing at the joint. Next, slip your knife between the leg and the body, to cut through the joint; and with the fork, turn the leg back, and the joint will give way. Then take off the other wing and leg. If the fowl has been trussed (as it ought to be) with the liver and gizzard, help the liver with one wing, and the gizzard with the other.
The liver wing is considered the best. After the limbs are taken off, enter your knife into the top of the breast, and cut under the merry-thought, so as to loosen it, lifting it with your fork. Afterwards cut slices from both sides of the breast.
Next take off the collar-bones, which lie on each side of the merry-thought, and then separate the side-bones from the back.
The breast and wings are considered as the most delicate parts of the fowl; the back, as the least desirable, is generally left in the dish. Some persons, in carving a fowl, find it more convenient to take it on a plate, and as they separate it, return each part to the dish; but this is not now the usual way.
A turkey is carved in the same manner as a fowl; except that the legs and wings being larger, are separated at the lower joint. The lower part of the leg, (or drumstick, as it is called,) being hard, tough, and stringy, is never helped to any one, but allowed to remain on the dish. First cut off the wing, leg, and breast from one side; then turn the turkey over, and cut them off from the other.
To carve a goose, separate the leg from the body, by putting the fork into the small end of the limb; pressing it close to the body, and then passing the knife under, and turning the leg back, as you cut through the joint. To take off the wing, put your fork into the small end of the pinion, and press it closely to the body; then slip the knife under, and separate the joint. Next cut under the merry-thought, and take it off; and then cut slices from the breast. Then turn the goose, and dismember the other side. Take off the two upper side-bones, that are next to the wings; and then the two lower side-bones. The breast and legs of a goose afford the finest pieces. If a goose is old, there is no fowl so tough; and if difficult to carve, it will be still more difficult to eat.
In helping any one to gravy, or to melted butter, do not pour it over their meat, fowl, or fish, but put it to one side on a vacant part of the plate, that they may use just as much of it as they like. In filling a plate, never heap one thing on another.
In helping vegetables, do not plunge the spoon down to the bottom of the dish, in case they should not have been perfectly well drained. and the water should have settled there.
By observing carefully how it is done, you may acquire a knowledge of the joints, and of the process of carving, which a little daily practice will soon convert into dexterity. If a young lady is ignorant of this very useful art. it will be well for her to take lessons of her father, or her brother, and a married lady can easily learn from her husband. Domestics who wait at table may soon, from looking on daily, become so expert that, when necessary, they can take a dish to the side-table and carve it perfectly well.
At a dinner party, if the hostess is quite young, she is frequently glad to be relieved of the trouble of carving by the gentleman who sits nearest to her; but if she is familiar with the business, she usually prefers doing it herself.