Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Gentlewoman at Dinner, Episode 2.

Today I want to follow-on from yesterday’s post as it feels a little incomplete to leave you with advice on serving meats only. In The Gentlewoman’s Companion (1675) Hannah Woolley continued with instructions on the remainder of the meal:

Some who esteem themselves the Virtuosi for rarity of diet and choice provision, esteem (in Fish) the head, and what is near about it, to be the best: I must acknowledg it in a Cods-head, with the various appurtenances, drest Secundum artem, sparing no cost; such a dish in Old and New Fish, street, hath made many a Gallant's pocket bleed freely. As also, I approve it in a Salmon or Sturgeon, the Jowles of both being the best of the Fish; likewise in Pike or Carp, where note, the tongue of this last -named is an excellent morsel; but in other Fish you must excuse the weakness of my knowledg. In Fish that have but one long bone running down the back (as the Sole), the middle is to be carved without dispute; there is none so unacquainted with fare, to contradict it.
If Fish be in paste, it is proper enough to touch it with your knife; if otherwise, with your fork and spoon, laying it handsomly on a plate with sauce, and so present it. But should there be Olives on board, use your spoon, and not your fork, lest you become the laughter of the whole Table.
All sorts of Tarts, wet-Sweat-meats; and Cake, being cut first in the dish wherein they were served to the Table, are to be taken up at the point of your knives, laid dextrously on a plate, and so presented: and whatever you carve and present, let it be on a clean palte [plate]; but by no means on the point of your knife, or fork, not with your spoon. If any one careves to you, refuse it not, though you dislike it.

Hannah then picks up her discussion  of dining etiquette:

Where you see variety at a Table, ask not to be helpt to any dainty; and if you are offered the choice of several-dishes, chuse not the best; you may answer, Madam, I am indifferent, your Ladiships choice shall be mine.
Be not nice nor curious at the Table, for that is undercent; and do not mump it mince it, nor bridle the head, as if you either disliked the meat, or the company. If you have a stomach, eat not voraciously; nor too sparingly, like an old-fashion'd Gentlewoman I have heard of, who because she would seem (being invited to a Feast) to be a slender eater, fed heartily at home (before she went) on a piece of poder'd-beef and cabbage; by chance a steak thereof fell on her Russ, and not perceiving it, went so where she was invited; being observed to eat little or nothing, a Gentlewoman askt her why she did not eat; Indeed, Madam, said she, I did eat (before I came forth) a whole pestle of a Lark to my Breakfast, and that I think hath deprived me of my appetite. The witty Gentlewoman presently replaied, I am easily induced to believe you fed on that Bird, for on your Ruff I see you have brought a feather of him with you. Thus your nicety may be discovered by means you dream not of, and thereby make your self the subject of publick laughter.
On the other side, do not bawl out aloud for any thing you want; as, I would have some of that; I like not this; I hate Onions; Give me no Pepper: But whisper softly to one, that he or she may without noise supply your wants.
If you be carved with any thing (as I said before) which you do not like, conceal (as much as in your lieth) your repugnancies, and receive it however: And though your disgust many times is invincible, and it would be insufferable tyranny to require you should eat what your Stomach nauseats; yet it will shew your civility to accept it, though you let it lye on your plate, pretending to eat, till you meet with a fit opportunity of changing your plate, without any palpable discovery of your disgust.
If you are left to your own liberty, with the rest, to carve to your self, let not your hand be in the dish first, but give way to others; and besure to carve on that side of the dish only which is next you, not overcharging your plate, but laying thereon a little at a time. What you take, as near as you can let it be at once; it is not civil to be twice in one dish, and much worse to eat out of it piece by piece; and do not (for it favours of rudeness) reach your arms over other dishes to come at that you like better. Wipe your spoon every time you put it into the dish, otherwise you may offend some squeamish stomacks. Eat not so fast, though very hungry, as by gormandizing you are ready to choak your selves. Close your lips when you eat; talk not when you have meat in your mouth; and do not smack like a Pig, nor make any other noise which shall prove ungrateful to the company. If your pottage be so hot your mouth cannot endure it, have patience till it be of a fit coolness; for it is very unseemly to blow it in your spoon, or otherwise.
Do not venture to eat Spoon-meat so hot, that the tears stand in your eyes, or that thereby you betray your intolerable greediness, by betraying the room, besides your great discomposure for a while afterwards. Do not bit your bread, but cut or break what you are about to eat; and keep not your knife always in your hand, for that is as unseemly as a Gentlewoman who pretended to have as little a stomach as she had a mouth, and therefore would not swallow her Pease by spoonfuls, but took them one by one, and cut them in two before she would eat them.
Fill not your mouth so full, that your checks shall swell like a pair of Scotch-bag-pipes; neither cut your meat into too big pieces.
Gnaw no bones with your Teeth, nor suck them to come at the marrow: Be cautious, and not over-forward in dipping or sopping in the dish; and have a care of letting fall any thing you are about to eat, between the plate and your mouth.
It is very uncivil to criticize or find fault with any dish of meat or sauce during the repast, or more especially at another's Table; or to ask what such a Joint or such a Fowl cost; or to trouble your self and others with perpetual discourses of Bills of Fare, that being a sure sign of a foolish Epicure.
It is very uncomely to drink so large a draught, that your breath is almost gone, and are forced to blow strongly to recover your self: nor let it go down too hastily, lest it force you to an extream cough, or bring it up again, which would be a great rudeness to nauseate the whole Table; and this throwing down your liquor as into a Funnel, would be an action fitter for a Juggler than a Gentlewoman. If you sit next a Person of Honour, it will behove you, not to receive your drink on that side; for those who are accurately bred, receive it generally on the other.
It is uncivil to rub your teeth in company, or to pick them at or after meals, with your knife; or otherwise; for it is a thing both indecent and distastful.
Thus much I have laid down for your observation in general; wherein I am defective as to particulars, let your own prudence, discretion, and curious observation supply.

The recipe for the day is taken from Hannah’s book:

Puff-paste, the best way how to make it.
Take a pottle* of Flower, mix it with cold water, half a pound of Butter, and the whites of five Eggs, work these together very well and stiff, then roul it out very thin, and put Flower under it and over it, then take near a pound of butter, and lay it in bits all over it, then double it in five or six doubles; this being done, roul it out the second time, and serve it as at the first, then roul it out and cut it into what form you please, and for what use, you need not fear the curle, for it will divide as often as you have doubled, ten or twelve times is enough for any use.

            [*equal to half a gallon (approx. 2.3 litres)]


Bart said...

At the end of the first quote, there's mention of a "clean palte" when serving the guests. Is that a reference to the pieces of fish being placed on a napkin and then eaten by hand?

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Bart. I think this is an OCR error from the 1675 edition: I have tracked down a scanned copy of the 1673 edition, and the word is clearly "plate" - thanks for noticing this, I will insert the correction in the post.