Now that we’ve heard Christmas hasn’t been cancelled I thought that this year I might make an extra special attempt when it comes to setting the table instead of the usual ivy and a couple of church candles. Time to put into practice what I learned with the British Floral Academy just before lockdown. So I got all my glasses and cutlery out just to assess the possibilities.
Now I have a beautiful canteen of fish knives and forks, which my late brother Stephen gave me as a wedding present, but I am told by the ‘fashionista fascists’ that,
“NO ONE uses fish knives and forks anymore!”
Well I suppose in this day and age when restaurants like to serve filleted pixie portions there is no need. But I remember the days of eating out on the Barbican in Plymouth when you were served a whole Dover sole that fair flapped over the sides of your dinner plate head, tail, bones and all. What better implement to get in there with than that perfect Victorian invention the fish knife? That curly little tip is perfect for slipping under the bone. The ritual was all part of the enjoyment. I have been known to get quite indignant in posh London eateries when asked:
‘Would Madam like her fish filleted?” and would proudly and politely announce
“Certainly not. I was brought up in the West Country. I know how to fillet a fish!”
I suppose though it’s one less set of cutlery to confuse people with and eating out can be a minefield nowadays especially at big ‘do’s’! I attend, or pre covid used to attend, quite a few formal dinners, award ceremonies and the like where I haven’t been the only one puzzling over the place settings. In many cases all crammed far to close together so that the organisers can get more bums on seats. Apart from the collection of spoons and knives and forks… that ARE deemed permissible…there’s that cluster of glasses, the dreaded side plates and the white starched Sydney Opera House napkin that some poor soul has spent hours folding only to have us women imprint our lipstick on or in my case at least once during the course of the meal drop on the floor. I’ve had to apologise on many an occasion for tucking into someone else’s bread roll or picking up their wine glass. Even more embarrassing is having to tell the person next to you that they’ve got it wrong. But if you don’t it just goes round the table like a Mexican Wave and before you know it nobody knows whose dinner is whose. But somebody, once, observing my hovering hand, whispered gently “BMW”. Well I’ve been involved in some boring table chat in my time, and indeed been responsible for a lot of it, but I knew this person wasn’t trying to engage me in a conversation about the merits of German engineering so I asked what they meant. It was a simple mnemonic to help remember basically what went where.
So from left to right B for bread (bread roll plate) M for Meal (in the middle) and W for wine and water glasses. Perfect.
So to my table. I don’t care what is deemed fashionable and what isn’t those fish knives and forks are coming out they will be used even if it’s for a tin of sardines! Oh and whilst I’m about it there’s a sweet little set of pastry forks somewhere. I trust no one has anything against them? All will be added to the table after a good polish.
Not forgetting of course …. the fork handles!