Friday, March 1, 2019

2 prong forks

When the wider silver folks came out some continued to eat with two prong steel forks or knife. An American defended "that Americans have as good a right to their own fashions" and to eat off a knife in 1837.  Even 15 years later a British visitor remarked on the habits of Baltimore women still using two prong forks.

Silver over 2 prong steel forks
At every respectable table you will find silver forks; being broader, they are in all respects more convenient than steel for fish or vegetables.  Steel forks, except for carving, are now never placed on the table. Day, Charles. Hints on Etiquette… London:  1844 

Americans eat with knife 
“If you wish to imitate the French or English, you will put every mouthful into your mouth with your fork; but if you think, as I do, that Americans have as good a right to their own fashions as the inhabitants of any other country, you may choose the convenience of feeding yourself with your right hand, armed with a steel blade; and provided you do it neatly, and do not put in large mouthfuls, or close your lips tight over the blade, you ought not be considered as eating ungenteelly.”   
Farrar, John. Young Lady’s Friend.  Boston: 1837 

British visitor comments on Baltimore dining with 2 prong forks, 1850 -
The table-d'hote at Baltimore is excellent. Unfortunately we are rather too late in the season for the far-famed canvas-back ducks, which, at their proper period, are to be eaten here in the greatest perfection. The rooms are always full, and the ladies extravagantly dressed, and glorying in their 'braverie' of silks and satins, and jewellery. Baltimore is celebrated all over the Union for the beauty of its women… some of the little peculiarities of the Baltimore young ladies; or, at least, to some of the habits that we noticed among many of those we had the pleasure of seeing at meal-times.

I have every wish to make allowances for the singularity of some of their customs, and perhaps it may be partly owing to the melancholy fact, that the number of prongs to the forks (even in the best hotels) is generally limited to two, that the fair Americans make such an undue use of their knives at dinner-time. In the course of our travels, it has rarely been our lot to be indulged with a better description of a feeding machine, than a two-pronged iron fork; I have seen them with one, but this is rare, and would almost incline one to envy the chop-sticks of the Celestial Empire, as well as the skill with which they manage to feed themselves with those inconvenient articles of domestic furniture.

To a stranger, accustomed to the greater luxury of silver forks, of wider and more useful dimensions, it is deemed not consistent with feminine grace, to seize a large coarse knife, and thrust it into the mouth, with, peradventure, a huge oyster at the end of it. It matters not that the hand is small and delicate, and the mouth one of the most beautiful in the world; that they are so, only serves to render the atrocity of the deed more apparent and striking. I cannot altogether justify my American beauties when they lean both their elbows on the dining table; and gnaw a great lump of bread, which is held firmly in the little white hand, the appendage of one of the aforesaid elbows; and, lastly, it is impossible quite to approve of their system of helping themselves to a public dish with a spoon, just come off particular service. 'Well, I guess, I'm tired some!' said one of these pretty young ladies, throwing herself almost at full length in a lounging chair. It was immediately after dinner, and she appeared fatigued with the exertions of the repast.
Houstoun, Mrs. Matilda Charlotte.  Hesperos, or, Travels in the West.  London: 1850

©2019 Patricia Bixler Reber
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