Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sublime Excess

There are many things I lament passing in this life: people keeping to the right, people of either sex holding a door for a person leaving a building or simply moving to the side while someone exits an elevator. A person leaving a smaller space has precedence over a person entering with the rationale being that the person entering could be confounding an emergency exit. Therefore, a woman entering a building at least steps aside for a man leaving a building. I pity the poor man who tries to do the 'gentlemanly' thing and awkwardly holds a door from within a building/room only to block the doorway by his physical presence forcing the woman to squeeze past him in the doorway. Such silliness.

Which is not to say that there is no silliness in etiquette. Once upon a time, for formal dinners, the bread roll was wrapped in the elaborately constructed napkin. The silly reason being that bread plates are not used at formal dinners [which is why a roll is placed on THE TABLE CLOTH at a formal meal and butter is NOT served]. The result of which was many a dinner roll sailing through the ether when the napkin was placed into service. Saying bread plates are not for formal dinners by etiquette dicta  is, again, silly.

In a previous post I stated that excess can be sublime. I mean it. There is a written 'hard' rule in table etiquette of the Silver Thirteen. It states that no more than  thirteen pieces of silver may be placed in one cover from the onset. BOSH! None of us has the staff of a Downton Abby. If you are fortunate enough to own enough silver for an elaborate dinner of the dozen courses then lay it out all at once.

[Please forgive me if I am a bit remiss to assume you have the requisite 24" on center for a formal cover. Do not despair; if you have ever seen one of the White House State Dinner covers you would blanch with shame and horror at how much historical vermeil and porcelain gets shoved and crammed onto a ten-top round table. Hand me a vinaigrette!]

Also, be adventurous. I love soup. I love soup spoons and their myriad of incarnations. I love soup servers. For a recent dinner I served a vichyssoise in a cream soup cup and under-plate with a cream soup spoon, and later a corn chowder in a soup plate and under-plate with a large chowder spoon and served a dessert of individual strawberry and whipped cream trifles in bouillon cups and under-plates with bouillon spoons. Three of the twelve courses were soup service and the spoons were magnificent sur la table. The bouillon cups I served the Trifles Romanov in are pictured above.Oh, they were grand!

In closing, I wish to impart a sense of adventure and a sense of abandon when you venture into the realm of sublime excess. If you own fabulous things do not think of them as merely things. They are your tools, tools you can employ however you wish as host or hostess. If you have inherited these tools, you do tribute to those who have gone before you by using things that have been lovingly handed down. Use it all!

If someone has an idea on how to use a different bread plate for each course, please comment. They do not get used enough.

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