Though in the present day no lady would be permitted to perform the heavier duties of carving for a large company unassisted, yet it is by no means inconsistent with the character of a well-bred woman to understand, and occasionally to practice, the duty. In the middle classes this duty is not unusually taken by the wife of a man whom business may often detain from his home; and a skilful and economical carver is no bad helpmate for a hard-working professional man.
Men ought to know how to carve any joint or dish set before them, or, however high their standing in the world, they appear awkward and clownish; and, therefore, all men should practice the art of carving in their youth.
The first necessary provisions for carving are the proper utensils; the most skilful of artists would be defeated in his aim if he had not his tools. The carving-knives and forks are now made specially for the various dishes. The fish-carvers, of silver or silvered metal—the touch of steel destroys the flavor of the fish—should be broad, so that the flakes be not broken in raising. For the joints of meat, a long, very sharp steel blade; and for poultry and game, a long-handled but short and pointed blade, to be inserted dexterously between the small joints of the birds. The forks must be two-pronged, and the dish must be sufficiently near to the carver to give an easy command over it.
Having the needful utensils for work, all now depends on the coolness, confidence, and dexterity of the carver, with that small knowledge of anatomy that enables him to know what joints there must be in the piece before him, and where they are situated. In butcher’s meat, one rule is almost universal: the slice cut must be cut across the fibers of the meat, and not along them; a process which renders it more easy to masticate and digest. The exceptions to this rule are the fillet or under-cut in a sirloin of beef, and the slices along the bone in a saddle of mutton. In cutting a joint of meat, the strong fork is used to steady it; but in carving poultry it is the fork which is most useful in removing the wing and leg by a jerk, without leaving any ragged remains adhering to the body. All this must be accomplished by dexterity, not by strength, and any lady may acquire the art by a little observation and practice.
A knife should never be used for pies, entrees, or sweet dishes; a spoon wherever a spoon can be used.
In helping to choice dishes, stuffing, &c., the carver should always calculate the number of the company, and proportion the delicacies discreetly.
Original text by George Routledge, edited and revised by D. J. McAdam - this text © 2005. Please note: all applicable material on this website is protected by law and may not be copied without express written permission.
Home | Book Collecting | Folklore / Myth | Philately | Playing Cards | Literature | Contents