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第1章 FINGERS AND FORKS

1.Queen Elizabeth of England was a very grand lady,and fond of fine clothes and of jewels.If you had been asked to dine with her,you would have met lords and ladies in gay dresses.You would have seen upon the table dishes of silver and of gold,as well as rich and curious china from abroad;for we had not then begun to make fine china-ware in thiscountry.But one thing would have struck you as verystrange-that the great queen and all the fine lords andladies of her courtate their meat with their fingers!

2.Alfred the Great and William the Conqueror ,and all the kings and queens before her time,had done the same.None of them had ever seen forks,and Queen Elizabeth had seen only a few which had beenbrought to her from Italy.There was one of crystal ,another of gold,and still another of coral.But the queen had never seen one used,and hardly knew what they were for.

3.Yet although these lords and ladies had no forks,they were as daintyand careful in their manner ofeating as the great people of our own day.They had knives and they had fingers,and with these they managed very well.We learn how they did it from their old books on good manners.In the first place,every person must wash his hands before beginning the meal;and even if he had just done this in private,he must do so again on sitting down at table.

4.Before the meat was brought to the table,it waspreparedso that it could be easily laid hold of withthe fingers.If stewed,as was nearly always the case,it was in little bits;if roasted,it was cut in slices by a carver,and placed on the table in large plates.

5.When helping himself,each person had to choose and keep a certain part of the dish for his own.He helped himself daintily from this place,using only three fingers;afterwards in carrying the food to the mouth-which,of course,was done with the hand-the same three fingers were used.

6.Of course all this soiled the hands,and,at varioustimes during the meal,bowls of perfumedwater andnapkins were handed round,and no one must refuse to wash.This old custom of handing round a silver bowl or dish of rose-water is still sometimes seen.

7.After a while forks slowly began to come into use.

Great ladies kept them in their rooms to eat comfits with,and to toast bread;and in course of time they brought them to the table.

8.At first there was a feeling against the use of forks,chiefly because they came from abroad;and the first few persons who dared to use them were laughed at.The habit spread very slowly in England,even after it had become common in other countries.

9.For a long time,however,it was only among the rich that forks were used.Until about a hundred years ago,travellers used to carry knives and forks when they went on a long journey,for they could never be sure offinding them at the innson the road.

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