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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/1409

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1259
THE ART OF CARVING AT TABLE

In his own restaurant every aid was given to obtain effect; the orchestra stopped dead, and taking his stand at the head of the room, the master sliced off joints, one after the other, with vigorous single cuts, holding the bird on a fork in his left hand. Lieut.-Col. Newnham Davis, in his Dinners and Diners gives an admirable idea of the effect produced by Joseph's carving when he says: "In an irreverent moment I was reminded of the Chinese torture of the Ling Chi, in which the executioner slashes at his victim without hitting a vital part in the first fifty cuts, as I watched Joseph calmly, solemnly, with absolute exactitude, cutting a duck to pieces with a long, thin knife."

It need hardly be here remarked that the ordinary amateur cannot be expected to attain the pre-eminence of a Joseph or a Ritz, but all will be well advised to learn at least how to carve some of the simpler dishes of everyday appearance in the average British household.

Truly the case of the man who is entirely ignorant of carving is parlous. We have all seen him, offering in an emergency to assist his hostess, and trying by mere physical force to overcome his lack of skill; with red face and perspiring forehead he hacks and tugs at the dish in front of him, and at every attempt the veins stand out more prominently in his head, while the face of his hostess grows graver each moment as she begins to realize the appalling fact that the dish will not go round. Hopelessly at sea, he shamefully mangles and hacks the joint or bird before him, serving slices ragged and torn, and accomplishing even this result so slowly that the dish is cold long before he has finished. And all this time his agony—especially if he be of a nervous temperament—is terrible to contemplate, and the inconvenience to those who witness it distressing in the extreme.

Besides this disadvantage of the more material kind, a bad carver is handicapped in the conversation of the table, in which he plays, or should play, an important part, for the post of carver has come to involve considerable social obligations, and implies that its holder should to some extent preside over the feast. Charles Lamb, in "Captain Jackson," has given us an example of the carver who, even though he had nothing or next to nothing to carve, yet contrived to make a meal—however slender—pleasant. "'Let us live while we can,' methinks I hear the open-hearted creature exclaim; 'While we have, let us not want'; 'Here is plenty left'; 'Want for nothing'—with many more such hospitable sayings, the spurs of appetite, and old concomitants of smoking boards and feast-oppressed chargers. Then sliding a slender ratio of Single Gloucester upon his wife's plate, or the daughter's, he would convey the remnant rind to his own, with a merry quirk of 'The nearer the bone,' etc., and declaring that he universally preferred the outside.... None but his guest or guests dreamed of tasting flesh luxuries at night—the fragments were vere hospitibus sacra. But of one thing or another there was always enough,