Tuesday, May 13, 2008

May 13th: Daggers and Diners and the birth of the Knife

May 13th, 1637, France:
The guests around the large stone table are dressed in the most elegant manner, members of the Académie Française expound the virtues of French speech and a few musketeers plan their next adventure in lawless debauchery. As the meat course arrives, a elegant man dressed in scarlet robes, stands, pounds upon the table and shouts "I've had enough!" Legs of turkey halt in their path toward open mouths; wine goblets drip red circles onto the ground. "I demand we show some manners!"

On this date so many years ago, a famed French clergy and nobleman named Cardinal Richelieu, introduced the Knife into our dining patterns. I imagine it must have gone something like the scene described above. Before the adoption of the knife, people used large hunting daggers to stab their food which they then shuttled to their mouths with a spoon. How uncivilized. The Cardinal thought so too. One day, tired of all the rudeness, Richelieu ordered his diners to grind down the edges of their daggers to make them suitable for table-side dwelling

Soon knives were all the rage in France. They were popping up everywhere, and once Louis XIV declared it "universal," the utensil found its place in the culinary "hall of fame".

So get out there and rejoice in your knife today. Slice a pear, fillet a fish, or mince some garlic. Whatever you do, remember to mind your manners!

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