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Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Emory Women Writers Resource Project

The Gentlewoman's Companion: or, A Guide to the Female Sex, an electronic edition

by Hannah Woolley [Woolley, Hannah, fl. 1670]

date: 1675
source publisher: Printed by A. Maxwell for Edward Thomas
collection: Early Modern through the 18th Century

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Some choice Observations for a Gentlewomans Behaviour at Table.

| | 65 Gentlewomen, the first thing you are to observe, is to keep your body strait in the Chair, and do not lean your Elbows on the Table. Discover notby any ravenous gesture your angry appetite; nor fix your eyes too greedily on the meat before you, as if you would devour more that way than your throat can swallow, or your stomach digest.

If you are invited abroad, presume not on the principal place at the Table, and seem to be perswaded with some difficulty to be seated, where your Inviter hath chosen in his opinion the most convenient place for you. Being a Guest, let not your hand be first in the Dish; and though the Mistess of the Feast may out of a Complement desire you to carve, yet beg her excuse, though you are better able to do it than her self.

In carving at your own Table, distribute the best pieces first, and it will appear very comely and decent to use a Fork; if so, touch no piece of meat without it.

I have been invited to Dinner, where I have seen the good Gentlewoman of the House sweat more in cutting up of a Fowl, than the Cookmaid in roasting it; and when she had foundly beliquor'd her joints, hath suckt her knuckles, and to work with them again in the Dish; at the sight whereof my belly hath been three quarters full, before I had swallowed one bit. Wherefore avoid clapping your fingers in your mouth and | | 66 lick them, although you have burnt them with carving. Take these more especial Rules, according to the newest and best mode for Carving.

If Chicken-broth be the first dish, and you would help your principal Guest with a part of the Chicken, the best piece is the breast; the wings and legs are the next;; and of them, the general opinion of most is, That in all boil'd Fowl the legs are look'd on as chief.

As to all roasted Fowl, those which are curious in the indulging their pallats, do generally agree, that flying Wild-fowl are much tendered than Tam-fowl, and quicker of concoction; such as scratch the Earth, and seldom use the Wing, the Legs are to be preferr'd before any other part, the wings and breasts of wild-fowl are best.

The ordinary way of cutting-up a roast-fowl, is by dividing the four principal members, beginning first with the legs; and be not tedious in hitting the joynts, which you may avoid by well considering with your eye where they lye, before you exercise your knife.

The best piece to carve to the best in the company, oft the larger sort of Fowl, as Capons, Turkies, Geese, Duck, and Mallard, Pheasant, Dottril, Cock of the wood, etc. Is the piece on the breast, observing always to cut it long-ways towards the rump. But do not cut your Oranges long-ways, but cross.

Since in Butchers-meat there are few ignorant of the best pieces, it will be to little purpose to give you an account of them in this place; | | 67 for my design is to treat of that which is not commonly known: However, without deviating from my intention, take these remarks which follow.

In boiled or roasted Beef, that which is interlin'd or interlarded with fat, is most to be esteemed; and the short ribs being most sweet and tender, is to be preferred before any other.

Cut a Loin of Veal in the middle, and the present the Nut or Kidney as the best part in the whole Joint. Thrust your knife into a Leg of Mutton a considerable depth, above the handle, to let out the gravy; and begin to cut on the inside, as if you intended to split it; in the joint on the other side, is a little bone fit to be presented, and in great estimation among the Curious.

I heard of a Gentleman coming from hunting, and falling into a friend's house, complained he was extreamly hungry; the Mistris thereof replied, That she was very sorry she had nothing to accomodate him with but a cold Leg of Mutton. His appetite being very sharp, made him commend that Joint beyond any other; whereupon it was brough: But finding that choice bone remaining still untoucht, refused to eat a bit: Being demanded the reason, Madam, said he, the (harpness of my Stomach shall never make me feed uncleanly; for I am confident they must be Bores and Clown that first handled this leg of Mutton, or else their breeding would have taught them not to have left untoucht the choicst bit in the whole joint. I cannot but applaud the jest, but I must condemn the rudeness of the Gentleman.

| | 68 A Shoulder of Mutton is to be cut semicircularly, between the handle and the slap; the Pope's eye (as it is commonly called) is a choice bit both in Leg and Shoulder.

In a roasted Pig, the dainty most approve the ears and divided jaws, the neck and middlepiece, by reason of the crackling. In Hares, Leverets, and Rabbets, the most esteemed (called the Hunts-mans piece) is by the sides of the tail; and next to that, is the back, legs, and wings, improperly so termed.

Some who esteem themselves the Virtuosi for rarity of diet and choice provision, esteem (in Fish) the head, and what is near about it, to be the best: I must acknowledg it in a Cods-head, with the various appurtenances, drest Secundum artem, sparing no cost; such a dish in Old and New Fish, street, hath made mmany a Gallant's pocket bleed freely. As also, I approve it in a Salmon or Sturgeon, the Jowles of both being the best of the Fish; likewise in Pike or Carp, where note, the tongue of this last -named is an excellent morsel; but in other Fish you must excuse the weakness of my knowledg. In Fish that have but one long bone running down the back (as the Sole), the middle is to be carved without dispute; there is none so unacquainted with fare, to contradict it.

If Fish be in paste, it is proper enough to touch it with your knife; if otherwise, with your fork and spoon, laying it handsomly on a plate with sauce, and so present it. But should there be Olives on board, use your spoon, and not your fork, lest you become the laughter of the whole Table.

| | 69 All sorts of Tarts, wet-Sweat-meats; and Cake, being cut first in the dish wherein they were served to the Table, are to be taken up at the point of your knives, laid dextrously on a plate, and so presented: and whatever you carve and present, let it be on a clean palte; but by no means on the point of your knife, or fork, not with your spoon. If any one careves to you, refuse it not, though you dislike it.

Where you see variety at a Table, ask not to be helpt to any dainty; and if you are offered the choice of several-dishes, chuse not the best; you may answer, Madam, I am indifferent, your Ladiships choice shall be mine.

Be not nice nor curious at the Table, for that is undercent; and do not mump it mince it, nor bridle the head, as if you either disliked the meat, or the company. If you have a stomach, eat not voraciously; nor too sparingly, like an old-fashion'd Gentlewoman I have heard of, who because she would seem (being invited to a Feast) to be a slender eater, fed heartily at home (before she went) on a piece of poder'd-beef and cabbage; by chance a steak thereof fell on her Russ, and not perceiving it, went so where she was invited; being observed to eat little or nothing, a Gentlewoman askt her why she did not eat; Indeed, Madam, said she, I did eat (before I came forth) a whole pestle of a Lark to my Breakfast, and that I think hath deprived me of my appetite. The witty Gentlewoman presently replaied, I am easily induced to believe you fed on that Bird, for on your Ruff I see you have brought a | | 70 feather of him with you. Thus your nicety may be discovered by means you dream not of, and thereby make your self the subject of publick laughter.

On the other side, do not bawl out aloud for any thing you want; as, I would have some of that; I like not this; I hate Onions; Give me no Pepper: But whisper softly to one, that he or she may without noise supply your wants.

If you be carved with any thing (as I said before) which you do not like, conceal (as much as in your lieth) your repugnancies, and receive it however: And though your disgust many times is invincible, and it would be insufferable tyranny to require you should eat what your Stomach nauseats; yet it will shew your civility to accept it, though you let it lye on your plate, pretending to eat, till you meet with a fit opportunity of changing your plate, without any palpable discovery of your disgust.

If you are left to your own liberty, with the rest, to carve to your self, let not your hand be in the dish first, but give way to others; and besure to carve on that side of the dish only which is next you, not overcharging your plate, but laying thereon a little at a time. What you take, as near as you can let it be at once; it is not civil to be twice in one dish, and much worse to eat out of it piece by iece; and do not (for it favours of rudeness) reach your arms over other dishes to come at that you like better. Wipe your spoon every time you put it into the dish, otherwise | | 71 you may offend some squeamish stomacks. Eat not so fast, though very hungry, as by gormandizing you are ready to choak your selves. Close your lips when you eat; talk not when you have meat in your mouth; and do not smack like a Pig, nor make any other noise which shall prove ungrateful to the company. If your pottage be so hot your mouth cannot endure it, have patience till it be of a fit coolness; for it is veryunseemly to blow it in your spoon, or otherwise.

Do not venture to eat Spoon-meat so hot, that the tears stand in your eyes, or that thereby you betray your intolerable greediness, by beraying the room, besides your great discomposure for a while afterwards. Do not bit your bread, but cut or break what you are about to eat; and keep not your knife always in your hand, for that is as unseemly as a Gentlewoman who pretended to have as little a stomach as she had a mouth, and therefore would not swallow her Pease by spoonfuls, but took them one by one, and cut them in two before she would eat them.

Fill not your mouth so full, that your checks shall swell like a pair of Scotch-bag-pipes; neither cut your meat into too big pieces.

Gnaw no bones with your Teeth, nor suck them to come at the marrow: Be cautious, and not over-forward in dipping or sopping in the dish; and have a care of letting fall any thing you are about to eat, between the plate and your mouth.

It is very uncivil to criticize or find fault | | 72 with any dish of meat or sauce during the repast, or more especially at another's Table; or to ask what such a Joint or such a Fowl cost; or to trouble your self and others with perpetual discourses of Bills of Fare, that being a sure sign of a foolish Epicure.

It is very uncomely to drink so large a draught, that your breath is almost gone, and are forced to blow strongly to recover your self: nor let it go down too hastily, lest it force you to an extream cough, or bring it up again, which would be a great rudeness to nauseate the whole Table; and this throwing down your liquor as into a Funnel, would be an action fitter for a Juggler than a Gentlewoman. If you sit next a Person of Honour, it will behove you, not to receive your drink on that side; for those who are accurately bred, receive it generally on the other.

It is uncivil to rub your teeth in company, or to pick them at or after meals, with your knife; or otherwise; for it is a thing both indecent and distastful.

Thus much I have laid down for your observation in general; wherein I am defective as to particulars, let your own prudence, discretion, and curious observation supply.

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