Friday, January 28, 2011

Ice Cream Forks and Other Dilemmas

Fork Dilemmas Pop Sci Nov 1923
"Spoon or fork?" The Ice Cream Think Tank (ad detail, 1923)
It's hard to remember all the rules when you are out on a dinner date:

Very often you see a seemingly cultured gentleman in a hotel dining-room or restaurant playing with the silver or absent-mindedly clinking glasses together.

Lillian Eichler must have been spying on my college dining hall. There was plenty of glass-clinking and impromptu jam sessions with the silverware (minus, of course, the actual jam). We also had a game where you put really tough Jell-O cubes into a glass of 7 Up. The Jell-O cubes were usually about a week old because no one wanted to eat them and they would keep reappearing in the cafeteria line: the Houdinis of dessert. When you put the Jell-O cubes in the 7 Up, they would bounce around because of the carbonation (never escaping though - so not really like Houdini at all). Now, this sort of horrid stuff, of course, will not play well when one is dining out at the Ritz - or in a dining hall either, for that matter.

Anyway, last time we learned a lesson or two from Lillian Eichler (who was a 19 year old copywriter when she wrote first The Book of Etiquette back in 1919-20) - we were eavesdropping on a couple out on a miserable dinner date. They seem to have had three major problems: Who Goes First, Ice Cream Spoons and Saying Goodnight. I wanted to find out exactly what they were supposed to be doing. My source:  Eichler's 1925 New Book of Etiquette, what else? Direct quotes from the book are in italics...

Who's On First: In entering a restaurant the woman precedes. That's it. Easy as pie - but not as easy as ice cream, because:

I Scream For A Spoon for Ice Cream:  The spoon is still used for ice cream, though the fork is now regarded as more correct. A new kind of wide-tined ice cream fork is appearing on fashionable tables.

Oh dear, is it? Maybe if you were eating a slice of ice cream this would be OK. But our dating couple were served parfait glasses. Hot fudge sauce will also be appearing on fashionable tables along with those ice cream forks, I suspect.
Lux 1925 Vintage Ad Browser
Vintage Ad Browser

Say Goodnight, Gracie: Unfortunately, Miss Eichler doesn't seem to have a dating section in the New Book. But she does have a few things to say about men calling on young women:

...sometimes the man says "Miss Blank, may I call some evening when you and your mother are at home?" And sometimes the young woman says, "Mr. Brown, Mother and I will be at home Wednesday evening. Wouldn't you like to stop in for a little while?"

So Maisie ought not to invite Nick in, not unless Mother Blank is sitting in the blazingly-lit parlor reading the Saturday Evening Post and scowling at the clock. And it is just as well that she is, because Mother knows where the Lux is, and how well it works on getting ice cream and hot fudge sauce out of fancy clothes. And she's hidden the silverware and the old Jell-O cubes too, one hopes.


Kath Lockett said...

No wonder my first dates were always so disastrous - I kept eating my icecream with chopsticks.

Marcheline said...

Ice cream on a fork? Next, stilt-walking your date home!