An Anecdote About Table Linens

Photo from Pinterest

Photo from Pinterest

“Up until the sixteenth century, eating was a rather rough-and-ready affair that we would certainly not describe as dining. As people and their habits became more refined, table settings and linens also became more refined. As the 16th century progressed, it became a sign of wealth for each diner to have his own napkin (rather than wiping one’s hands and mouth on clothes). It was a sign of even greater wealth if the napkins were changed for fresh ones several times as the meal progressed through its courses. These napkins were larger than the ones used today and were tied around the neck to protect all those expensive silks and brocades from dripping sauces, soups, and gravies. Because it was difficult to tie a napkin behind one’s head, polite diners helped each other with this little task and thus arose the saying “making both ends meet.”

Although there are many beautiful linen tables at flea markets, locally made cotton mats and napkins are mostly used. These can be purchased in wonderful colors and patterns and only become more beautiful with age. The best way to handle these table linens is to wash them with your favorite detergent and dry them on the line. Using scented linen water or scented sachets with table linens may interfere with food aromas much as scented candles on the table would.”


Source: Joie de Vivre, 2002


Cheese Police

cheese plate

cheese plate


Of course, there’s no cheese police monitoring how one cuts cheese in France, but there IS a proper way to cut the various shapes of cheese – are you in the etiquette know?!

Cheese is usually served on a platter with knives designated for each type. Choices (3 or 5 types) should include hard, soft, and blue varieties ranging from mild to strong flavors.

  • Round cheese, like a small, whole Camembert should be already started with a small wedge cut and removed from the circle, so it’s cut like a pie.
  • A square or rectangular brick of cheese, such as blue, should have a rectangle cut off the end.
  • With a wedge/triangular-shaped cheese, such as Brie, simply slice a sliver off along the side of the wedge – NEVER cut the tip off a wedge of triangular cheese.

Remove the cheese from the platter to your plate by gently stabbing with the knife to pick up your piece.

If in doubt, just remember – the original shape of the cheese should be maintained.  Voila & bon appetit!