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Table Matters
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by: Celebrity Recipes Magazine

Mindful of matters concerning the dining table? Here are some terms and ideas that just might help...

Considering how misunderstood Filipinos have been in terms of dining (remember the spoon and fork incident in Canada?), it's probably best that we brush up on some dining-related terms and ideas to help us. Here are some terms that might prove handy when dining with people other than family.

China or dishes.
Are china different from dishes. They're actually the same. The term china only became widespread because porcelain ware (made from kaolin clay), originated from the country, China. From there, the technology traveled to Japan (where a distinct porcelain industry also arose), before turning westward to Europe and the British Isles.

Speaking of Japan, you've probably heard the term "Imari Red" at least once during table conversation. Imari actually refers to the port city of Japan known for a distinct enamel ware, of which the color red and a blue underglaze was most noticeable.

Meryl Streep in the film, Out of Africa, shooed the natives standing on her crates of Limoges china. Why her distress? Probably because Limoges ware is considered to be one of the best in the world. Limoges was actually named from that region of France where vast kaolin-like clay deposits were found. It is now the home of famous porcelain ware factories that have been operating for more than a hundred years.

This is one of the most famous patterned dishes in the history of porcelain ware. It is famous because of the quantity made. Made originally in China (then England), it was geared primarily to the export (read: western or European) market. The pattern on the plates obviously featured a willow tree and other oriental designs.

Willow-ware also gave rise to the term "blue plate special" because of the ware's coloring (blue and white). There was a time in the early 20th century when restaurants served their dishes on willow-ware, but instead of saying the former, they used the term "blue plate" to distinguish it from common crockery.

Knife Styles.
Bothered by the number of knives on a format dining table set-up. Dont worry, chances are even westerners are a bit puzzled by the number and even shapes of the cutlery - knives in particular. The reason is because the shapes of cutlery have continued to evolve in the course of history. For instance, the blunt blade knife (think butter knife-life in shape) first came into popular use in 1669 because King Louis of France got tired of Knife-fights during meals. The blunt blade soon evolved into the French blade and then into the new French blade. The latter is characterized by a scimitar-like shape (perhaps due to the rising influence of the Ottoman Empire then?). The Modern Blade, the one most commonly used today, probably came into wide use because of the rise and growing importance of restaurants which required patrons to have an easier time in cutting meat and vegetables. Thus, lessening the time they spend in the restaurant. Hence, faster turnaround.

Sterling Silver.
Be wary of hosts who comment that their silver-ware is sterling-he might just be boastful. Technically, sterling silver (a standard created by the British in the 15th century) should be 92.5 percent silver, with the remainder made of another metal (e.g. copper). Another way by which to tell sterling silver from common table-ware is the so-called sterling mark stamped on it. The mark is that of a lion. Nowadays, some manufacturers just stamp the word sterling, along with the copyright date, pattern name and the silversmith mark (if there is any).

Formal and/or informal dining.
Actually, this is a confusing term, considering that format and/or informal dining in every country differs to a certain degree. As such, in terms of polite society, it would be improper to say that the dining habits of one country is superior (or its opposite) to that of another country, as all countries have different dining traditions.

Among the more colorful (i.e. different) ways of dining include that of Ethiopia where food is placed on a huge flat bread placed on the center of the table and where diners are expected to eat communal-style. In Japan, where extreme formality is expected, the dinnerware is placed on three lacquer wood trays set in front of a diner with their corresponding dishes placed on their respective trays.

The western table is equally as elaborate, with place-settings specifically laid according to their usage (blame this on the French and their desire for symmetry). Furthermore, even western countries are not in agreement at times vis-à-vis cutlery-with the European method of cutlery usage, competing with the American zig-zag method (fork moved from left to right hand).

Anyway, the point is moot. If one cannot impress with dining manners, impress with dining knowledge instead-with information such as those shared above.

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September 22, 2017

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