When You Come to a Knife in the Road
Thomas Becket: “Tonight you can do me the honor of christening my forks.”
King Henry II: “Forks?”
Thomas Becket: “Yes, from Florence. New little invention. It's for pronging meat and carrying it
to the mouth. It saves you dirtying your fingers.”
King Henry II: “But then you dirty the fork.”
Thomas Becket: “Yes, but it's washable.”
King Henry II: “So are your fingers. I don't see the point.”
-Becket, 1964, produced by Hal Wallis
A complete table service with knives, forks, and spoons as we know them was common in Roman times. With the collapse of the empire Europeans reverted to eating with just their hands and their own knives.
Sort of like ordering from a drive-through now.
Or hanging out with British soccer fans.
In the high middle ages forks reappeared, and except for takeout and Manchester United are still pretty popular. In some restaurants, though, like one of Chaucer’s pilgrims you’ll have to bring your own knife.
Some eateries are shy about providing knives and napkins. The meal is served with a fork so thin that it will bend if you hold it wrong, and a little square of thin paper napkin that appears to have been peeled from the roll on the wall in the euphemism.
If you want a knife, you must ask for it.
If you want a second tiny square of paper napkin, you must ask for that too.
One shouldn’t complain; there’s still a plate.
In California restaurants the pepper has been replaced with pepper spray.
Okay, okay, first-world problems, right? This is not serious stuff, like Secretary Clinton having to fly commercial and occupying only two first-class seats for herself and her bubble, the poor dear. Oh, the humanity.
Still, you wonder how long before you’ll have to ask for a cup for the coffee.
Someone probably read an article the industry magazine Beyond Roadkill about how if they don’t provide knives for customers they can save electricity and soap by running the dishwasher two fewer times a year.
Thanks to a young person of his acquaintance y’r ‘umble scrivener recently had occasion to dine at a nice restaurant in Baytown (Capital of the Culinary World), and was happy to see a complete table setting: a collection of cutlery, a big cloth napkin, big plates, small plates, and bowls.
But then, Baytown’s pretty sophisticated: they’ve got traffic lights, movin’ picture shows, sidewalks, and Russian spies.
Rumor has it that former President Obama bugged the iced tea.
And then there was this guy in corner wearing Tom Brady’s game jersey and crying softly into his double mocha latte’ with a dusting of cinnamon: “But it was the right envelope. It was. I handed them the right envelope…sob!”
He had a big cloth napkin for his tears, though.