FROM HAND TO MOUTH by James Cross Giblin
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Another highly informative and entertaining glimspe of social history from the author of Chimney Sweeps (American Book Award). Tracing ""that age-old problem: how to get food as swiftly, gracefully, and neatly as possible from hand to mouth"" takes Giblin back to prehistory, where the point of a knife, invented for other purposes, must have served to convey meat too hot to touch to a hungry mouth and so became the first alternative to fingers. By discussing the evolution of materials used for flatware, he reviews human technology. Economics and fashion also shape tools, which in their turn shape manners: the spectacular ruffs worn in 17th-century Holland prompted longer handles and larger bowls for spoons used for soup; Richelieu probably ordered the ends of knives to be rounded to prevent unsightly picking of teeth at the table. Giblin even knows why Americans, unlike Europeans, transfer their forks from hand to hand. The chapter on chopsticks includes usable instructions on how to hold them. Each detail is not only fascinating in itself but illuminates the society from which is comes. Midway, a quote from Erasmus epitomizes the civility of its time; by the 1920's Emily Post had overruled most of his prescriptions--but in the 1980's we are returning to our fingers, which have always been the primary conveyors of food for many around the world. This microcosmic view of historical change is attractively illustrated with black-and-white photos and reproductions of contemporary pictures, well-chosen to expand the text. Bibliography, index.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Page count: 96pp
Publisher: Crowell