Thoughts on Carving from Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts

Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts, published in 1949, offered men a blueprint for how to host in a masculine fashion. No frouffy dinner parties laden with more etiquette rules than food. “You won’t find doily tearoom fare here: no radish roses, no menus designed for their calorie content.” No, the Handbook for Hosts highlighted propriety with just a dash of pretentiousness, unique recipes to impress, games and anecdotes to entertain, and a healthy dose of the basics, just in case. This helpful guide included, of course, the manly art of carving.

Carving essentials:
-Knife and fork set especially designed for carving – curved tip of the knife and large curved prongs on the fork.
-Steel and emery stone for sharpening the knife. You will have to whet the blade while carving, but use the steel in the pantry you neanderthal!

In case you were unaware, according to the Handbook for Hosts there is a place on your turkey especially designed to accommodate forks. Didn’t know that? This would be behind the breast bone where you can fit a prong of the fork on each side of the bone. I’m glad we avoided that embarrassment for you.

Do not set the bird upright while slicing the breast. This may be acceptable with ham and other parts of the turkey, but if you do that while carving the breast it will crumble and the slices will be unappetizing to handle.

In 1949 carving was more about speed and accuracy than the showmanship it was about “in the old days.” (Ahem.) It was finally considered acceptable for the carver to finish sawing away and get a few bites in before the rest of the party was done with their meal. Away with exaggerated gestures and banter in between cuts. If the illustration above is any indication, a non-leisurely carving session was still considered serious business! Let’s just get to the meat, shall we?

Thanksgiving scene from Betty Crocker’s Guide to Easy Entertaining

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