Printed rules for carving are usually accompanied with cuts showing the
position of the joint or meat on the platter, and having lines
indicating the method of cutting. But this will not be attempted in this
carving and serving manual, as such illustrations seldom prove helpful; for the actual thing
before us bears faint resemblance to the pictures, which give us only
the surface, with no hint of what may be inside.
It is comparatively a slight matter to carve a solid mass of lean meat.
It is the bones, tough gristle, and tendons, that interfere with the
easy progress of the knife. To expect any one to carve well without any
conception of the internal structure of what may be placed before him is
as absurd as to expect one to amputate a limb successfully who has no
knowledge of human anatomy.
Some notion of the relative position of bones, joints, fat, tough and
tender muscles, is the first requisite to good carving. All agree that
skill in carving may be acquired by practice; and so it may. Any one can
divide a joint if he cut and hack at it long enough, and so learn after
a time just where to make the right cut. But a more satisfactory way is
to make a careful study before the material is cooked, and thus learn
the exact position of every joint, bone, and muscle. Become familiar
with a shoulder or a leg of mutton; locate the joints by moving the
the joints, or by cutting it into sections, some time when it
is to be used for a stew. Or remove the bone in the leg by scraping the
meat away at either end. Learn to distinguish the different cuts of
meat. The best way to learn about carving poultry and game is to cut
them up for a stew or fricassee, provided care be taken not to chop
them, but to disjoint them skilfully.
Then, when you attempt to carve, do the best you can every time.
allow yourself to be careless about it, even should the only spectators
be your children or other family members. But do not make your first
effort in the art
at a company dinner. Every person interested in cooking meat should
learn the art of carving and serving. Strength is not required, so much
neatness and care. A firm, steady hand, a cool, collected manner, and
confidence in one's ability will help greatly. Children also should be
taught this accomplishment, and should be taught it as soon as they can
handle a knife safely.
If parents would allow the children to share
their duties at the daily family table, and occasionally when company is
present, a graceful manner would soon be acquired. When called upon to
preside over their own homes there would less frequently be heard the
apology, "Father (or mother) always carved at home, and I have had no practice."
One must learn first of all to carve neatly, without scattering crumbs
or splashing gravy over the tablecloth or platter; also to cut straight,
uniform slices. This may seem an easy matter; but do we often see
pressed beef, pork, or even bread cut as it should be? Be careful to
divide the material in such a manner that each person may be served
equally well. Have you never received all flank, or a hard dry wing,
while another guest had all tenderloin, or the second joint? After a
little experience you can easily distinguish between the choice portions
and the inferior. Lay each portion on the plate with the browned or best
side up. Keep it compact, not mussy; and serve a good portion of meat,
not a bone with hardly any meat on it. After all are served, the portion
on the platter should not be left jagged, rough, and sprawling, but
should look inviting enough to tempt one to desire a second portion.
Care should be taken to carve in such a way as to get the best effect. A
nice joint is often made less inviting from having been cut with the
grain, while meat of rather poor quality is made more tender and
palatable if divided across the grain. Where the whole of the joint is
not required, learn to carve economically, that it may be left in good
shape for another dinner.
After you have learned to do the simplest work neatly and gracefully,
much painstaking will be
necessary in acquiring the power to accomplish
with elegance the more difficult tasks. For to reach the highest degree
of excellence in the art, one must be able to carve the most difficult
joint with perfect skill and ease.
But after all this study and a great amount of practice failure often
happens, and blame is very often laid upon the carver which really belongs to some
other person,—the butcher, the cook, the table-girl, or the guest. Not
all people who sell meat know or practice the best way of cutting up meat.
Much may be done by the butcher and by the cook to facilitate the work
of the carver. These helps will be noticed more particularly under the
head of special dishes.
An essential aid to easy carving, and one often overlooked, is that the
platter be large enough to hold not merely the joint or fowl while
whole, but also the several portions as they are detached.
The joint should be placed in the middle of the platter, in the position
indicated under special directions. There should be sufficient space on
either side for the portions of meat as they are carved; that is, space
on the bottom, none of the slices being allowed to hang over the edge of
the dish. If necessary, provide an extra dish. The persistency with
which some housekeepers cling to a small dish for fear the meat will
look lost on a larger one often makes successful carving impossible.
The platter should be placed near the carver, that he or she may easily reach
any part of the joint.
The cook should see that all skewers, strings, etc., be removed before
sending the meat or fish to the table. It is extremely awkward to find
one's knife impeded by a bit of twine.
The carver may stand or sit, as suits his or her convenience. Anything that is
done easily is generally done gracefully, but when one works at a
disadvantage awkwardness is always the result.
A very important matter is the condition of the knife. It should have a
handle easy to grasp, a long, thin, sharp, pointed blade, and be of a
size adapted to the article to be carved and to the person using it. A
lady or a child will prefer a small knife. Be as particular to have the
knife sharp as to have it bright and clean; and always sharpen it before
announcing the dinner. It is very annoying for a person to be obliged to
wait and sharpen the knife, or to turn the meat round to get it into the
right position. Never allow a carving-knife to be used to cut bread, or
for any other than its legitimate purpose.
The fork should be strong, with long tines, and should have a guard.
Place the fork deep enough in the meat so that you can hold it firmly in
position. Hold the knife and fork in an easy, natural way. Many persons
grasp the fork as if it were a dagger, and stab it into the meat; but
such a display of force is unnecessary and clownish. The hand should be
over the handle of the fork, the palm down, and the forefinger extended.