FEASTS & FANCIES: Reblochon & Asparagus Sandwich

“Bad table manners, my dear Gigi, have broken up more households than infidelity,” says the ageing Belle Époque courtesan to the niece she is training in the MGM musical based on Colette’s novella.

When I was six years old, I was poked fun at at my first primary school for refusing to eat my frankfurter without a knife.  It was finally handed to me with a huff.  Why couldn’t I just spear the sausage with my fork and bite it off, like the other children?

My mother and grandmother valued good table manners almost on a par with the knowledge of languages.  “You never know where life may take you,” they would say, “good table manners are an extra passport”.  And the more passports you had, the more doors would open to you, and that would give you more choices in life.  

My grandmother was content with my eating performance being discreet, while my mother insisted I learn to use all the cutlery and glasses as illustrated in our copy of Debrett’s Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners.  For all my protestations that her social ambitions for me were way above our financial possibilities – why learn to eat at an aristocratic dinner party when we could never have afforded to buy me a dress that would allow me to attend it? – my mother would not relent.  “You may never have the need to eat an apple with a knife and fork,” she’d say, “but there’s nothing worse than finding yourself in a situation, whatever it may be, and being unable to cope with it because you lack the appropriate skills.”

And so I learnt to eat an apple with a knife and fork, remembered to dab my lips with the napkin before reaching out for my glass, made sure I didn’t help myself to the communal butter with my own knife, but from the small piece on the side of my plate, which I’d served myself at the beginning of the meal, and kept pace with the other guests so as neither to wolf my food down before anyone else nor lag behind, etc., etc.

Most of my mother’s instructions were aimed at helping me be accepted wherever I might venture.  “Always observe how the other people present eat before you start,” she’d say, “and, to a certain extent, do as they do.  If you’re invited to a household where everyone eats sitting cross-legged on the carpet, you don’t ask for a chair.”

Looking back on my family’s teachings, I realise that all were ultimately aimed at avoiding at all costs sticking out or offending.  

Table etiquette is far less prescriptive now than it was when I was a child, and I cannot remember the last time I used a fork to eat an apple.  Perhaps I don’t revolve in high enough circles.  I find it sad that table manners have become synonymous with class and wealth, when I feel they should be associated with a form of aesthetics instead.  Why not eat beautifully, when you can, just as you would write beautifully, or walk beautifully, play a musical instrument beautifully or do anything else beautifully for that matter? 

And, on that note, I dare you to eat the following beautifully…

Reblochon & Asparagus Sandwich

Your treats for one serving:

(all measurements are approximate, see https://scribedoll.com/2023/01/15/new-blog-feasts-fancies/

❧  French or sourdough baguette (white) 

❧ Fresh asparagus

❧ Reblochon (or, if wary of unpasteurised cheese, brie – or if you live in Norfolk, smoked Dapple works, too, but then leave out the dill)

❧ Fresh dill (herb)

❧ Extra virgin olive oil

❧ A large napkin (or two)

Wash the asparagus and break off the tough end of the stalks, then steam them (boiling takes away their flavour) until just soft enough to remain crisp: you don’t want mushy asparagus.

Cut the baguette either in long slices or down the middle and drizzle with a few drops of olive oil.

Wash and dry the fresh dill.

Heap a generous amount of reblochon (or brie) on the bread, arrange as many asparagus stalks on it as will fit and add a little dill.

Bite into the sandwich, avoiding any breadcrumbs, bits of cheese, threads of dill or drops of olive oil falling anywhere.  Ha!

PS – Thank you to all those who wrote to me, asking why I hadn’t posted for the past couple of Sundays.  I was very touched.  The truth is I was in France for two weeks and, for once, didn’t take my laptop with me.  Predictably, I shall soon be writing about la Douce France.

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6 Responses to FEASTS & FANCIES: Reblochon & Asparagus Sandwich

  1. Sue Cumisky says:

    I love asparagus and this sounds delicious. Great to have you back.

  2. Anonymous says:

    My mother was very careful about good manners as well…but it has been useful in my life, “you must be able to eat both with kings and homeless people, it is one of the life secrets”…thank you for your story and welcome back! Unfortunately, I am allergic to asparagus but I’m looking forward to the next recipe and, above all, story!

  3. sammee44 says:

    Why is it that the simplest foods are the best? Love this one, Katia. A s for eating this neatly and without dropping crumbs, try eating a freshly baked croissant neatly!

    • Scribe Doll says:

      I’ve just got back from Paris where I had proper croissants and proper baguettes… and, as far as I’m concerned, eating them “neatly” would take away all the fun.

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