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Carving Ability Was Once A Necessary Skill

Anyone who has ever been a hostess for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner knows she has worked hard. But usually the carving is turned over to the man of the house (or it’s done in privacy in the kitchen.) If it is your turn to provide the feast this year, any of the men present should be thankful that they didn’t have the responsibility in 1901.

The following directions are from Collier’s Cyclopedia and Compendium of Profitable Knowledge, written in 1901.

“Carving presents no difficulties; it simply requires knowledge. All displays of exertion or violence are in very bad taste; for, if not proved as evidence of the want of ability on the part of the carver, they present a very strong testimony of the toughness of a joint.”

Incidentally, the carving was not necessarily the responsibility of the host. The hostess could call upon the gentlemen seated on either side of her to perform the task. “All gentlemen who accept an invitation to dinner should be prepared to render such assistance when called upon. To offer to carve a dish, and then perform the office unskillfully is an unpardonable gaucherie. Every gentleman should carve, and carve well.”

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Thanksgiving Cards Were Once Common

Vintage Thanksgiving Card
This Thanksgiving postcard was mailed in the early 20th century. The greeting says: “Come in & taste our Pudding, Come in & taste our Pie, Come in & hear our Greetings, And do not pass us by.”

The Thanksgiving Day postcard was as common during the late 1800s as the Christmas card is today. The attractive cards featured pilgrims and settlers, families gathered around a table laden with food, patriotic motifs and the turkey in full glory, complete with ruffled feathers.

Other popular views were of children feeding turkeys and even riding on their backs. The sentiment on a card of this type might read, “May you always ride on the wings of prosperity.”

The old-fashioned Thanksgiving Day cards were more family-oriented than other cards of that period, with the exception of Christmas, and often were used to advise parents that someone would not be home for the traditional dinner.

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Break, Pierce Or Spoil That Bird?

Carving fowl was once considered a skilled table accomplishment. Furthermore, it was imperative that one use the correct term to describe the process, and “carve” or “slice” was not usually the appropriate word.

For instance, one would “break” a goose, “pierce” a plover (a sandpiper-type bird,) “thrust” a chicken, and “spoil” a hen.

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