At a recent luncheon for a large group of retirees, a lady across the table from me was confronted with her dessert cup of fresh fruit, atop which perched a strawberry unshorn of its leaves. She inquired of us in general as to whether it was polite to pick up the fruit in her fingers and pluck off the leaves by hand. We all agreed and thus the problem was solved by crowd-sourcing the solution. Those who faced similar dessert challenges joined her, thus creating social harmony. There was no silver (or plastic) strawberry huller implement provided.
At the same luncheon I saw the gentleman seated next to me spear his dinner roll with his fork. Comments?
Indeed, strawberries may be eaten with Perfect Propriety with or without their leaves, but at a formal luncheon like the one you attended, they are most properly eaten with a dessert fork and/or spoon and not with the fingers. Etiquetteer tends to avoid this dilemma by hulling the strawberries before serving them. But there are chefs who like to have that one berry with its leaves to serve as a garnish.
Your mention of strawberries reminded Etiquetteer that Emily Post’s great-great-grandchildren covered a very similar question in episode 192 of their Awesome Etiquette podcast. They also kindly shared Etiquetteer’s response in episode 198!
As for the gentleman spearing his roll on a fork, no, that is NOT Perfectly Proper. A roll is properly broken by hand and buttered one piece at a time before being eaten. Your comment gives Etiquetteer the chance to advocate for the return of the soft roll, particularly the famous Parker House roll. Some of the baseball-sized rolls you find in a bread basket these days are as hard as baseballs, too! Get into a fight with those and you might lose a fingernail or a tooth. Etiquetteer vaguely remembers years ago reading something about round French rolls so hard that the custom was to soak them in red wine as part of a picnic lunch. Frankly, that just sounds like too much work. Let’s lead a renaissance of the soft roll so we can get back to having real conversation at the table and not just talk about the food!
In other news, Thanksgiving is only two weeks away, which means that the Season of Holiday Cards is shortly to begin. In the time remaining, Etiquetteer encourages you to start verifying the addresses on your list. There’s nothing like getting stack of return-to-sender envelopes; Etiquetteer even got one one year marked “They haven’t lived here in ten years!” So let your list check be your “ounce of prevention” for the Holiday Season really kicks off.
Finally, Etiquetteer was most interested in this article about how the results of the midterm election yesterday could change the Congressional dress code. While the traditional uniform for men is unlikely to change, it was suggested that Republican men are likely to retain the red “power tie.” But with record numbers of women being elected to Congress, this reporter noted the absence of the color pink, the reduced presence of the traditional string of cultured pearls, and what might seem to be the demise of the pantsuit for women. Let’s check in after the lame duck session to see what’s what.