Monday, June 14, 2010

Table settings.

Strange weather. Boiling hot one minute and cold and bucketing down with rain the next. It doesn't look as if the 2010 vintage is going to be one of the all time greats - with the water dripping off them the poor vines look decidedly weather beaten and forlorn.

What to do on a wet Sunday afternoon in deepest France profonde ? Last week we went to the museum of secateurs . This was quite honestly a bit of a disappointment. As we traipsed past display case after display case of pruning implements it became apparent that there is only so much that can be written about secateurs without lapsing into repetition or mind numbing tedium. To make matters worse there are only so many pairs of rose cutters that you can look at before they all look the same - and boy do they all soon start to look the same. Perhaps my memory of the visit would have been more positive had it not been for the guide who had devoted his life to the study of secateurs and felt the need to explain at length the benefits of welded as opposed to cast handles. Trapped in a room full of secateurs and no means of escape.

This week 'the font' suggested ( well to be more precise insisted ) that we went to the museum of table settings. My how the heart raced with anticipation at the prospect of spending the afternoon looking at table settings! However,having arrived with very low expectations I was pleasantly surprised. Did you know that in the middle ages plates were oblong rather than round? To prove the point the museum had set out a medieval table with oblong plates while above it (if additional proof was needed) was a medieval painting showing a table set with oblong plates. How's that for fact of the week?

There was even more table setting arcana to come.It seems that until relatively recently the French used to lay their tables with the cutlery turned upside down. Look closely at the bottom photo and you'll see that not only do the fork and spoon face you but they are inverted. This was apparently to keep the flies off - an early healthy home hint. In parts of France this style of laying the table lasted until well into the 20th century.

Wilf found the most interesting part of the visit to be the cafe down by the river. He hoped for a croissant but got a bowl of water. You can't win them all.


  1. I'll be looking at my dinner bowl in a new way tonight, but my mum can't work out the upside down cutlery and flies thing (as both sides go in your mouth) unless the cutlery was put on the table unwashed with food still on one side!


  2. Upside down cutlery....what's that?!

    The secateur museum reminds me of several museums in Oklahoma with huge displays, I'm talking drawer after drawer, of barbed wire! At least one only had to read about the various strands and wasn't trapped with a long-winded expert. (The things people collect.)

    XXXOOO Daisy, Kendra & Bella

  3. Interesting facts - I must say that table settings do seem more interesting than rose cutters.

  4. I just know I like a bowl to be plenty wide enough for my muzzle. But I'm sure the table settings were very interesting for humans. I'm sure Wilf enjoyed the water. There's nothing like a nice bowl of water when you really need one. Of course a bit of cheese might have gone nicely, too. Maybe next time.

    wags, Lola

  5. thanks for the fact of the week! much more interesting than rose cutters for sure!
    i suppose Wilf is still on his diet plan, thus no croissant....poor Wilf....

  6. I'm surprised to learn from the painting that in the Moyen Ages in France, women were used as foot warmers. Or did she just lose a contact lens?

  7. We're with Wilf - a fresh hot buttery croissant and something to drink...not sure we can totally appreciate the table setting museum.

    Rose cutters - nope not too much into those thorny flowers..they are beautiful from a distance and that's the only way we want to enjoy their beauty.


  8. You do have some interesting facts there! I'd say that I'll hope you don't have rain next Sunday, but that might motivate 'the font' to finally go out and get those bicycles! Wilf is probably the only one who's going to end up getting a ride in the basket on that one.

    We have one local museum, but it seems to always be closed!

  9. The thought of a secateur museum really made me chuckle... I guess that there's a museum for everything!

    Um, even with upside down cutlery, the flies can still land on the back. Why is that better? Never mind, that's a rhetorical question.

    Now, Wilf is looking very tousled, as if he had many head pats yesterday along with his bowl of water. Sorry about the croissant, Wilf...

    I hope that sunshine returns to you and me soon!

  10. Devoted his life to the study of secateurs?? Ha ha! Interesting thing to choose for your life's studies :)

    I can see how it would get tedious fast....

  11. At the UBC Museum of Anthropology, a side room houses an exhibit of rare fine china. Having my heart set on seeing as much of the indigenous art as I could, we passed it by. Now I will forever wonder whether the exhibit included oblong plates.

    Of late, square plates seem to be the trend.

    Do you think dog bowls were once oblong as well??

    (The "Fine Imports from Scotland" shop in Gastown sold mostly sweets and clan tartan articles -- no haggis or sausage or we might have spring for some!)

    xx Joan

  12. The tablesetting museum sounds rather interesting, but a museum devoted to secateurs? I can't imagine. Although I will say that the chap who lives next to us recently opened an outdoor gear type emporium and when my husband visited there he told me that the shop sells over 200 styles of flashlights. I can't imagine that either. 200? Really?

  13. My great-Grandmother would set her table so in the summertime, the height of fly season in the country side. The idea was that flies tend to congregate toward the centre of the table and the serving platters and that a spoon set face down is less attractive to them. Knives were of no concern as pretty much everybody carried his own Opinel to the table. (Opinel are pocket-size folding knives still widely sold and used for everything you can think of that requires a knife. I would bet that every french household has at least one somewhere in a drawer.) I also seem to remember an obscure piece of superstition involving a very clumsy Devil prone to tangling himself in the tynes of upturned forks, which, of course, was not a good thing.
    I am talking about long-ago childhood memories in the deepest of "France profonde" here but readily confess to still to this day setting my cutlery face down...

    In unrelated news, yesterday the Bougalou Bear and I put the best of our six feet forward under decidedly pouty skies for our K9 rescue "Dog-a-thon". Undoubtably owing to our exalted patronage and higher intercession, not only did we raise a goodly amount of "green love" but it didn't rain cats and dogs.
    Thank you Digby. We are truly grateful.

  14. How interesting. I usually come here just to follow Wilf and because hearing your account of life in another society is fascinating, often hilarious, sometimes inspiring, and on occasion emotional. Today it is educational!

    Actually, I remember seeing the flatware turned upside down there as late as the '80s. Old habits must die hard.

    Thanks for taking the time to write what is now a regular fixture in my day. Best to Wilf.


  15. Railbird said everything I wanted to say perfectly - that I enjoy following the adventures of Wilf and reading the accounts of your interesting life too. And yes, today was very educational!

    I don't get why the silverware would be any better turned over as the fly can still land on the back of it.

  16. I like the idea of oval plates! I used a small oval platter on the occasion that I am home alone!

    Hi Wilf, sorry buddy, maybe next time!

  17. Very interesting post. Wilf's sweet face completely melts my heart. He has such a beautiful countenance!

  18. I've always thought it was just a perspective thing with the oblong plates! But now I know! :)

  19. I might have also found the table setting museum interesting--I just wish I would have known about the upside down silverware when I was a kid setting the table for my Mom! But doesn't France also have a wallpaper museum?