DEAR MISS MANNERS: Recently, several friends and I met for lunch at a new restaurant in London. The owner has gone to a lot of effort to ensure that the service is up to the highest standards.
For our main courses, several of us had seared fish served on a bed of vegetables, while the rest had braised beef in broth. Before serving our meals, as is the custom in better restaurants, our waiter placed the appropriate cutlery next to our plates.
Here's where it gets tricky. To the right of the plate, beside the dinner knife, the waiter placed a utensil that seemed to be a cross between a "spork" and a fish knife. This utensil was roughly in the shape of a leaf, coming to a single point at the top, about the width of a tablespoon, with only the smallest of depressions in the centre. We assumed that it was a fish knife (albeit a wide one) initially, except for the fact that it was presented to the beef eaters, too. Our dinner knives remained by our plates.
Any idea what it was? There were five of us, all reasonably aware of etiquette, and we were all baffled. It was removed before dessert or cheese was served.
GENTLE READER: Much as she loves flatware guessing games (what else would you expect from a champion?), Miss Manners wishes you had asked the waiter. There is no disgrace in doing so. In England, particularly, it is a point of snobbery to be unfamiliar with utensils invented less than a century and a half ago, as proof that one's family had already acquired its silver by then.
Not having seen this item, Miss Manners nevertheless harbors the suspicion that what you had there was one of those new-fangled inventions from the end of the Victorian era: a sauce spoon. It is for spooning up that last bit of sauce rather than chasing it with a morsel of bread.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My spouse and I occasionally ask over for dinner a very bright friend of ours. However, once our guest sets foot into our house, he talks nonstop. We can't get a word in edgewise. We like our guest, but it so distracts from having a pleasant event when there is only a one-sided conversation! Is there anyway to politely tell our guest to bite his tongue and let others talk for a while?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is afraid that there is no such thing as a one-sided conversation. When one person does all the talking, it is not a conversation, but a performance. The curious thing is that it doesn't matter how interesting the material is -- listening to monologues that might be entertaining if they came from a performer who is watched in silence are wearisome face-to-face.
Still, one cannot tell one's guest to pipe down and let someone else have a chance. Your best hope is to keep announcing your desire to say something and your desire to hear from others with such statements as "May I tell you something?" and "Let's hear what Atalanta thinks about that."