DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am trying to collect a set of silverware, and I'm still confused because the names of pieces are not always the same. I keep seeing a "place" spoon (and occasionally a "place" fork and "place" knife that seem to be luncheon sized).
Unfortunately, "place" doesn't describe the spoon's purpose to me. In my pattern, there are advertised: a cream soup spoon, a place/oval soup spoon and a dessert/tear shaped soup spoon. I think that is one too many soups (not counting bullion and gumbo).
Is the "place" spoon really the dessert spoon? Does the soup spoon care if it has an oval or tear shaped bowl? Is buying silver making me obsessive compulsive?
I will not even ask about the cocktail/seafood fork/oyster fork /pickle/olive/lemon fork dilemma since they all look alike to me. As for the 5'o'clock spoon, or the "youth size" utensils, I thought Miss Manners had declared the age of inventing new silver pieces over.
GENTLE READER: Indeed. The key is the date at which Miss Manners declares a cut-off. On a bad day, she thinks that maybe 1797 would have been a good time, in which case any of us would be lucky to be issued a fork. Then again, she remembers all the fun she would be missing if the world were bereft of strawberry forks.
The so-called "place" pieces are a comparatively recent attempt at simplification. Between luncheon and dinner size, they are supposed to fit not only any time of day, but any course. As you may suspect, Miss Manners does not quite like them, but not because she wants to complicate people's lives and ruin their budgets.
Her objection is that they make it difficult to serve a meal with more than one course requiring a fork and knife. You can do it by buying double sets (or by running to the kitchen sink between courses), but it looks redundant. The old method, before the mid-19th-century proliferation of specialized utensils, was to have a small set (not only for luncheon service, but for fish courses and such) and a large set (for the main course).
There was also a large oval tablespoon that was used for clear soup served in soup plates, a round spoon used for cream soup served in soup cups, a smaller round spoon for bouillon, and a medium-sized oval spoon used for dessert. How's that for your peace of mind?
In any case, these distinctions have been largely lost, but Miss Manners would rather see the oval soup spoon used for dessert than the teaspoon.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a sister that constantly sends birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, etc., early. By early, I mean, sometimes as much as two months in advance.
I find this rude and odd at the same time. When asking her why she does this, her answer is so that she does not forget, since she travels so often (does not have a traveling job).
I personally am just as offended in this as I am in her potentially being late or forgetting entirely. To me, it demonstrates her inconsiderate ways in not caring about the meaning behind a specific important event and or date. How would you propose dealing with this, and, is it "normal"?
GENTLE READER: It is normal, Miss Manners gathers from far more disgruntled letters than yours, to send presents late. Or to forget to send them at all. Or, as in your case, to quibble instead of being grateful.