My objective with my new book is to delve into the past — in the present — and then project the exploration into the future. We’ll see how that goes. . .
In the meantime, I was thrilled to see you share my passion for history.
That being the case, I thought I would share a few tidbits from an interview I did recently with Albane de Maigret who is an expert on the history of culture, custom and, the absolutely captivating origins of many of our rules of etiquette.
For example: Do you know why the blades on our dinner knives are rounded rather than pointed? (If you do I’m really impressed.)
The creation of our modern day dinner knives dates back to Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal-Duke of Richelieu and of Fronsac (1585-1642) who was appalled by one of the distasteful uses of the very pointed knives that men in the highest stations of society used not only in hunting and dining, but also as the perfect utensil to pick and clean their teeth at table.
He decided, Albane de Maigret told me, he could no longer tolerate watching public teeth picking. One can definitely sympathize with his sentiments. And, thus our rounded knives were designed to Cardinal de Richelieu’s specifications in an effort to make dining experiences more civilized (or less stomach turning perhaps).
The Cardinal was an extremely busy man not only as Louis XIII’s most important minister, but also the founder, in 1637, of the Académie Française. The Académie is the eminent protector of the French language.
We can discuss l’Académie Française another time, but the mere idea that the institution, with a brief hiatus during the French Revolution until Napoleon Bonaparte reestablished its function, has existed for centuries is remarkable. How extraordinary and magnificent that a country’s language is so revered that a body of 40 intellectuals debate its evolution and protect its past.