Story & photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling GourmetTM
All food photos are of REAL food with NO photoshop or props!
The inspiring and intrepid Travelling Gourmet travels to a remote part of sunny Singapore to learn all about cold steel from…
MONSIEUR Geoffrey Delhaye, International Developement & Marketing Manager of Degrenne. Degrenne makes steelware and ,,Kalter Stahl” is German for ‘cold steel’. Geoffrey stated simply in French-accented English, “Degrenne with our 3 factories in Europe…is affordable luxury and very famous in France.”
At a very remote location in the north of our sunny island, Geoffrey went through with me the history of cutlery plus table etiquette since medieval times. I will not mention the venue of the class, for the simple reason that they do not serve food at this place, which was rather disappointing and inhospitable, as the taxi driver did not know the way to the venue, and dropped me at a bus stop in the vicinity. By the time I finally found the ‘ulu’ place, I was incredibly HUNGRY! An empty stomach does not make for good counsel. I spoke personally with the owner of the venue but as Pierre Augustin Caron de BEAUMARCHAIS said:
Les plus coupables sont les moins généreux ; c’est la règle.
C’est la vie as they say in la ‘ville lumiere’…
Modest and cheerful Geoffrey very kindly conducted for me a special “one to one” class on Steelware, Cutlery, Glassware, Porcelainware & Table Setting Etiquette.
My first ‘Guru’ on this subject was actually my Father. He was a great gourmet and brought me to remarkable restaurants and simple but very good eateries too, all over the world, when I was very young. If not for my Dad, I would not be The Travelling GourmetTM today.
We sat at a dark wooden table and he began, “We should have a ‘silencer’ and a white tablecloth on top but we don’t have so…In the old days, rich people like today, loved to show off. Tablecloths were a way to do this. The poor had NO tablecloths. So the more tablecloths you had, meant you were very rich! They had to be white in colour.
The ‘Charger’ plate or show plate was to make sure the table was not empty. No food was ever placed on it. The plate rim must be two fingers width away from the edge of the table. The knife is always on the right of the plate and exactly one finger-width away from the rim.”
Do you know why the knife is on the table? In the bad old days, it was not safe to be unarmed so everyone carried a knife. The Beretta 92F 9mm had not been invented! At a grand dinner, the King would request that every guest take out his or her knife and put them on the table in plain sight. The King, you see, did not want to be assassinated with a stiletto in the back. As most people were, and still are right handed, the knife came to be always placed on the right of the plate. Another fascinating fact is that knife blades are made of 13/0 stainless steel, ie 13% Chromium and 0% Nickel. Pour quoi? The raison d’etre is that nickel makes the knife impossible to keep a sharp cutting edge.
For haute cuisine dining, Food service is always from the left of the guest, BUT Wine service is always from the right of the guest. Did you know that French soup spoons and English soup spoons are different? The English ( le roast beef) soup spoons are round and circular, BUT French soup spoons are oval with a ‘funnel’ like tip.
Sommeliers came in to existence as food and wine tasters to ensure there was no poison in the food and wine. The Kings of those days were paranoid and fearful of being poisoned. President Obama has his Secret Service bodyguards so noy much has changed in the world…
I learned a lot more on this fascinating subject. All that I learned was useful information, including the esoteric and eclectic. In food and wine as in all things, there is always something new and exciting to learn!
Socrates, the famous Greek Philosopher always said: The only true wisdom is when we realise we know nothing.
When it comes to “Kalter Stahl”, it is imperative you know your weapons…
Guten Appetit und zum Wohl! 🙂
Degrenne started in 1948 after World War 2 in Normandie.