FINE DINING AND FANCY FINGERS
When eating in a fancy country club or restaurant, how does a proper diner clean his or her fingers after a delectable entree, to prepare for an elegant dessert?
In the past, uniformed servers presented restaurant patrons with finger bowls.
WHAT IS THE FINGER BOWL?
The finger bowl is a round dish (resembling a shallow china soup bowl), which is placed on top of a larger plate (like a big saucer).
The finger bowl has nearly disappeared in current dining rooms, but it may occasionally be found in the finest eating establishments. Certain enthusiasts of high cuisine have called for the resurrection of the finger bowl.
Savvy antique hunters may uncover finger bowls, as they search through collections of old china.
HOW IS THE FINGER BOWL USED?
The finger bowl is filled with warm water. Often, a lemon wedge is placed on the underplate. A few lemon wheels may be floated in the water itself.
The diner dips his fingers gently into the warm water to rinse them lightly. Splashing, swirling and swishing in the finger bowl are considered improper. The finger bowl is not intended as a thorough bath or cleansing, but merely as a means of preparing the hands for the final courses of the meal.
The finger bowl is usually accompanied by a fresh napkin or cloth, with which the diner may wipe his moistened hands. This cloth is removed by the waiter, along with the finger bowl and underplate.
WHEN IS THE FINGER BOWL USED?
Traditionally, at a fancy restaurant or country club, a finger bowl is presented after the entree or main course.
This is set before a diner immediately after his main entree plate has been removed.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE FINGER BOWL?
The idea is for the diner to clean his fingers, particularly after a sticky or messy meal, such as barbecued ribs, buttery corn-on-the-cob, sticky fried chicken or shellfish.
Shortly after the finger bowl, a palate-cleansing dish (such as a fruit sorbet) is often introduced. Or the finger bowl may be followed immediately by the dessert course.
A FINGER BOWL FAUX PAS
When we were young children in elementary school, perhaps six and eight years old, we went out for dinner after church with our grandparents at a fancy fish restaurant. My brother brought a classmate along.
After the main course, during which the two boys gorged themselves on fresh lobster, the waiter set out the steaming finger bowls, fresh lemon wedges and all. My brother’s