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Release date: 12/28/2004.
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English Soup Etiquette,
Roughly Chronological

(Take It or Leave It)

Margaret Visser, The Rituals of Dinner:

It's an old English custom to serve sherry or sauterne with soup.

And if the soup is too hot? Polite Edwardian children were taught to put down their spoons and wait a little while...never blow on it.

Lord Curzon (1859-1925), British statesman:

"Gentlemen do not take soup at luncheon"

C.B. Harley, The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette, III, 1873

Never blow your soup if it is too hot, but wait until it cools. Never raise your plate to your lips, but eat with your spoon.

"To fill or even half fill a soup plate with soup would be in very bad style." Why? Because full bowls could represent a host's hope that his guest would not eat too much thereafter.

Sylvia Townsend Fuller, English writer (1893-1978), diary entry 5/26/29:

"I discovered that dinners follow the order of creation--fish first, then entrées, then joints, lastly the apple as dessert. The soup is chaos."

Sir James Richards, quoting his father in Memoirs of an Unjust Fella (20th century):

"There are three kinds of man you must never trust: a man who hunts south of the Thames, a man who has soup for lunch, and a man who waxes his moustache"

Mrs. Mills Solves All Your Problems (tongue firmly in cheek), Sunday London Times, 9/14/2003:

Q: My grandfather ticks me off every time I tilt my soup bowl towards me. He insists that it has to be tilted away from the person eating. Why? It surely can't make the slightest bit of difference.
A: Your grandfather is simply a stickler for the correct form; and, of course, as with all such seemingly small points of etiquette, there is a perfectly logical and eminently sensible reason for the custom, although it has been forgotten by most people. In the early 19th century, when shallow soup plates became fashionable in place of deep bowls, officers in the cavalry and horse artillery regiments discovered that every time a troop of soldiers thundered past the mess on horseback when they were drinking soup, some of the contents of the dish would be splattered into their laps, thanks to the reverberations of the hooves. Thus, they developed the habit of tilting the bowl away from them. It didn't work, of course--hence the later dictum that no gentleman has soup for lunch.