Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Banana Faux Pas

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Banana Faux Pas

Article excerpt

BEE WILSON takes lessons in the etiquette of eating fruit

John Morgan, the etiquette expert and owner of 300 monogrammed shirts, died recently at the tender age of 4l. His repertoire of elegant advice included, among other things, guidance on how to eat fruit when out in society. "The politest way to eat pomegranates is privately," Morgan admonished. His advice on the banana was intricate. "There are several variations on how to attack a banana, and these tend to range from the simian to the suburban." The best thing to do was lie the banana flat, cutting off the ends and slicing lengthways through the skin before easing out the fruit, to be eaten "in small individual bite-sized pieces, either by hand or with a knife and fork".

I am more of the simian school, but can still appreciate the structural beauty of this approach. However, there's more to the etiquette of fruit eating than even Morgan hinted.

Oxbridge legend tells various stories about the eating of fruit with a knife and fork. At a certain college, there is an annual dinner to determine which promising young scholars will be elected as Fellows. An unforgiving ritual is acted out involving dessert plates and small fruits. The electors watch, ready to pounce, as the poor young things struggle to spear grapes and cherries on their forks before they slip off the plate onto the floor. Passion fruit is offered, but without spoons, so that the slippery yellow seeds spill from fruit to mouth making an unseemly mess. The candidate who best manoeuvres the fruit bowl wins the job.

Everything about this story sounds apocryphal, yet I have attended meals that make it all too plausible. The college dessert is confirmation of Gordon Brown's strongest suspicions about Oxbridge elitism. Dons rigged up in gowns sip port and gossip over bowls of nuts and fruit. The seating plan is elaborate, and ignored at your peril. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.