How to Interest Feeble Minds at Dessert
From Black and White
The man or woman who can best interest and amuse his or her neighbors at the dinner table is the most likely to win the good graces of host and hostess and consequently receives most invitations. So greatly, indeed, are tact and wit appreciated that it is no secret that many clever persons live excellently and at no cost to themselves by the simple practice of these talents.
The wise man who goes in for fruit sculpture with the deliberate intention of capturing the approval of his hostess (always grateful for a fresh diversion) will prepare himself beforehand for the task and in his pocket will lurk black and white headed pins, some matches, and a sharp penknife to cut what the fruit knife cannot. Christmas crackers will furnish all kinds of odds and ends for decoration, and with even ordinary fruit an endless range of subjects may be present.
If you desire to present to the admiring gaze of the other diners an orange pig, you must peel your orange entirely in one piece, slipping your knife in a sharp cut, through which the whole fruit may be coaxed. The four legs are then shaped, the rind slightly rolled, paper ears and a paper tail added, and your pig is finished. For a plumper pig a plum is chosen, the tail for which his furnished by its own stem. The stump of a cigar is added for a snout, the ends of matches for feet, and with paper ears a very presentable prize porker is made.
The “boarding house baron” is another example of what can be done with an orange, or rather with two, for the lower one stands in a wine glass, to which the upper is skewered by a sharp match or toothpick. These have been turned into a very fair similitude of the elderly made-up foreigner by means of paper hair and mustaches, bread pill eyeballs fastened in with pins, and a bread nose. His collar is of paper and a handkerchief or cracker paper furnishes a very good coat. The great object in making these little figures should be to vary the expression as much as possible, and advantage may be taken of anything on the dinner table to secure the desired amusing results.
For instance the pig nose of the boxer is produced by fixing a chrysanthemum bud, the same flower furnishing a shock of hair. The head is an apple, and the body a pear. Bananas serve as arms and lefts, the former being amusingly finished off by chestnuts, which give the idea of boxing gloves.
For “Admiral Nelson” two oranges are used, the second resting in a wine glass, cunningly concealed by a white handkerchief. To the upper orange is given a face, bread pill eyes and a carefully shaped nose, chrysanthemum locks and a paper cocked hat. A stiff collar encircles the neck, and paper epaulets hide where the banana arms are joined on. To make the empty sleeve of the great hero part of the interior of the fruit is removed. The watch and chain come from a Christmas cracker. His trousered legs are made of two rolls of paper and his feet are scraps of shaped peel.
Lest any one should imagine that an orange is the easiest fruit to deal with, a banana bird can be made, whose skin engraved with a fork suggests feathers. Toothpick legs, a paper tail and pin eyes complete the effect. The female bird of this interesting pair of fowls, unknown as yet to the Ornithological Society, is made, sitting on her nest, with outspread motherly wings. The nest, by the way, is a scooped out dinner roll, and is lined with flowers. The banana serves also for a little boat, which with masts and canvas set, with oars a-pull and flags flying, sails smoothly over an ocean of tablecloth. It might be called the Plantain, for it certainly belongs to the West Indian trade.
Perhaps the prettiest of all is the little “Romeo,” twanging his light guitar. His body is an apple, and his head a chestnut. He has rather thin toothpick limbs decorously clothed in the Christmas cracker ends. Two matches make the neck of his musical instrument and a little cotton stretched across the chestnut completes the illusion.
The Sunday Star [Washington DC] 25 March 1906: p. 2
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is personally acquainted with this after-dinner diversion. One evening at the Hall, after the ladies withdrew, some high-spirited young gentlemen guests, encouraged by a touch too much port, remodelled the innocuous figures into something a bit more fruity. When the footmen cleared the table, they bore the assemblages intact on trays down to the servants’ hall, where the Tweeny—a complete innocent, although brought up in the country—promptly had a choking fit until she was sent to bed with sal volatile and a book of devotion. The fruit was enjoyed by the rest of the staff.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.