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Of Oyster Forks and Fig Lifters

A Guide to Lesser-Known Cutlery



Being a guide to the lesser-known cutlery of elevated degustation, the misidentification and misuse of which shall certainly expose the dilettante or country cousin; or, The Sophisticates' Shibboleth.

Extracting a portion of fish from the serving dish has never been an exact science, but the mysterious, bladeless fish knife allows you to perform the operation with almost maddening precision. Think of it as a very small, annoying spatula, in which you shovel out miniscule bits of fish at a time, balancing perhaps a half-bite's worth onto a slender bit of metal. It's time consuming, yes, but ideal for portion control.

Boasting a serrated saw-tooth edge, the grapefruit spoon allows one to slice off a chunk of juicy fruitmeat and lob the wad mouthward without switching utensils. Slicing up the inner cheek and tongue can be drawback, but grapefruit spoons are masterful at tackling other things as well: chiseling off bits of frozen stock, small- to medium-sized balsa projects, disastrously overcooked eggs.

Sometimes four tines are not enough. For that, use the seldom seen but indispensable pipeorgan fork, with some Swiss models featuring up to 172 shifting and interlocking tines that can be adjusted for any dish. Remember to wash thoroughly; those many moving parts don't take well to caked-on foodbits.

Ordinary laymen pry open mussels with dirty, stubby fingers, but there's no need to sully yourself in such vulgar, Belgian fashion. A thistled cockle-awl is what the doctor ordered: Simply insert the pointed end thrustward, then, via cantilever, dislodge the slipper-meat from the remainder of the organism. A mere four years of practice can turn anyone expert.

There's nothing more unsightly than a plating in which one portion towers above the others. To even the vertical rise of all objects on the dish, use the steward's rake to flatten offending bulges and fluff up any underperforming sides, making for a visual treat and a more democratic meal. It's also ideal for when stacking space is at a premium. (Not recommended for soups.)


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