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Posts Tagged ‘napkin folding

“Luxury lives in the finer details. It’s a cloth napkin at a dinner table.”*…

“There should always be a pretty centerpiece”, instructs Sarah Field Splint in The Art of Cooking and Serving, a Depression-era etiquette guide that greased the rails for Crisco shortening’s steady slide into the American home. During Margaret Atwood’s 2006 short story named after Splint’s book, her preteen protagonist weighs decoration against utility. “The charm of my centrepiece would not however cancel out the shabbiness of our paper napkins”. Mattia Giegher’s 1629 Trattato delle piegature (Treatise on folding) offers an elegant solution to the young girl’s quandary: nix the centerpiece and fold your napkins into finery worthy of display.

Giegher’s Trattato appeared as part of Li tre tratatti (1629), joining his earlier works on meat carving (Il trinciante) and stewardship (Lo scalco). While we crease modern napkins as an entrée to the main task — a lap dam for gravy, say, or neck-tucked against crustacean spray — Giegher’s creations were never meant for dabbing. These were starched objets d’art.

During the fifteenth century in northern Italy and southern Germany, technical knowledge of the mechanical arts (think: crafts, machinery, and culinary recipes) began to appear in vernacular writing. “Why around 1400 did artisans take up pen and paper with such gusto?” asks Pamela H. Smith about these early modern how-to guides. Her answer involves war technologies, state power, and urban, cultural exchange. Come the seventeenth century, with literacy on the rise in pockets of Europe, the proliferation of manuals on carving, table service, and, in Giegher’s case, napkin folding suggests a widening interest in knowledge once exclusive to the princely domain…

The history and cultural significance of a lost art (plus lots of nifty pictorial examples): “Serviette Sculptures: Mattia Giegher’s Treatise on Napkin Folding.”

* Iggy Azalea

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As we practice pleating, we might send amusing birthday greetings to John Garnet Carter; he was born on this date in 1883.  A hotelier who ran a lodge at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee/Rock City, Georgia, he built the first “Tom Thumb Golf” course to keep the children of his guests occupied– only to find that the attraction was a hit with adults.

Miniature golf dates back to the 19th century in the UK and the earlier 20th century in the U.S., when putting greens became attractions in their own right.  But Carter’s patented “Tom Thumb” approach– which incorporated tile, sewer pipe, hollow logs, and other obstacles, along with fairyland statuary– earned him the honorific “Father of Miniature Golf.”

garnett Carter
Carter, putting

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