Giving The Finger Bowl

Tired after a long day of cooking. Gratified by the enthusiasm and sheer wonderfulness of our guests–we sit at the kitchen table, again. Thankful that our hard work will lead to more hard work. Our conversation surprisingly turns to the only non-food course we served tonight–the finger bowls.

We used finger bowls for the first time in our 15-year collaboration. I don’t know why we haven’t before; we have always encouraged diners to eat with their hands. Our hesitation was probably based on a fear that we would run the risk of being tagged pretentious. Eating with your hands is of course fine but to offer a bowl of water with scented flowers to wash fingertips would certainly be criticized.

Tonight our guests loved the finger bowls we served! I put lavender, hydrangeas and rose pedals in glass bowls I found in upstate New York.

Here is the thing­–we never offered finger bowls during our eight year stint at Rupperts Restaurant. We were catching so much attention for describing at length everything on the menu. And although John’s experience in restaurants would assume finger bowls we couldn’t waste our diner’s attention on describing one more non-food related thing.

At the home restaurants I am afforded the luxury of explaining every course as it sits in front of the guest and being that we are in my home everyone is happy to listen. We served poussin tonight, a chicken younger than 28 days from Bev’s Eco-Friendly farms. John suggested that he would much prefer to roast the chickens whole and then split them in two. He has always preferred to cook the chicken with their bones in that the flavor is much richer in a chicken roasted with bones. Also to allow the guests to chew on and even partake in the marrow of the bones. We decided that if we let the diners know before hand, at the presentation of the birds, that there would be finger bowls after their main courses they would be free to eat with their hands–pick it up!

Because of the finger bowls and the forum to explain them, we were able to cook chicken better than we would have if constrained by the need to conform to just a knife, fork and napkin. John said that the poussin tonight were the best he had ever cooked. As chefs not only are we concerned with taste but also in how something is going to be eaten and the eaters comfortability with in the eating. This non-food pause, intermission or should we say interaction opened up possibilities for us tonight that resolved a long standing dilemma of how to better serve something that we have been serving for 15-years.

Cooking in small quantities on our home turf has unlocked many things for us. We have guests who are amazingly happy to be here and we are comfortable adapting to specific needs and trying new things. We are doing pretty much what we began 15 years ago, finding the best ingredients and doing as little as possible to let the food shine, only this time with out a lot of the pressure of being in the public eye and in return we may have let go of a certain amount of self-editing or self consciousness. If we run the risk of being called “pretentious”, so be it–we are enjoying feeding people too much to care...

We googled “finger bowls” and found these two items, One is a New York Times Article from 1909–hilarious, you have to read it and the Other is a video of a professor of etiquette from George Washington University, who we want to try and get for a dinner lecture here…