Your settings are fantabulous–the china and the cutlery
a window to an earlier time of serving maids and butlery.
Your butter knives and bread plates, shrimp forks and the rest
might lead to intense nervousness as we’re put to the test
to know which fork we should use next. The difference between
the cake fork or the salad fork is not so easily seen.
You’re such an avid hunter through antique stores and bazaars,
searching for ornate candlesticks and antique canning jars,
that you must have been ecstatic when you found this antique set
of twelve place settings, all intact. How lucky could you get?
Eleven serving pieces, plus eleven for each setting—
to hint at all the courses that each diner would be getting.
Spoons for every purpose from ice tea to demitasse.
So many forks that Martha Stewart would be at a loss.
Cheese knives, cake knives, butter knives. Knives for steak and fish.
A different knife or spoon or fork for every single dish!
As we sit down, it’s quite befuddling perusing them,
let alone imagining that we will all be using them.
Our sideways glances indicate we’re all of the same mind.
No matter how confusing, we are bound to be well-dined!
These particular prompt words somehow led me to a memory of a brass-with-teakwood- handles set of cutlery that I bought in a bazaar in India. It was comprised of 144 pieces–eleven pieces in each of the twelve place settings and eleven serving pieces. I was so impressed with it in it’s lovely red felt-lined teakwood case that I bought two of them—one for me and one for my sister. They were, however, a pain to wash and keep shiny as you couldn’t put them in the dishwasher, and when I moved to Mexico, I sold mine. My sister’s had been consigned to her basement storage long before that, but I did once throw a dinner party where I invited eleven people and served a course for each implement. This meant: salad fork, shrimp fork, dinner fork, cake fork, demitasse spoon, ice tea spoon, soup spoon, teaspoon, steak knife, butter knife, regular knife.
Everything went fine until one friend showed up half an hour late from the bar, drunk and with three friends! Needless to say, I was not happy as my service didn’t stretch to fifteen. I had to set up another card table with my regular cutlery and they had to eat their shrimp cocktail and salad with the same fork. After that, my own set was consigned to basement storage as well, but at least it led to this poem.