Who Gets the Honor of Carving the Thanksgiving Turkey?

In popular culture, the patriarch of the family—such as Clark Griswold or Bob Cratchit—always seems to have the honor of carving the holiday turkey. That tradition is likely based on Medieval practices, says Mister Manners etiquette columnist Thomas P. Farley, quoting a 1508 Middle Ages manners manual that describes carving methods as a component of the formal code of chivalry According to Farley, “the carver was expected to cut the pieces of meat small enough to be eaten with a spoon or with ones fingers in an age before forks were common.” It was not until the 17th and 18th centuries that forks were widely used on tables in Northern Europe and the American colonies. However, knives were frequently ornate and jeweled, and the bearer took great pride in the fine craftsmanship of these skilled cutlers. A carvery, or a full set of knives in a box, was a common gift for newlyweds, and the groom was expected to be skilled in carving. “.

However, just as formal dining manners have changed over the past 500 years, so have the guidelines for carving turkeys. According to Farley, we shouldn’t assume that men are better suited for the job: “There is no reason for one gender to have the monopoly on carving.” However, if your family is struggling to decide who gets to do the honors, take Farley’s advice and give the carving knife to the right person.

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, and of course, delicious food. But who gets the honor of carving the turkey? This seemingly simple question can actually lead to some holiday disagreements.

A Brief History of Turkey Carving Etiquette

In pop culture, the patriarch of the family often takes on the role of carving the turkey. This tradition likely stems from Medieval practices where carving was considered a skill associated with chivalry. Back then forks weren’t common, so the carver had the important job of cutting the meat into small enough pieces for guests to eat with a spoon or their fingers.

However, as dining etiquette has evolved, so have the rules of turkey carving. Today, there’s no reason why one gender should have a monopoly on this task.

How to Decide Who Carves the Turkey

So. how do you decide who gets to wield the carving knife? Here are some tips:

1 The Host Has the Right of First Refusal:

Even if older family members are present, the host has the right to carve the turkey. Carving is a significant responsibility, and the host should be given the opportunity to take on this role.

2. Settle Arguments Politely:

If multiple people are interested in carving, the host can suggest sharing the duty. This is a great way to involve everyone and ensure that everyone gets a chance to participate.

3. Skip the Carving Show:

While carving the turkey tableside can be a fun tradition, it’s not always necessary. If your family prefers to focus on eating rather than theatrics, carve the turkey in the kitchen and bring it to the table already sliced.

4. Let the Host Decide:

Ultimately, the person who cooked the turkey has the final say on who gets to carve it. This is a way to show appreciation for their hard work and effort.

Carving the Thanksgiving turkey is a tradition that can bring families together. By following these simple tips, you can ensure that everyone has a chance to participate and enjoy this special occasion.

Bonus Tip:

If you’re still unsure who should carve the turkey, consider using a wishbone to settle the matter. The person who gets the larger piece gets the honor of carving!

Settle arguments politely.

According to Farley, “the host may suggest one or more guests share the duty if more than one person is interested in carving.” “The host should propose that the aspiring carvers share the workload with the seasoned carver if there are a few individuals who have been in line year after year only to be turned away by an official carver who declares themselves to be the official.” There are two more ways to resolve the issue: switching years or holding a competition using the previous year’s wishbone. “.

The host has the right of first refusal—even if older family are in attendance.

As the host, you have every right to carve the turkey—assuming youre interested. “It’s important to take your responsibility to carve the turkey very seriously,” remarks Farley. Assuming that the party hosts are not skilled in carving or want to maintain family customs, giving the clan’s patriarch or matriarch—if they so choose—first dibs is a respectful and perfectly acceptable donation. “.

How to Carve a Turkey | The New York Times


Why do men traditionally carve the turkey?

In popular culture, the honor has traditionally gone to the family’s patriarch. That practice dates to the Middle Ages. Back then, using forks to eat was not commonplace, so having the man of the manor slice the meat into bite-sized chunks for women and children to eat by hand was seen as a mark of chivalry.

Should you carve the turkey at the table?

“That said, if your family is of the sort that cares more about eating than it does about theater, carve the turkey in the kitchen and bring the platter to the main table only after the slicing is complete.”

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