2259.—DATES, FIGS, FRENCH PLUMS.
All these should be daintily arranged on small dishes covered with lace-edged papers, which replace the leaves used with fresh fruit.
Dates.—Dates are imported into Britain, in a dried state, from Barbary and Egypt, and, when in good condition, they are much esteemed. An inferior kind has lately become common, which is dried hard, and has little or no flavour. Dates should be chosen large, soft, not much wrinkled, of a reddish colour on the outside, with a white membrane between the fruit and the stone.
These may be mixed or not, according to taste, but the blending of the white and black fruit enhances the beauty of both. Vine leaves, when procurable, should be put round the edge of the dish. Grape scissors must always accompany the grapes, as without them serving is very difficult, fine bunches being easily spoilt.
2261.—NUTS. These are simply arranged piled high in the centre of the dish, with or without leaves round the edge. Filberts or other nuts of this description should always be served with the outer skin or husk on them, and walnuts should be well wiped with a damp cloth, and afterwards with a dry one, to remove the unpleasant sticky feeling the shells frequently have. Chestnuts, when boiled or roasted, should be served on a folded serviette.
Hazel Nut and Filbert.—The common hazel is the wild, and the filbert the cultivated, variety of the same tree. The hazel is found wild, not only in forests and hedges, in dingles and ravines, but occurs in extensive tracts in the more mountainous parts of the country. It was formerly one of the most abundant of the trees which are indigenous to this island. It is seldom cultivated as a fruit tree, though perhaps its nuts are superior in flavour to the others. The Spanish nuts imported are a superior kind, but they are somewhat oily and rather indigestible. Filberts, both the red and the white, and the cob-nut, are supposed to be merely varieties of the common hazel, which have been produced partly by the superiority of soil and climate, and partly by culture. They were originally brought out of Greece to Italy, whence they have found their way to Holland, and from that country to England. It is supposed that, within a few miles of Maidstone, in Kent, there are more filberts grown than in all England besides; and it is from that district that the London market is supplied. The filbert is longer than the common nut, though of the same thickness, and has a larger kernel. The cob-nut is a still larger variety, and is rounder. Filberts are more esteemed for dessert than common nuts, and are generally eaten with salt. They an very free from oil, and disagree with few persons.
2262.—PINE OR MELON.
Vine leaves should first be placed upon the dish and the fruit stood upon them. If a pine does not stand upright, a slice may be cut off the bottom to level it. A melon should have the stalk showing at the top.
Note.—The melon is frequently served as an hors d'œuvre, eaten with salt and pepper. Prepared this way, it is excellent as a summer luncheon dish. See Melon Cantaloup.