French Etiquette: Take the Salt off the Table!

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Two years ago I took a cooking class in Paris with Paule Caillat, a charming and knowledgeable cooking teacher. As our delicious lunch drew to a close, Paule hopped up from her seat and said something that surprised me then but that I often think of now... 

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Paule had cleared our plates and was bringing out the dessert, a gorgeous fig tart sprinkled with pistachios. But then she noticed that the salt dish was still on the table and she threw up her hands and exclaimed, "Ah! What am I thinking to bring out dessert with the salt still on the table?! My mother would have my head!" 

I had never heard this before -- don't bring dessert to the table until the salt is taken away? But the more I thought about it the more I liked it. I like to clear plates and any dishes of food off the table before bringing out dessert, creating a little breath of space between the dinner and the sweet, and making space on the table. Taking the salt away too is a small ritual that signals the end of the main course -- we've left the salty, and are on to the sweet. 

Do you do this? Is this a French etiquette point that you're familiar with? I thought it was so interesting! 

See more of Paule's kitchen & cooking class: Kitchen Tour: Paule Caillat's Splendid Paris Kitchen

Related: Mop it Up! The Etiquette of Cleaning Your Plate with Bread

(Images: Faith Durand)

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