No not a lowly Royal in-law but a rather elegant tie knot favoured by one of the guests we met last night at my wife’s boss’ dinner party. It was a really fun do and not only did I meet some very nice people, particularly C’s lovely boss, but also discovered the pleasures of eating a la raclette, learned some interesting stuff about the construction techniques of castles mentioned in the Doomsday book as well as the joys of performing live plays in Latin and the earthier delights of sailors’ brothels in Ironbridge. Yes our dinner guests were all from the academic world you may not be surprised to learn but what a pleasant diversion it was.
First that raclette cooking. Maybe we’ve led a sheltered life or maybe it’s because we tend to travel through the place as quickly as possible, but this was our first experience of this traditional Swiss dish, originated by those lonely goat-herders. It’s like a table-top grill which warms cheese in these coupelles or little trowels which then gets poured over boiled potatoes, charcuterie, seafood, roasted tomatoes and small pickled onions and gherkins. The Swiss seem to like this melted cheese thing don’t they? It’s actually quite good fun and makes for a leisurely meal but with great ingenuity they seem to call all the elements raclette – the style of cooking, the grilling device itself, the specially-created cheese – all no doubt named after that original Gary Rhodes of a goat-herder . In England we’d have relished devising at least 4 different words for all the separate constituents. But that’s the difference between us and the unimaginative Swiss for you. I’m only surprised that we didn’t have to pay a raclette tax before accessing the grill with our cheese trays.
Anyway the knots. Martin explained that he was a keen tie wearer and had a book explaining the classic 54 ways to knot a tie. I have to admit that I gave up wearing ties more than a dozen years ago after wearing one every day of my working life. I was a bit of a fan myself of the half Windsor because of its neat triangular shape. I knew of a few of the more popular styles of knot-tieing which my father had showed me a young boy; the full Windsor (popularised by the royal Duke of course, probably his single lasting contribution to the nation), the 4-in hand and the one that never caught on that well, the Pratt knot. Funny that. But 54 knots? Oh my I’ve got to get that book or better still create a knot all of my own. The Pasta Paulie – a fusion of English uptight neatness and relaxed Latin flair. It’ll probably be more like an Eton mess meets spaghetti carbonara.
And in case you were wondering how to do the half Windsor and a few others, the instructions are below. If you know of a knot other than the big 4 let me know. I don’t think Martin’s going to give up those instructions readily. Try the tie: