Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0001547, Wed, 11 Dec 1996 11:29:13 -0800

Re: PNIN query: a la fourchette (fwd)
EDITOR'S NOTE. Victoria S Vainer <vainervi@pilot.msu.edu> eloquently
describes the "Russian" "a la fourchette." My _Slovar' inoyazychnyx
vyrazhenii i slov_ (Babkin, et al) defines it as "Casually, without
sitting down at the table" and as the first example gives a quote from
CHERNYSHEVSKY! (The true Nabokovian will recognize Chernyshevsky's food &
pastry obssessiveness.)

"Zakuska byla takaya roskoshnaya, i obeshchala byt' prodolzhitel'noi,
chto obshchestvo sidelo kak za uzhinom, a ne elo v stoyachku, ili kak
frantsuzy nazyvaiut, a la fourchette.",[The snack was so abundant and
promised to be of such duration that the party was sitting as if at
dinner and not standing, or, as the French say a la fourchette.]

Now for the French. My Cassell's gives the phrase only in the
expression "Dejeuner a la F" meaning "a fork lunch," although
other, more charming meanings of fourchette are listed, i.e., "wishbone" &
"bayonet, and such handy phrases as "la fourchette de pere Adam" meaning
"the fingers," or, better yet, "coup de f"--a blow in the eyes of one's
adversary with the thumb and index finger outspread." My aged (1924)
_Petite Larousse_ defines "dejeuner a la F" as "dejeuner ou l'on mange de
la viande," i.e., meat.
One wonders whether Russian might have adopted the French phrase
in its 18th century French frenzy and the original phrase later dropped
out of use in French itself. Or the Russians modified the meaning.
Dear Vitaly,
As a "Russian-speaking reader" and a participant of many "a la fourchette"
parties, I can confirm with certainty your understanding of the term. The main
feature of "a la fourchette" party is that all the guests are supposed to hang
around until their low-back pain makes them take a leave.Food is traditionally
served on big plates so that people could help themselves. In Russian we call
this kind of party "stoiachka" (standing)
All the best.