Saturday, December 1, 2007

Don't be a Pig

Jeffrey A. Tucker offers some amusing and devastatingly truthful thoughts on table manners. When teaching manners to children, I try to emphasize the importance of not noticing what other people are doing, or not doing, at the table. We are polite not because of what others will think or say about us, but in order to be more effective in practicing the virtue of charity. Manners are not supposed to be a contest; they are tools for showing consideration for the feelings of others. One should not eat like a pig because it can make other people have indigestion; it can cause disgust. However, if someone's dining companions all eat like slobs, and do not mind the sight of half-chewed food and the sound of smacking, then the point is moot, I suppose.

Here are some basics:
  1. Hold your fork and spoon properly. There is only one way: balance them between the first knuckle of the middle finger and the tip of the index finger; the thumb steadies the handle. There are no variations on this, no issues of personal style, and no regional permissions. For some things, such as cutting with the other hand, there are other variations that require turning the fork over. If you are unsure, default to the orthodox way.
  2. Put your napkin in your lap after you sit down to dinner. Do not forget.
  3. Don't smack. This is easy, right? Apparently not. Smacking is incredibly and disgustingly common. People must suppose that others don't hear it. But they do, and it's awful. There is only one way in the known universe to prevent smacking: keep your lips closed when there is food in your mouth, no matter what.
  4. Eat at the margin, not the aggregate. Don't cut all your steak up before you begin eating. Don't butter your whole roll. Prepare each bit separately.
  5. If in doubt, wait for others. Don't start eating anything until everyone has been served.


Terry Nelson said...

My mother was a tyrant about table manners and therefore I've suffered other's table manners for the rest of my life. It is amazing how some men and women in business behave at table.

elena maria vidal said...

That explains why you are such a gentleman. Yes, it is amazing how people behave but if one sees how they behave on the internet then nothing should surprise us.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful article. Swell & Dandy has linked to it. Cheers!


elena maria vidal said...

Thank you!