Photographers most often avoid taking photos of people dining, unless highly staged. As a species, purportedly cultured, we are not, at such moments, always at our most attractive. Watch others eating and you will see what I mean. Let yourself be judgemental, silently of course. And, be thankful that you are not looking at yourself in a mirror. As much as we try, none of us is the perfect picture of elegance all the time.
I was raised in a North American family of British origin with the values and standards that exemplify those of Western Europeans. These were later amplified and reinforced when I was being groomed to represent Canada internationally.
In today’s multi-cultural, multi-ethnic environment in which we now live, expectations in the lives of the average person are more varied and uncertain. At the higher business and diplomatic levels, however, the well established “Western” standards referred to as “table manners” prevail.
“Keep your elbows off the table!”
“Sit up straight! Raise the food to your mouth. Don’t put your head into the plate like dog!”
“Don’t talk with your mouth full!”
I can still hear my father’s words.
As a parent, I said the same things to my children; but, I was not always successful. My son, for example, refused to take his baseball cap off at the table; and, the sound of his crunching ice drove me crazy. I think that was his intention.
What are you teaching; or, what did you teach, your children? I am not “Miss Manners”;
but, let me list the many things that I learned are inappropriate, bad manners. The list is long and randomly listed as they occurred to me. Bad manners:
- Stuffing very large amounts of food in the mouth.
- Devouring everything in sight – gluttony.
- Making slurping noises when consuming liquids from a cup, glass, spoon or other.
- Chewing loudly.
- Smacking one’s lips noisily while eating.
- Gulping or breathing loudly.
- Crunching ice.
- Burping / Belching.
- Clearing the throat noisily.
- Talking with food in the mouth. Not only does this make speech difficult to understand;
but, it is usually a disgusting sight.
- Indiscreetly, blowing one’s nose.
- Eating with the fingers, except in certain, accepted circumstances. At a formal dinner,
a host will generally avoid offering food that is messy. Eating lobster, for example, is one instance where it is normal and inevitable. Digging fingers into the remains of a fish and sucking the bones clean is not acceptable. While some cultures still eat with their fingers, some even from a common bowl, I’ll stick with the more sanitary knife, fork and spoon.
- Using a knife, fork or spoon and then sticking it in the communal jam jar, etc.
- Gripping utensils with the same clasping as a one year old or a primate. By age 7 or 8, a person should have learned to manipulate these tools in their fingers with agility and avoid taking up extra room as their elbows infringe on seated neighbours.
- Starting to eat before others at the table have their food; particularly, beginning before the host finishes serving and sits to join you.
How do you explain the “why” of manners?
A teenage girl raised the issue while eating spaghetti. My response –
“Bad manners, in this context, are things done that may offend the sensibilities of others with whom we are dining. For example:
When eating spaghetti, a spoon and fork are often used in combination to help select and load the fork with just the right amount to put in one’s mouth. Stabbing a mass of entwined noodles with a fork, stuffing a bunch in the mouth and trying to inhale the rest is not pretty. To me, it is sometimes could be difficult to distinguish this from food being regurgitated.
I admit that I do not eat spaghetti with the style of a connoisseur. I cut it up and put
only small amounts in my mouth at a time, avoiding splashes, unseemly appearance
and offending in any way. It does, however, sometimes draw comment from the arrogant who take the time to show me how it should be done.
I’ll bet that you quietly acknowledged some of the above points as you read them.
I ask you; are you a good example for others, especially your children or grandchildren? If not you, who is to guide them?
Click RSS Icon to automatically follow Andre's Blog.
Follow Andre on Twitter