If you’re saying “Who?” right now, this article is for you. Modern table manners seem to be flying out the window these days. We’re turning into a culture of scarfing, slurping mealtime slobs. Oh yes, in case you forgot, Emily Post and Miss Manners were the last word in etiquette as it used to be.
We grab a slice of pizza, microwaved of course, and stuff it in our faces while checking our email. We balance a takeout meal on our knees, scattering chicken nuggets and fries, greasing up the remote as we catch up on TV.
We leave hasty notes around the kitchen so family members can #1 find, #2 heat, and most importantly, #3 clean up after whatever quick meal they might scrounge from the fridge or freezer. And yes, #3 is almost always ignored.
So who’s at fault here? Why have we become so lax, so careless? Whatever happened to the dinner hour? Sociologists give us any number of thoughtful, carefully researched, high flown reasons for the breakdown in family manners, all undoubtedly valid.
My thinking is, it all ties in with the rest of our declining standards. I must confess I’m just as bad, if not worse than anyone else. I find myself taking the easy way out when it comes to preparing, serving and eating my meals.
We all agree that we love food, we crave food and we need food. The problem seems to be in transferring food from one container, a plate, a bowl or a cooking pot, to another container, our mouths, using any means available. How complicated is that?
Some foods just shouldn’t be eaten in public, or in front of anyone with a weak stomach. However,once you get started on some of them, you don’t dare set them down. Homemade tacos, the only kind of tacos worth eating, are a prime example. Manners are best forgotten if you want to enjoy them.
You need to prop both elbows firmly on the table edge, sleeves rolled up, as you lean forward, grasp the taco with one hand, steer with the other, and, if you’ve used enough of your homemade salsa, grab a big bite while the juice runs down your elbows. Keep poking it in, it’s sheer bliss. Just don’t try this at Taco Bell.
Spaghetti, too. I have a theory about spaghetti. Each serving contains just one single long, very, very long strand of spaghetti per plate. If you have enough suction you should be able to inhale the entire plateful in one pass. Think of unraveling a knitted sweater.
I can’t do it and I never could twist and turn it neatly on a spoon the way dainty diners do. I eat mine in wads, biting off what I can, leaving loose strands hanging down until I resemble a walrus after a trip to a really cheap orthodontist. Olive Garden frowns on this.
I often wonder if spaghetti is still spaghetti if you make it with macaroni? Just a passing thought…
My all time favorite is corn on the cob, I love that stuff. A true connoisseur will slather the entire cob with butter, pick it up and start gnawing. Let the kernels fly and the butter run down your chin.
Appalled tablemates can just look the other way while neatly slicing their kernels off their cobs and eating them with a fork. That’s not for me! And it’s such fun to smile at people for two hours afterwards while your teeth are still full of bright yellow kernels.
Some foods are O.K. to play with. Bacon, fried chicken and other difficult-to-cut foods pass the test. Ribs are a little iffy, depending on how goopy they are.
Lobster definitely is a finger food. Why else do they give you a bib and a pile of moist towels? You’re expected to pick the thing up and tear into it. Crab too, no one can tackle a crab with a knife and fork, and why would you want to?
If all foods were consistently simple to prepare and eat, maybe we’d return to the niceties of Emily Post and Miss Manners. However, I’m afraid most of us are losing our touch. I just hope my days of being invited to formal dinners are a thing of the past. Nowadays I’d embarrass myself to death.