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The etiquette of being served first


Fat Guy
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This has nothing to do with the hotness of the food per se. It's about trying to figure out what the person on whose account we're supposedly acting would want us to do.

There's the rub. Out of politeness, I might say, on returning from the loo to find everyone digging in, "Oh, glad you stared without me". But in my mind I'd put the lot of you in a group of impolite sods.

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Eh, sorry, Fat Guy, your seared foie gras was gonna get cold, so we ate it while you were in the loo.  Hey, it was subtle but delicious.  You'd have enjoyed it.  Really.

As long as you buy me another one, I'm happy!

Dude, assumption of the risk.

http://forums.egullet.org/ibf/index.php?ac...=13816&p=165032

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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Etiquette by definition is in a constant state of evolution. Many man/woman interactions have changed radically from what were once patronizing gestures designed to confirm the superiority of men over women. Modern women resent some of the old procedures of men offering their seats to women, men not cshaking hands with women, men helping women to seat themselves, and so on, to the point where most of these gestures would cause offense rather than being taken as a sign of good manners.

I'm a "modern woman," and I harbor no such resentment. I find it delightful when a man offers me a seat, or pulls a chair out for me, or holds a door for me. Actually, when a man doesn't hold a door for me (there are exceptional situations of course) I find it rude. About the handshaking...I understand why Chasidim won't shake my hand, but other than a religious requirement like that, I expect my hand to be shaken when I meet someone for the first time, always.

Those gestures to which you refer are absolutely taken (by me) as signs of good manners. Thank goodness for men who still do such things.

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Nina -- For a man to hold open a door, there is no cost presumably to either the man or the woman and therefore it is a situation where adhering to etiquette is a net benefit (or at worse, neutral) to both parties. The waiting for a diner question is different, because it extacts harm without offering concrete benefits (save blind adherence to perceived etiquette).

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I would just like to take a moment to interrupt and say that this kind of civil and intelligent discussion, where everybody is reasonably polite to one another and the discussion operates at a high and tasteful level, represents the best of what eGullet can be about. Thanks! :wink:

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I would just like to take a moment to interrupt and say that this kind of civil and intelligent discussion, where everybody is reasonably polite to one another and the discussion operates at a high and tasteful level, represents the best of what eGullet can be about. Thanks!  :wink:

Well done. :wink:

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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I'm not asking for a change in the rules. I've presented the rules and most people here have refused to accept them because they just know the rules are wrong. Well guess what? Those people don't have a leg to stand on. The rules are there, and they make sense. I see no reason to get rid of them. Just because a lot of people who don't know any better are ignoring the rules doesn't mean the rules have changed. And that's especially true when all the arguments support the rules. If there was a good reason to get rid of the rule, maybe it would make sense to discuss that reason. But there is no reason.

Admittedly, I'm fuzzy on these things at best. Isn't there also a rule that you are supposed to stand when someone [or only a lady?] leaves the table and returns? How often is that observed? Maybe we could work a trade: we'll stand when you come and go but if something hot arrives while you are gone, we eat.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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On the standing point, if I were a man and I were in the middle of taking in a dish, I would not stand. A dining room team member should be pulling out the chair for the returning female diner at many restaurants in France (no connotation re: US), and contextual considerations regarding the sampling of the dish by the male diner could weigh against standing. Separately, I believe that for a man to stand might be antiquated practice.

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On the standing point, if I were a man and I were in the middle of taking in a dish, I would not stand.  A dining room team member should be pulling out the chair for the returning female diner at many restaurants in France (no connotation re: US), and contextual considerations regarding the sampling of the dish by the male diner could weigh against standing.  Separately, I believe that for a man to stand might be antiquated practice.

La Nina, permit me to present Cabrales; Cabrales, La Nina. Now, shake hands and come out fighting.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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JD (London), here's the thing I'm trying to explain, though: This has nothing to do with the hotness of the food per se. It's about trying to figure out what the person on whose account we're supposedly acting would want us to do. And here I think it's more than a coincidence that the rule dovetails exactly with what most people would want done in their absence. And I'm not sure I see how that fundamental issue changes with any of your examples.

I agree that the core issues is not the hotness of the food -- except in the gastronomic case, below. But I think the desire of the absent person (or the one waiting to be served) would change a great deal, depending on context.

In the solitary cases (grab-and-go, snacks around the telly, etc.) the person who was waiting wouldn't really care what happened, so you might as well tuck in.

In the more communal cases (old-style family dinner, religious meal, etc.) my guess is that the person who was waiting would prefer that the rest waited for her/him; at these events the goal is not to have a wonderful gastronomic experience, but to share food with friends, something that's hard to do if you haven't got any food. This is even more true if the meal begins with a prayer or candle-lighting or other ceremony.

There are variants on business dinners. If I were the one waiting, I would encourage others to begin eating, but wouldn't be surprised if they refused. The most common behaviour I've seen is that people simply ignore the food, as if it hadn't arrived, until everyone has been served.

At a gastronomic dinner, the absent person would certainly want the other diners to begin eating immediately.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Etiquette by definition is in a constant state of evolution. Many man/woman interactions have changed radically from what were once patronizing gestures designed to confirm the superiority of men over women.

Modern women resent some of the old procedures... men not shaking hands with women...

It wasn't so much than men were not supposed to shake hands with women...

It was that men were not supposed to be the first to extend a hand...

The premise was that women/ladies might not wish to be touched by an unfamiliar man, and that for a man to stick out his hand first put her in the uncomfortable position of having to either permit him to touch her, or insult him by refusing.

So, a polite gentleman would wait for her to extend her hand, whereupon the man could accept it, and either shake it or kiss it, whichever seemed most desirable.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I raised both of my boys to hop promptly to their feet when a lady rises to leave the table.

It's worth noting that when they do so, these modern young ladies stare with a startled expression, as though concerned that my son might wish to follow his date to the ladies room.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I object less to a man's standing (if I were a man) than remaining diners waiting for a missing companion. Standing only takes a minute or two; the other situation could take a meaningfully longer period of time.

I don't mind if a man stands or not; I suppose it's nice if he does and there is no detriment subjectively to him in his eyes.

Edited by cabrales (log)
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Jaymes: The gender issues are an example of a situation where etiquette is evolving to strike a balance among several phases of cultural evolution. With women now fully enfranchised as members of the professional community, with equal rights under the law and in most (but not all) cases equality of opportunity, it makes sense for etiquette to evolve somewhat. In the handshake situation, I will always offer a hand to a woman in a professional situation or when I'm with people my age or younger who seem to be in my social class. If a woman is older, or gives the appearance of being a serious blueblood, I won't make the first move to extend a hand -- but I'll shake her hand happily if she makes that move or seems to expect me to make it. It's a balance that we have to strike in a society that began as a patriarchy, went through a radical feminist phase, and then moved back into a more egalitarian feminist phase -- and of course we still find ourselves surrounded by adherents of each school of thought. But to get back to the point about waiting to eat, I see no society-wide change in values that would affect this situation.

JD (London): I'll certainly give you the religious point. But again I don't think the gastronomic dinner deserves special treatment. At a business dinner, I think the rationale for eating right away -- making the absent person feel the least discomfort -- applies equally. The only person I think it makes sense to wait for is the boss, because there I think there's a second set of rules that come into play. Ditto a social dinner where you're a guest -- it might make sense etiquette-wise, in the absence of a specifc contrary command, to wait for the host who invited you and is paying. I'm not denying that there are exceptions to every rule. I just think we need to get straight what the rule is and why it makes sense before we start looking for the exceptions.

Tommy: I try to do the half-stand thing once, the first time a woman gets up from the table. If I get a positive reaction, I repeat it whenever a woman gets up from the table. If I sense a negative reaction, I quit for the night.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Tommy: I try to do the half-stand thing once, the first time a woman gets up from the table. If I get a positive reaction, I repeat it whenever a woman gets up from the table. If I sense a negative reaction, I quit for the night.

agreed. "the half-stand thing" is a good way of describing what i do, and that's pretty funny. more of a gesture/acknowledgment than an actual full-on "stand."

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Around here we stand if a lady approaches or leaves the table. We also open and close all doors, use ma'am and sir when appropriate, thank people for doing things, and say your welcome when thanked.

Jaymes it is also customary here to not shake a woman's hand unless she offers it. Some will prefer an embrace or a kiss on the cheek, and if the gentleman has offered his hand before the lady has a chance to initiate whichever greeting she prefers, it can come off as thought the man does not prefer the embrace or kiss.

Ain't the South grand?

edit: Gentleman also wear Seersucker suits and bow ties in the summer months and women wear hats to the racetrack.

Edited by ron johnson (log)
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Ron: When I travel in the American South I'm mindful that the etiquette standards down there are more traditional and rigorous than in the North. I try to revert to pre-1960s etiquette as the default when I cross the Mason-Dixon line.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Ron: When I travel in the American South I'm mindful that the etiquette standards down there are more traditional and rigorous than in the North. I try to revert to pre-1960s etiquette as the default when I cross the Mason-Dixon line.

Does that mean that you have to carry two books?

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Oldfashionedly- I've dined with Southern gentlemen in the wilds of NYC and somewhat off-generationally, have thoroughly enjoyed their manners. (Note: I am referring to gentlemen from the Southern states of the US. :wink: )

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