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Etiquette Schmetiquette: ever wonder about _____?


Gifted Gourmet
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[...]And Pan, here's a nice, arbitrary rule for you:  If you're in the kind of place that has cloth napkins, excuse yourself to wipe your nose.  If you're in a place where the napkins are paper and come from a silver box, blow away!

Next question: How frequently is it reasonable to excuse oneself from the table? :huh: I mean, do people having sudden allergy attacks need to cancel reservations?

By the way, not that this is related to etiquette exactly, but I hate restaurants that have no paper towels (or, if appropriate, tissues in the bathroom). I can't blow my nose on an airstream, and it's even worse when the airstream is cold, as I've experienced a couple of times recently. :angry:

Melissa, I hope you didn't think I was annoyed at you for posting the link. It's certainly topical.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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The only thing I have a really hard time remembering is the whole 'spoon-going-away-from-you-in-the-soup-bowl' thing.

It just seems awkward. So although I try to remember it if I'm dining with someone that I know knows, it sure doesn't come naturally.

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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My parents were total sticklers about the elbows-on-table thing, which is perhaps why I can't take it at all seriously. It depends on the relative height of table & chair; some tables just cry out to be elbowed. (As do some people, but that's for a different forum altogether. :rolleyes: )

I vaccillate between continental & traditional American knife-&-fork wielding. Depends on what I'm eating & how hungry I am. I generally slice off 3-4 pieces at a time & eat those before proceeding, so that the whole chunk of meat doesn't cool off too quickly.

Like NulloModo, I generally drop the utensils before imbibing, to avoid the unpleasantess of forked nostril.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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[...]And Pan, here's a nice, arbitrary rule for you:  If you're in the kind of place that has cloth napkins, excuse yourself to wipe your nose.  If you're in a place where the napkins are paper and come from a silver box, blow away!

Next question: How frequently is it reasonable to excuse oneself from the table? :huh: I mean, do people having sudden allergy attacks need to cancel reservations?

Oh, I think if you have allergies you just shouldn't be allowed in restaurants at all. Not even sure you should be allowed out of the house. Stay the hell away from me. Take more drugs, whydoncha.

Obviously there must be some kind of middle ground between allergy sufferers giving up their fancy dinners and my fancy dinner being ruined by someone hocking snot in the dining room all night. I know you're only being half-serious but I think it would be a hoot to go post that question on their board and see what they say. It happens to enough people to merit consideration. In my experience, my drippier friends just tried to be discreet about it and we all took it in stride.

By the way, not that this is related to etiquette exactly, but I hate restaurants that have no paper towels (or, if appropriate, tissues in the bathroom). I can't blow my nose on an airstream, and it's even worse when the airstream is cold, as I've experienced a couple of times recently. :angry:

Umm...I'm just wondering, if you know you have to blow your nose all the time, why aren't you packing? Every gentleman needs a hanky!

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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By the way, not that this is related to etiquette exactly, but I hate restaurants that have no paper towels (or, if appropriate, tissues in the bathroom). I can't blow my nose on an airstream, and it's even worse when the airstream is cold, as I've experienced a couple of times recently. :angry:

Umm...I'm just wondering, if you know you have to blow your nose all the time, why aren't you packing? Every gentleman needs a hanky!

My thought exactly. Or why not just use the . . . um . . . bathroom tissue?

Oh, wait, sometimes there isn't any. Which is all the more reason to carry one's own disposable hankies (aka facial tissue). Right, ladies? :wink:

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What is the correct way to serve yourself a portion of brie cheese? Do you just cut a piece from the soft part or try to cut off a portion including the hard skin?

Manners International website

The 'brie question' was the one I was most interested in, and the link isn't working. Did anyone read the answer?

Frankly, I have no problem with those folks that try to dig out the soft 'innards,' since that leaves more rind for me, and it's my favorite part. Heheheh.

If the correct answer is that you should "just cut a piece from the soft part," I am giving up on etiquette altogether.

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...a guy who occasionally holds open a door for a gentleman...I poop on them all!...

I hold doors open for people, gentlemen included, whenever appropriate. Some folks might take that the wrong way, but I feel that's better than letting the door slam in their face.

Please don't poop on me.

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" When eating meat, should you cut one piece, put your knife down, then eat the piece, or should you cut all of your meat up first, and then eat the meat? "

I don't have much of a problem with that, as I was born and raised in Europe.

But what bothers me, and that falls under the question of 'Manners' and/or 'Etiquette', and should I ask or tell the person what he/she is doing with that hand in that lap down there and refrain from funny moves? or just let them 'enjoy' them selves. They don't do it when they write letters, I mean hand in lap and so. :huh:

Peter
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My parents were total sticklers about the elbows-on-table thing, which is perhaps why I can't take it at all seriously.  It depends on the relative height of table & chair; some tables just cry out  to be elbowed.  (As do some people, but that's for a different forum altogether.  :rolleyes: )

In my family growing up, you were allowed to "fork" any elbow that rested on the table at dinner and was considered a great coup to catch an unwary brother -- or even dad, occassionally -- with a swift fork-hand jab.

Being raised in such a repressive household I naturally smoked dope, dropped out of college, refuesed to grow up -- even worked in the food service trade. But you know what? I still hate to see elbows on the damn table. My kids dress like skate punks, revel in a pop culture I loathe and call me "dude" when they think they can get away with it. The least they can give in return for my love and tuition money is 45 minutes a night sitting up straight, chewing with their mouths closed and keeping their elbows off the table. :laugh:

Actually, I think having kids gives you some insight into the why etiquette seems so detailed.

Some things are obvious: you use silverware from the outside in so that the guy who sets the silver -- me, in a previous life -- knows in what order to lay out place setting. If you use the stuff out of order, then suddenly there's no steak knife or soup spoon when you need it and someone has to come up with one for you.

I think the rest of it derives from dealing with kids, who are born litigators. In my family, we have a rule regarding which restaurants demand the use of a fork for French Fries, and which allow finger-eating (no tablecloth? Go for it!).

If you just tell a kid "be polite," they will eat like animals or, at least push up to the ludicrous edge of politeness and beg you to say something. (I know, some people have perfect children. These are people I don't know). So, I'm sure that at some point after Catherine de Medici introduced the fork to the French court some dauphin or something was juggling his silver and the nanny had to say: "fork in left hand, knife in right hand and place them at 4 o'clock when you're done," and we had a rule.

Another kid was making a big deal of always passing the mashed potatoes and gravy away from his little sister, and the spinach and liver towards her. Hence the "always pass to the right," rule.

One can only speculate how the rule concerning the proper way to expel an unpleasant bit of gristle from your mouth was determined, but we are confident that the incidents which sparked its creation weren't pretty.

So, I don't see etiquette as a burden so much as the opportunity to bring a brief moment of civilization to an increasingly anarchical society. I don't care how you fold your napkin. But please, keep your elbows off the table. And that's your fish knife, dummy, use it next course!

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Umm...I'm just wondering, if you know you have to blow your nose all the time, why aren't you packing?  Every gentleman needs a hanky!

My thought exactly. Or why not just use the . . . um . . . bathroom tissue?[...]

Yes, if necessary. But one has to keep in mind some sanitary questions.

As for the other question, wanting to blow or wipe one's nose in the bathroom is hardly blowing one's nose "all the time." :hmmm:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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So, I don't see etiquette as a burden so much as the opportunity to bring a brief moment of civilization to an increasingly anarchical society. 

Thank you for this sentiment which so closely resembles my own! :laugh: Well said indeed!!

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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What's hard for me is that I grew up learning manners, but Chinese ones. So, not putting my elbows on the table is still rather difficult for me to remember at times. . . .

There's nothing wrong with putting your elbows on the table in France either, but as Peter B Wolf suggests, put your hands in your lap in France, as you're taught to do in parts of the U.S. and you're sure to raise some eyebrows and perhaps some comments about what you're doing down there. Judging by the differences in attitudes about elbows on the table or not, these are rules that fall into the arbitray category and serve not to make things run smoother, but to promote a sort of snobbism.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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There's nothing wrong with putting your elbows on the table in France either, but as Peter B Wolf suggests, put your hands in your lap in France, as you're taught to do in parts of the U.S. and you're sure to raise some eyebrows and perhaps some comments about what you're doing down there.

I hope I'm not the only one that laughed my butt off over this one. Don't get me wrong either, I totally love France and the French.

About the site Manners Int'l:

I think that site was useful to see what other people would do in a situation, so that I don't feel like I'm making social blunders in these situations. Thanks for the link. It reinforced some things I've been told before.

I think the rule about knife in left hand and fork in right is totally appropriate. Of course, I'm a lefty. :wink:

I agree with Pan that I don't understand the folding napkins on your lap rule. Doesn't make sense. I have never seen a napkin big enough to fold and cover me at the same time.

Also, we put kids at the kiddy table, so they don't need to stand to stand or do any of that stuff at the dining table. That is a weird rule, never heard of that one before.

The table setting reference sheet was pretty nice. That's a very good idea.

Like Hest88, I was raised in a culture that doesn't really care about elbows on the table. Also, I was raised to take a spoon and eat rice from the bowl still on the table. But when I went to a Chinese friend's house for dinner one time, they taught me that the proper (polite) way to eat rice is to pick up the bowl and shovel the rice into your mouth.

--oh wait, you're supposed to have the knife in right hand? Crap. Then there's no advantage for me being a lefty? I must change my habits immediately.

Edited by jschyun (log)

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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lordy, do I remember the great pains my parents took to instill in me the hand-changing meat cutting rule. (I stubbornly wanted to cut with my left and keep my fork in my right) And with my dad being left-handed, no less! (I am right-handed). Now I cut with the right and keep my damn fork in my left hand, stabbing the meat with the fork upside down (so the bowed part is up, not down). Now, if I'm eating without a knife, then the fork is in shovel-mode in the right hand.

What surprised me was seeing my new, 50-something step-brother (dad got remarried at 73) hold his utensils with an overhand grip, like a 5-year old, rather than the more, uh, grown up underhand grip. He also talked with his mouth full. :huh:

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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...a guy who occasionally holds open a door for a gentleman...I poop on them all!...

I hold doors open for people, gentlemen included, whenever appropriate. Some folks might take that the wrong way, but I feel that's better than letting the door slam in their face.

Please don't poop on me.

Oi! I will not poop on you if you desist in misquoting me :blink:

My bugaboo is not with gestures – I'm a big door holder myself. What I'm saying is that there is a lot more to being a gentleman than the occasional gesture. If you give up your seat in a bar but continue to be personally selfish, especially around ladies, then don't try to tell me you're a gentleman!

If you do, then I might poop on you. But I doubt you would, as there seems to be a higher proportion of gentlemen at eGullet than elsewhere.

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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While I'm not trying to teach my daughter table manners yet (she is one year old), I've already started pondering what manners are important for her to learn. And I'm sure she's already learning them from watching her father and me. I think many of the etiquette rules have become archaic; I do not think it important to spoon soup away from yourself, for example. So what manners are important? I think: placing your napkin in your lap; chewing with your mouth closed; asking politely for items to be passed; not making rude comments about the food; clearing your dishes at the end of the meal (at home, possibly in other homes, depending on the situation). That's all that comes to mind right now. And I hope these manners will be learned with a minimum of explicit instruction. I'm not going to lecture her about things like breaking off a small piece of bread and buttering only that piece. My parents avoided explicit instruction, for the most part. The only thing I remember getting lectured about was the rude comments. We were allowed to say "I don't care for that," or "No, thank you," but "Ew, gross!" was forbidden. It really set off my dad if one of us said the meal my mom had cooked was gross. The funny thing is that, while we were all guilty of bad manners at home (throwing food at sibling, etc.) we always managed to have perfect manners during our rare restaurant visits. My family (six kids) rarely ate out and the nicest place we went to was Denny's. But boy, did we behave well at Denny's.

Hungry Monkey May 2009
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I think the spoon-soup-away-from-you rule is another that was based in practicality; if you're sloppy with it, the spill will go on the table instead of your lap.

Still feels unnatural though.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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i don't get hung up with the left hand fork, right hand knife only thing. this was just a result of dining evolution from when the knife was still the tool for moving food from the plate (or trencher) to the mouth. the fork began as a tool to hold the food during cutting without using your hands. as most of us no longer use this method of eating................

but, i do love the looks of a formally set table.

i'm also a lefty so it works for me.

joe

petersburg, ak

joe

petersburg, alaska

sure it rains alot, what's your point?

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As a child I ate "continental style" because that is the way my family handled their utensils.

During a brief sojurn at boarding school (totally homesick) I was told my table manners were "barbaric" and was given instruction in cutting a piece of meat, putting down the knife, switching the fork, etc.

I couldn't get used to the change and simply avoided eating, would sit and stare at my plate until excused from the table. I lost weight and became lethargic.

Sent home after 3 months and no more of that nonsense.

It simply seems more efficient to me, when one has something that requires a knife.

If eating something that does not require a knife, I eat with either hand.

And I handle chopsticks quite well. While in the Army I was stationed in San Francisco at the Presidio and my roommate was Japanese. Almost every weekend was spent with her family and I learned very quickly how to use them efficiently.

As far as elbows on the table are concerned, as long as they are not dipping into the neighbor's soup or coffee, or knocking over the glassware, what is the big deal?

If one is wearing big, loose sleeves, then it is best not to drape them on the table, nor do I do so when wearing a cashmere sweater, however any other time, space permitting, my elbow will be applied to the table sometime during the meal.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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What surprised me was seeing my new, 50-something step-brother (dad got remarried at 73) hold his utensils with an overhand grip, like a 5-year old, rather than the more, uh, grown up underhand grip. He also talked with his mouth full.  :huh:

And that just about sums it up. Eating with proper table manners may not get you anywhere in and of itself, but eating with poor table manners will almost certainly attract negative attention. I was watching Iron Chefs last night and one of the judges ate in a most peculiar style. He held the fork in his left hand but his fingers were splayed almost down to the tines, as if he were playing the high notes on a cello. After he was finished cutting, he waved his knife in the air like a baton and then turned the fork over, tines up, to put the food into his mouth. I frequently saw something similar to this in Bavaria earlier this year...perhaps this is acceptable in Germany...but I suspect I was not the only American to raise an eyebrow at this maestro of the mealtime.

Having been raised in families where table manners were a focus, my wife and I try, with mixed success, to instill that knowledge in our children. We too have open season to spear elbows on the table and, except for the expected adolescent rebellions, by and large their manners are acceptable. They do insist, however, in placing their napkins on top of their dirty plates at the end of the meal which, I suppose, is their final jesture of contempt. But we know that they will remember what is appropriate behavior later in life as a result of the exposure to manners that they received at home.

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I spent half my childhood in Europe and my husband is euro (well, half brit-half continent), so continental dining is just the way I've always done it. I'm trying to remember if at any time in the UK I've noticed anything BUT continental, and I can't say that I did. Switching your fork between hands seems like a waste of time to me, but I don't consider it rude. I understand and agree with why lefties would want to hold their utensils differently, but as a righty it can be annoying to sit next to one at a crowded table.

As far as I know, the napkin should be folded in the lap to help sop up any unfortunate spills. If its not big enough to fold in half, then the first 1/4 or 1/3 nearest your belt should be folded, or it should be placed on the lap on a diagonal, and the top corner should be folded back about 4" or so. That way, if you do spill into the lap, the area most likely to be hit has two layers preventing embarassing stains on your clothes.

I've always understood that elbows on the table inbetween courses was fine, so long as you're not sprawled out into someone else's space.

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I've always understood that elbows on the table inbetween courses was fine, so long as you're not sprawled out into someone else's space.

I think you're right about this. I've always been told that it's not that you can't EVER put your elbows on the table....it's that you're not supposed to EAT with your elbows on the table.

I mean, if you think about the positions your arms have to be in in order to put your elbows on the table, and then get the food onto the untensil, and then into your mouth, it's difficult to do all that in a graceful manner.

Seems to me the 'no elbows on the table' rule is an effort to avoid the 'hovering-hunched-and- srawled-over-your-plate-and-entire-side-of-the-table-and-shoveling-it-in-lumberjack' method, as well as the higher, but no less annoying, 'swinging-and-waving-crane/cherry-picker-in-the-sky' method.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

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 grew up in a large family where our parents' hopes for our behavior at the table were expressed from time to time, but not strictly enforced, especially not enough to cause power struggles or battles by the time I came around; there were just too many people, and too many things happening at once. In an enviroment like that, inevitably some things are going to be overlooked.

When I was 17, my father extended an invitation to meet me for lunch in one of the fanciest restaurants in town. This was a first for me in many respects. I really will never forget it. During the meal he explained everything - from which utensils to use when, to the exact orientation of the knife when I wasn't using it, what to do with the napkin. He said he invited me in order to go over what they might have missed while I was growing up. It worked like a charm. I learned how it was done (in America) in a very special way and always inwardly thanked my father for that lunch whenever I found myself in a formal setting. I could relax and enjoy without ever worrying at all.

I am not one to judge if a person doesn't know any better and uses the wrong knife or fork. But there was this one guy I knew in the Army who used to completely gross everyone out whenever we found ourselves at the same table with him, smacking noises, grunts, displaying the contents of his mouth when he chewed, somehow angling whole steaks or slabs of liver into his mouth, spitting unwanted chunks of slimy gristle onto his plate like a dog dispelling feces. I mean it was utterly amazing and horrifying to watch, even among friends. He managed to gross just about everyone out and pretty soon nobody wanted to eat with him. I used to sit with him from time to time just out of pity (I mean he was a really nice guy aside from that one problem he had), and I tried a couple of times to gently prod him in the right direction, but he would have none of it. I wonder what happened to him in life after the Army from time to time. The poor guy probably never progressed into any vocation requiring eating with customers (or not for very long, anyway), due to that particular disability.

After the wedding to the Frenchman, things got interesting again. By then I was old enough to know that when in Rome, yes, its really much better to do as the Romans do. With that in mind, I have simply followed the example of the hostess when dining in a social context. This worked rather well at the beginning. The only time things became confused was when I was the hostess. :laugh: I have learned all over again how to set a formal table, the composition of seating arrangements, who to serve first according to rank at the table, who serves what foods and drinks (alas there is a pecking order for this too), how all of the cheeses are cut, how to hold the fork, where to place the knife, bread placement (that was a particulaly painful one) etc. At home when no one's around we tend to jumble the two like we do languages, I guess according to the style of the food we are eating.

When we do receive Americans in France we both begin American, but if they are experienced diners in France, it tends to switch back. It's really a matter of consideration. If the person I am dining with is clearly not following any particular convention, I honestly don't mind one way or the other. If someone cares or might care about it, I'm likely to follow whatever rules are determined at that particular table. The rules are a nice thing to be aware of even if they are not always strictly followed.

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bleudauvergne:

I knew someone like that, too. Among other things, he developed a wide-spead reputation for gross eating habits. Then I met his mother at a party. I learned where he picked up those habits. What can you do with a middle-aged adult, particularly someone who isn't a great friend and isn't part of your family? Fortunately, he moved out of town, so the "Let's have dinner!" invites stopped coming (along with the increasingly creative reasons why that wouldn't be convenient :raz: ).

The one thing I have noticed lately is that someone (especially a man) with exquisite manners is appreciated for that by nearly everyone and earns untold Brownie points. This is a lesson for anyone's kids to learn. They can raise their status in many areas just by this alone.

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Yes, and I had a friend that was highly placed in the corporate world (investment banker at a large international bank). He told me that before they made a final decision to hire anyone at the senior management level, they took both the prospective new executive and his wife out to dinner.

They were watching to see whether he or his wife had table manners that would embarrass the company, and just how they handled themselves in general in a social setting. Among other things, they took note if either had more than one drink.

And another thing they did (where's Robyn, she's gonna love this) was warn the candidate that one of the 'tests' was an impromptu dinner party at their home. They were told that the boss would call and say, we'll be there in one hour for dinner. The wife was expected to throw together a nice evening. The husband was supposed to still be escorting the high-profile guest.

The point was that many out-of-town high-level management staff, or large-account important customers (especially from foreign countries), would say something like, "I'd love to have dinner in a real American home." Or, "I've been traveling all week, and would love a home-cooked meal...hint...hint."

Say it's 'silly' if you want, or say 'it shouldn't matter' if you want, but that's the way the business world works.

Is all I'm saying.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

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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