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Old school table manners... what were you taught?

lynnlato Oct 14, 2007 08:32 AM

My Sicillian grandfather was hell bent and determined to teach his grandkids good table manners. Some of his rules were: napkins on the lap, elbows & arms could not rest on the table, other hand in your lap, chew w/ your mouth closed, no singing at the table (four girls), no eating until everyone was seated and you said grace, sit up straight, etc. He would even stab our hands w/ his fork if he saw our hand was on the table (he didn't draw blood but geesh). 'Course it was perfectly acceptable to sop up w/ bread the juices oozing from our rare steaks or the sauce from our pasta. I even recall that man sitting down to lunch at the table to have soup which he ate out of the pan it was heated in (he should've practiced more what he preached)!

To this day I will shut down completely if anyone in eyesight is smacking their lips. Even as a kid I would turn away and cover my ears!

So, what were you taught? Do you follow those same rules you were raised with or did you let a few fall by the wayside?

  1. m
    mastercooker Jul 20, 2013 01:44 PM

    When eating noodles never pull them up all the way

    1. westsidegal Apr 28, 2013 09:52 PM

      i was taught that the most important thing to communicate at the table was that you really enjoyed spending time and enjoying the company of the other guests.

      i was taught that a meal was more an emotional expression of feelings than it was a "test" of rules written by people who, were not at the table.

      1. aslovesfood Apr 28, 2013 04:13 PM

        I grew up in an American family with strong European ties that are today like an echo-chamber. The standards were there: ask to pass the butter/food, do not reach. Elbows off the table. Bring the plate close enough to you so that you don't slouch. Napkin in your lap. No belching or passing gas (spoiled younger brother allowed to). No toys/books/distractions at the table, that can wait until after dinner. Wash hands. Ask "May I be excused?"

        Nonstandard that got passed down from Europe: VERY IMPORTANT!!!! DO *NOT* PUT SHOES ON THE TABLE, WHETHER ON YOUR FEET OR NOT. You will be sent to bed with zilch to eat, plus Mom will yell at you.

        These rules became much more lax after I grew up, but the shoe rule remains.

        1. k
          kcshigekawa May 4, 2012 01:33 PM

          I've read probably half of the thread, so I'm sure many people were raised with parents who expected good table manners. Ours (the ones that I remember, at any rate...) were:

          elbows off the table

          napkin in your lap

          no "boarding house reach"

          chew with your moth closed

          learn to hold your utensils like a civilized person

          wait until everyone was served before starting to eat

          wait until everyone is finished before asking to be excused

          say thank you to the cook (every night, my father would say "Great dinner, Mum, thanks!" even when it was fish sticks and frozen fries!)

          bare feet only allowed between Memorial Day and Labor Day (anyone else have this one?)

          As for singing at the table, it was a tradition in my mothers family! We would line up (17 people) in the big hall (youngest first) and march in to the dining room, singing a song that I've never heard anywhere else, and can't find online. We sang other songs before eating, or between courses. Christmas carols at Christmas time, other songs (fraternity/college/Army/Navy) as well. It's one of my fondest childhood memories.

          1. l
            LN2008 Apr 23, 2012 02:18 PM

            Ours were the classics no elbows on the table, say grace before you eat, chew with your mouth shut, and don't blow your nose at the dinner table. We were also taught how to properly set a table which is now apparently a lost art.

            1 Reply
            1. re: LN2008
              sandylc Apr 23, 2012 03:13 PM

              Good basics, many of which are long forgotten, as it appears. Don't forget not speaking with your mouth full!!

            2. t
              toastedcheese Nov 29, 2011 04:34 PM

              One that I try to follow is to never take the first bite until the host or hostess has done so and everyone is plated. Conversely a 'good' host or hostess won't screw around, and gets it over with quickly. The trouble is most have not been taught this rule and will dilly-dally while some of us wait for the unspoken signal. I have two children. One thinks I should set this archaic rule along side my buggy whips. The other is with me 100 per cent and is constantly amazed at the people that ignore this rule. I still think it's a good rule to follow.
              When I host and am unable to 'take the first bite,' I often tell people to "please don't wait for me and help yourselves" I don't have to ask twice.
              But my goodness what a nerve you have struck. 572 replies!
              ...Well, I need to go clean my spats, my monocle needs polishing, and Dobbins needs a bag of oats.

              1 Reply
              1. re: toastedcheese
                alkapal Dec 1, 2011 11:15 AM

                toasted cheese, that was a fine post -- esp. re monocle and spats. and poor old dobbins.

              2. g
                gembellina Nov 9, 2011 07:19 AM

                Eating with my boyfriend's family has been something of a trial, shall we say? It's strange, because his mother was brought up in a very strict, old-fashioned family and eats perfectly nicely. Maybe faced with the prospect of trying to control a hungry man and two hungry and intensely competitive boys, she just gave up?

                I've managed to beat some decency back into the bf but still have to remind him that trainers and jeans aren't acceptable when someone has gone to the trouble of cooking you a nice dinner. His brother however still licks his knife, picks his teeth with his fork and talks with his mouth full. At breakfast the other day he had a whole sausage speared on his fork, clenched in fist, and was taking bites from it rather than cutting it. He was swigging from a glass of OJ in the other hand while the half-masticated sausage was still in his mouth, all the while breathing through his mouth. Oh god. I'm terrified my bf will revert to type if we ever have sons together.

                2 Replies
                1. re: gembellina
                  mamachef Nov 9, 2011 11:06 AM

                  gembellina, this truly was a gem. I could see it, hear it, and almost smell it. Gwaaaah.

                  1. re: gembellina
                    sandylc Nov 9, 2011 04:00 PM

                    Sounds like a famous scene from "Animal House".

                  2. t
                    thimes Nov 8, 2011 06:14 AM

                    The Goops they lick their fingers,
                    And the Goops they lick their knives;
                    They spill their broth on the tablecloth --
                    Oh, they lead disgusting lives!

                    The Goops they talk while eating,
                    And loud and fast they chew;
                    And that is why I'm glad that I
                    Am not a Goop -- Are you?

                    There is apparently a lot more to this 1900's poem but honestly my Mom used to recite this (just these versus) to us at the table when we would do something wrong.

                    1. v
                      velochic Aug 29, 2011 09:37 AM

                      I would love to see this topic revived again. What is taught to children these days? Is it really so old school or do people just not care anymore?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: velochic
                        Bill Hunt Aug 29, 2011 08:44 PM

                        There ARE some somewhat similar threads, regarding what one teaches children nowadays, though most do not really get into detail on "table manners."

                        Maybe a new thread on "What's Allowable Now?"


                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                          sandylc Aug 29, 2011 08:54 PM

                          One thing is evidently allowable now that I seriously question: Talking with the mouth full, but putting your hand over your mouth while doing so. I see this in young twenties types.

                          1. re: sandylc
                            Bill Hunt Aug 29, 2011 09:42 PM

                            I have not noted such, but see a lot of speaking with food filling the mouth, "Bevis & Butthead" style.

                            Not a pretty sight, at least for me.


                      2. crowmuncher Jul 23, 2011 12:50 PM

                        I remember 'don't point with your fork' (or baguette); if i want to point i do it with my eyes...

                        1. applgrl Jun 26, 2011 04:42 PM

                          Four kids in my family. We were required to say "May I be excused please?" before we could get up from the table. Also we got whacked upside the head if we knocked over our drink. My mom, feeling four pairs of unrelenting eyes upon her, had to whack herself one night!!!

                          Good times!

                          1. i
                            Italian_Chef Apr 28, 2011 01:08 PM

                            Pretty much the same guidelines were in our house (I come from a Sicilian family). What is interesting, most people are slobs. They smack there food, some people are so disgusting, I seriously lose my appetite. I've also noticed that the newer generation of kids that have come over for dinner aren't being taught ANY manners. I've had to explain to them what is expected in our home and that although they are guests, we are human beings not animals and we will eat with our mouths closed.

                            I think this is important to teach our kids. I know if any of my kids brings their girlfriends over and they eat like that, they won't be coming over for long!

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: Italian_Chef
                              sandylc Apr 29, 2011 11:57 AM

                              Oh, my, yes. Why do some people chew with their mouths open? See - food, I believe it is called. Aren't they afraid the food will fall out? Do they really expect to ever receive a second dinner/date invitation?

                              1. re: sandylc
                                thew Apr 29, 2011 02:04 PM

                                who would want a second date with someone who judged them so harshly for something so minor?

                                1. re: thew
                                  pikawicca Apr 29, 2011 05:44 PM

                                  I guess that most of us posting here find the prospect of looking at someone's mouthful of partially masticated food more than a minor disturbance.

                                  1. re: thew
                                    sandylc Apr 29, 2011 09:05 PM

                                    1. This is NOT minor.
                                    2. You have to be really special for this to be overlooked.

                                    1. re: sandylc
                                      linguafood Apr 30, 2011 04:05 AM

                                      thew's special alright.

                                      1. re: linguafood
                                        thew Apr 30, 2011 06:03 AM

                                        yes - little school bus special

                                2. re: Italian_Chef
                                  alkapal May 1, 2011 01:29 PM

                                  instead of "priceline negotiator," you've got "open wide masticator."

                                3. Delucacheesemonger Feb 10, 2011 11:55 AM

                                  Part of my table manners training was to rise slightly each time a woman comes to or leaves the table. l still do it, mostly without thinking and always still get looks, mostly positive but some 'What up with that'

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                                    sandylc Mar 18, 2011 09:50 PM

                                    How do you all feel about mostly everyone in this country adapting the European method of not switching their knife and fork back and forth? I was raised with strict table manners and switching the fork and knife after cutting each bite was taught as proper.

                                    1. re: sandylc
                                      racer x Mar 19, 2011 11:40 AM

                                      There was a little discussion of this topic upthread

                                      Hmm. If I am really honest in my answer, I'd have to say that my gut-level, subconscious American reaction to seeing the non-switching style is that it appears a bit gauche. However, if I catch myself judging someone's behavior on something so trivial, I feel a bit ashamed and dismiss the thought.

                                      The things that make a much deeper and longer-lasting impression on me in terms of dining etiquette, assuming we aren't taking about close relatives eating in an intimate setting, are how someone is dressed and groomed, how they speak at the table, and, most important, what they have to say.
                                      Pretty much anything else is forgivable, with the exception of chewing with your mouth open and belching loudly without begging pardon.

                                      1. re: racer x
                                        jade628 Mar 20, 2011 10:59 AM

                                        I like the way you think racer x! But I need to add smacking lips and licking fingers. lol

                                      2. re: sandylc
                                        toastedcheese Nov 29, 2011 04:43 PM

                                        I couldn't agree more. I didn't even think about it till I moved west of the Mississippi. CT to MT. People used to look at me oddly and I always wondered why. One time someone said, "Oh. You used the European method." I hadn't a clue what they were talking about till they explained it. Its just what I was taught. I still like it, but will occassionally do the back and forth method. Don't know why.

                                        1. re: sandylc
                                          foiegras Dec 6, 2011 04:02 PM

                                          I'm pretty sure that's the only way I *can* do it ... I'm not that dexterous with my left hand. I certainly wouldn't risk sending my very nice steak flying across the room ;)

                                          It still bugs me to see someone buttering an entire roll at once. I was taught to eat soup with the spoon moving away from me, and I don't know that I've ever seen anyone outside my family doing that move.

                                          1. re: foiegras
                                            sandylc Dec 6, 2011 06:31 PM

                                            "t still bugs me to see someone buttering an entire roll at once. I was taught to eat soup with the spoon moving away from me, and I don't know that I've ever seen anyone outside my family doing that move"

                                            I was also taught to tear off small pieces of bread to butter and to scoop soup away from myself!

                                      3. q
                                        Querencia Feb 2, 2011 06:41 PM

                                        The best table instructions I have ever heard were those given to my Edwardian English stepfather, who was not asked to pass the potatoes but to "look around and see if anyone needs anything". What a wonderful habit to instill in a child, to be attentive to the needs of others---you can build a whole life of social conscience around it.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Querencia
                                          coll Feb 3, 2011 06:22 AM

                                          We had an exercise like that in high school, one class we had teams, and we weren't allowed to talk but had to see what others needed to complete the project. I believe I changed my ways of thinking that very day, it still sticks with me.

                                          1. re: coll
                                            mamachef Feb 3, 2011 07:50 AM

                                            I find that lovely.

                                            1. re: coll
                                              Bill Hunt Feb 9, 2011 07:55 PM

                                              Sounds like a very useful exercise. Now, I try to do that with the wines, but now have something else to "look about for."

                                              Thanks Querencia and Coll,


                                          2. 1389AD Feb 1, 2011 06:30 PM

                                            I absolutely agree about the lip-smacking. Keep your lips closed when you have anything in your mouth, including chewing gum!

                                            NO chewing gum at the table. Yuk.

                                            Hold utensils like a pencil, not in your fist. If you hold utensils improperly, your elbows will be out to the side and you will bump people.

                                            No smoking where people are eating, not even outdoors, and especially no putting out butts in FOOD or DRINK. Yuk!!

                                            Also, our family, and most of our friends, say grace before eating anything.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: 1389AD
                                              mamachef Feb 2, 2011 07:21 AM

                                              Good advice! My mother loves you!
                                              We also like to bless our food.

                                              1. re: mamachef
                                                thew Feb 2, 2011 02:59 PM

                                                i only do that if my food sneezes

                                                1. re: thew
                                                  linguafood Feb 2, 2011 03:09 PM

                                                  i stick to the non-superstitious 'gesundheit'.

                                                  1. re: thew
                                                    Bill Hunt Feb 9, 2011 07:53 PM

                                                    Usually, a quick thrust of a fork insures that it will not sneeze a second time. Works for me.


                                                2. re: 1389AD
                                                  alkapal Feb 3, 2011 02:38 AM

                                                  >>>>>Hold utensils like a pencil, not in your fist. If you hold utensils improperly, your elbows will be out to the side and you will bump people.<<<<<
                                                  hence the term "bumpkin"?

                                                3. mamachef Nov 24, 2010 06:18 AM

                                                  A poem! "Elbows, elbows, off the table: this is not a horsie's stable, but a proper dining table!"
                                                  Mouth closed when you chew. No smacking allowed. Really, just eat silently. If you do speak, make dang sure it's a complete sentence. Ask for something to be passed; do NOT reach for it. Do NOT wash your food down with your beverage; drink it after. (???)
                                                  No playing, "let's see who can kick who harder" under the table.
                                                  When we got older and were thoroughly traumatized as well as being well-trained, it became a wonderful game to let our fingers assume the position of the birdy salute when passing...whatever, and see how many times mom DIDN'T catch it.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: mamachef
                                                    alkapal Nov 24, 2010 01:20 PM

                                                    can you believe the number of smackers around us? drives. me. crazy.

                                                    1. re: alkapal
                                                      mamachef Nov 28, 2010 07:28 AM

                                                      Mr. smacked yesterday, during turkey noodle soup. I think I went Mad as a Hatter, but it was brief.

                                                    2. re: mamachef
                                                      coll Dec 28, 2010 12:36 AM

                                                      We weren't allowed to drink during our meal in Catholic school, the nuns said our saliva glands wouldn't develop properly if we did.

                                                    3. Naguere Nov 24, 2010 05:18 AM

                                                      Not so much manners, but a warning as we sat down with guests .

                                                      and this is before 'LOL'

                                                      it was 'FHB'

                                                      Family hold back..

                                                      My aunt (who will soon be 90) set out her Aunts tea table when she was 8 years old , everything quite correct down to the sugar bowl, but the tablecloth was on upside down.

                                                      She had to strip the table and then re-set it.

                                                      She has never made that mistake again

                                                      1. r
                                                        racer x Oct 23, 2010 01:26 PM

                                                        I've lately been reading Stephen Clarke's deliriously funny "Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French," which pokes fun at French culture. (Clarke is a British expat living in France.)

                                                        To give you an idea of the tone of the book, the opening lines read, "When dealing with a Frenchman, you need to be aware that there is a voice in his head. It is constantly telling him, 'I'm French, I'm right.' "

                                                        Clarke has a whole section on French table etiquette ("Food Laws and Rituals") that some here might find interesting.

                                                        For example:

                                                        "At table, diners must always be seated man-woman-man-woman. This rule must be adhered to even if some guests are gay."

                                                        "When using the knife to cut meat, some French people hold the fork vertically like a skewer. Parisians think this is vulgar and (even worse) provincial."

                                                        "Never cut lettuce on your plate. This is because, long ago, when cutlery was made of iron, the vinaigrette made the lettuce taste of metal."

                                                        "If you want to wipe your plate (there is a verb for this - saucer, pronounced 'sossay'), then use a piece of bread skewered on the end of your fork. It is not really the done thing to push the bread around the plate with your fingers, though people do it."

                                                        "Only eat shellfish in months that contain an 'r.' This rules out the summer months when the sea is relatively warm and storage difficult. Most people ignore the rule when they're eating by the sea, but eating oysters in Paris in August is for tourists with lead-lined digestive tracts."

                                                        1. m
                                                          Masonville Sep 24, 2010 06:30 PM

                                                          I haven' read the whole thread and am not about to. On balance, I think I like your grandfather. Not because of his "rules", altho they're mostly all good, but because he ate the soup of the pan. You're leaving out a a lot, but that suggests to me he was human--in a good way. Again, you're leaving out a lot, but as far as I can fill in the blanks, I think that "teaching manners" involves most of all affection and a cultivation of respect (which includes affection). It's not just about rules, per se. As for smacking lips, I am SOOOO with your there.

                                                          1. buttertart Sep 23, 2010 08:50 AM

                                                            Back when ladies wore gloves in public (this persisted into the early '60's for daytime wear and longer for evening gloves) the rule was never to smoke/drink/eat with a gloved hand. The "Mad Men" sticklers for period authenticity ought to remind Betty of that...

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: buttertart
                                                              Caroline1 Sep 23, 2010 02:30 PM

                                                              Well, unless you had a very long, very elegant cigarette holder, right? Mine was, and I used it with my gloves on. But that's also why opera length gloves unbuttoned at the wrist! In case you forgot your cigarette holder! '-)

                                                              1. re: Caroline1
                                                                buttertart Sep 23, 2010 04:37 PM

                                                                You'd never smoke with short white afternoon gloves on, I don't think (I don't come from a cigarette-holder-using background).

                                                                1. re: buttertart
                                                                  Caroline1 Sep 23, 2010 09:11 PM

                                                                  The reason for not smoking, eating or drinking with gloves on was because any of those things could inadvertently soil the gloves, and there you would be stuck with "dirty hands," so to speak, for the remainder of the event(s?) that required you to wear them. Tobacco stains leave ugly brownish yellow smudges of visually questionable origin, or who wants to go around with chocolate eclair smudged all over their thumb? Hence, smoking with gloves on AND using a long cigarette holder was acceptable in most circles. As for wearing gloves while drinking something, it depended on the surroundings and the drink. But you didn't eat with gloves on with the very notable exception of driving gloves and a sandwich from home because there were no drive-thrus back then. By the way,I *LOVE* Gio's avatar! It is soOOoOOOooOOooooOOOooooo "Holly Golightly"!

                                                              2. re: buttertart
                                                                pikawicca Sep 23, 2010 04:46 PM

                                                                The last time I wore gloves and a hat to lunch was with an aunt and a grandmother, downtown San Francisco, in the summer of 1966. I was 17. Needless to say, we were soon to be overtaken by events, and my wardrobe hasn't been the same since. (Neither has SF.)

                                                                1. re: pikawicca
                                                                  Caroline1 Sep 23, 2010 09:12 PM

                                                                  <sigh> Golden yesterdays!

                                                                  1. re: pikawicca
                                                                    cosmogrrl Sep 23, 2010 11:49 PM

                                                                    I actually have black satin evening gloves, they go 3/4 of the way up my forearm length. I wear them to dinner. But don't eat with them. I spend most of my life in jeans, t-shirts, or sweats. So I enjoy really dressing up when going out. SF may never be the same (it's where i live). ;)

                                                                2. s
                                                                  scarraher Sep 21, 2010 08:57 AM

                                                                  In my fiance's family. Everything except sandwiches were eaten with a fork. This included french fries and pizza.

                                                                  13 Replies
                                                                  1. re: scarraher
                                                                    Bill Hunt Sep 22, 2010 06:07 PM

                                                                    I agree. One item that I have a difficult time with is bacon, which I like crisp. I will struggle with that, trying to do the right thing, and when no one is looking will just grab a piece and eat it, pretending that nothing happened. [Grin]


                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                      Caroline1 Sep 22, 2010 10:28 PM

                                                                      Emily Post was the maven of manners when I was in junior high school, and etiquette was a standard and mandatory part of home ec. We were taught that there were two things it is proper to eat with one's fingers. Fried chicken and crisply fried bacon. Okay, sandwiches were a given. '-)

                                                                      1. re: Caroline1
                                                                        eLizard Sep 23, 2010 06:33 AM

                                                                        i thought asparagus was ok, too. to the extent that it isn't sauced.

                                                                        1. re: eLizard
                                                                          OCAnn Sep 23, 2010 08:22 AM

                                                                          Yes, I too learned that asparagus & bacon was permissible with hand....

                                                                          1. re: OCAnn
                                                                            Caroline1 Sep 23, 2010 02:24 PM

                                                                            Actually, as I recall, whether you used your fingers for asparagus or not depended on how formal the occasion was and how extensive the hostess' flatware collection! Here's a tool for when fingers weren't okay.
                                                                            One of my great grandmothers had "company silverware" that had a gazillion different pieces for each place setting. Her INDIVIDUAL asparagus tongs/holders were similar to this but not exactly. I THINK (but wouldn't take an oath because I was about three or four when I used to play with them) she had enough for everyone to have one. But maybe she had them for several dishes of asparagus, who knows? But she let me use them to eat link sausages! Woohoo!

                                                                        2. re: Caroline1
                                                                          thew Sep 23, 2010 06:47 AM

                                                                          i think of her more as emily post-mortem

                                                                          1. re: thew
                                                                            Caroline1 Sep 23, 2010 02:28 PM

                                                                            thew, I can hardly wait for the day you will be going to some black tie affair and come on here and ask us which one is the soup spoon and which one is the dessert spoon, and whether it's okay to wear Nikes with formal attire. '-)

                                                                            1. re: Caroline1
                                                                              thew Sep 23, 2010 05:00 PM

                                                                              love, not caring which is the soup spoon isn't the same as not knowing which is the soup spoon. i clean up rather nicely.

                                                                              and in fact at the last event that required a tuxedo (and i own a very stylish one) i was at i was not wearing nikes. it was low top converse all stars. in black of course, anything else would be gauche.

                                                                              1. re: thew
                                                                                Caroline1 Sep 23, 2010 08:57 PM

                                                                                See! See! I KNEW you were a cage rattler! UNMASKED AT LAST! '-)

                                                                                1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                  thew Sep 24, 2010 04:39 AM

                                                                                  it was very well received, thank you.

                                                                                  1. re: thew
                                                                                    Caroline1 Sep 24, 2010 09:54 AM

                                                                                    You're a keeper! '-)

                                                                        3. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                          alkapal Sep 24, 2010 07:01 AM

                                                                          oh bill hunt, i canNOT imagine you doing a furtive bacon snatch! LOL!

                                                                          1. re: alkapal
                                                                            Bill Hunt Sep 24, 2010 06:27 PM

                                                                            Yeah, I'm comin' clean on that one! Of course, bacon is a weakness of mine, and I seldom miss a chance with a really good bacon.


                                                                      2. ashleyrar Aug 30, 2010 12:51 PM

                                                                        i was taught to fold the napkin and leave it on the back of the chair if i was coming back to the table (bathroom or smoking break) and to leave it folded on the table when i was completely finished.

                                                                        21 Replies
                                                                        1. re: ashleyrar
                                                                          Bill Hunt Aug 30, 2010 07:41 PM

                                                                          The placement of the napkin on the chair has been a "standard" with me too. If the chair has an arm, that is the preferred location. Otherwise, my lessons were to fold the soiled sides in, and place onto the seat. The back was used to signify that one had "taken" a seat at the table, and would soon return.

                                                                          As for napkins, though most servers will place these into the lap in a triangle, I was taught that they were to be folded in a rectangular fashion, with the open ends toward the table, with the fold toward the diner. When soiled, the napkin was to be folded in the opposite direction, across the middle, and the "clean" side would be the only one exposed to others - or to that chair.

                                                                          Again, and will quickly admit to, these are "old-school" manners, and youngsters should freely ignore them. If you do not, your peers will text you at the table that you are being "stuffy."


                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                            Caroline1 Sep 21, 2010 05:25 AM

                                                                            When I was a kid, I was firmly taught that there were only three places where it was appropriate to find your dinner napkin. 1. On the table. 2. In your lap. 3. In the laundry. If someone needed to leave the table temporarily, the napkin was placed on the table left of the plate but not refolded. You sort of held it by its center and allowed it to drape into a graceful cone (and hopefully it was not littered with crumbs!), rather the way a gentleman holds a pocket square before folding up the bottom and tucking it in his pocket. I was also taught never to put it on the seat of the chair because it might stain the upholstery or leave residue on a wooden seat that would soil clothing when sat upon. The table cloth would subsequently be laundered, the upholstery would not.

                                                                            For family meals, the napkin was refolded after the meal and returned to the napkin ring. Many families used engraved or otherwise identifiable individual napkin rings so that when the table was laid for the next meal everyone got their same napkin back. It saved on the amount of linen necessary to run a household as well as saved on frequent laundering. Remember, these rules originated way back when most laundry was done with a washboard!

                                                                            At “company meals,” only family members or house guests refolded their napkins. Guests laid them to the side of their place setting in the same manner as if they were just leaving the table temporarily. For a “this meal only” guest, to refold a dinner napkin and replace it in its original position was a notice that one wished to be invited back. That was considered rude and something of a faux pas in most circles. It was one occasion where Emily Post advised guests not to follow the example of the hostess!

                                                                            And of course, for Damask table cloth, floral centerpiece meals, no one refolded their napkin, but just did the pocket square drape and placed it on the left of the place setting, or whatever remained of it. At State Dinners, you did whatever the First Lady did. Well, except maybe dip a corner of the napkin in water and lovingly wipe the President’s chin. ‘-)

                                                                            1. re: Caroline1
                                                                              thew Sep 21, 2010 06:05 AM

                                                                              i hope you gave out detailed instruction cards for your guests so they knew the napkin rules

                                                                              1. re: thew
                                                                                Caroline1 Sep 21, 2010 06:49 AM

                                                                                Nah. The crowd I ran with knew a lot of rules... How to behave at the table, how to play baseball, how to play ice hockey, how to play chess. You might say we had rules for everything. Life is a LOT more comfortable that way, doncha know? '-)

                                                                                1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                  thew Sep 21, 2010 08:10 AM

                                                                                  no, no i don't

                                                                                  1. re: thew
                                                                                    Caroline1 Sep 21, 2010 11:15 AM

                                                                                    Somehow I suspect you just enjoy rattling people's cages! Or at least trying to. '-)

                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                      thew Sep 21, 2010 02:54 PM

                                                                                      just? no, i enjoy many many more things than that.

                                                                              2. re: Caroline1
                                                                                Tripeler Sep 21, 2010 06:07 AM

                                                                                Caroline1's historic insights are fascinating, and very welcome here. Thank you!

                                                                                1. re: Tripeler
                                                                                  Caroline1 Sep 21, 2010 06:46 AM

                                                                                  Oh, and thank you for the appreciation! :-)

                                                                                  1. re: Tripeler
                                                                                    alkapal Sep 21, 2010 06:00 PM


                                                                                    1. re: alkapal
                                                                                      roxlet Sep 23, 2010 09:14 AM


                                                                                  2. re: Caroline1
                                                                                    Bill Hunt Sep 22, 2010 06:05 PM

                                                                                    Interesting. Once used, even if not soiled, my teachings were that a napkin could never touch the table, until the diner was finished.

                                                                                    Guess that there are just some differences.

                                                                                    Luckily, the OP allowed for differences, in the title of the thread - it is not what is an absolutely correct method, but just what one was taught.

                                                                                    For Euro/UK-state dinners, it was reinforced that the napkin was to never touch the table, once placed in the lap, until the diner was finished.

                                                                                    You conjured up an interesting vision, at least for me, of all guests dabbing at the President's chin, with a dampened napkin, just following suit.


                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                      buttertart Sep 23, 2010 05:35 AM

                                                                                      And you're not supposed to put the napkin on your lap until an item of food (or a cocktail) is put on the table.

                                                                                      1. re: buttertart
                                                                                        melpy Sep 23, 2010 08:43 AM

                                                                                        While I know this rule, I hate and always forget it. I tend to base it upon, when the host puts their napkin on it is ok to do so yourself. I wish it was appropriate right away. :(

                                                                                        1. re: buttertart
                                                                                          MMRuth Sep 23, 2010 04:58 PM

                                                                                          I've never heard that before. I was always taught to put my napkin on my lap as soon as I sat down at the table. And, I'm with Caroline1 on putting my casually but carefully not quite folded napkin on the table, not the chair, when I have to excuse myself.

                                                                                          1. re: MMRuth
                                                                                            Barbara76137 Sep 23, 2010 07:12 PM

                                                                                            I also thought it was appropriate to put the napkin on the lap as soon as seated at the table. Is this wrong/unaccepted?

                                                                                            1. re: Barbara76137
                                                                                              Caroline1 Sep 23, 2010 09:21 PM

                                                                                              I was taught the same as MMRuth about napkin on the lap as soon as seated. It was/is especially important to have your napkin already on your lap when food is presented, whether pre-plated or when a dish is presented by a servant for you to serve yourself. It also let people know you weren't just "perched" in that chair for a brief moment while you talked to someone and would be leaving to search out your own place card momentarily. But it seems to me I was taught that you don't put your napkin in your lap in a fine restaurant until after you've ordered, then as the captain departs, you place your napkin in your lap. Was anyone else taught this?

                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                buttertart Sep 24, 2010 01:19 PM

                                                                                                I'm not sure where the waiting until something was on the table rule came from but my husband and I were both taught it. It's hardly as if someone is going to get upset about one putting one's napkin in one's lap as soon as seated these days.

                                                                                          2. re: buttertart
                                                                                            alkapal Sep 24, 2010 06:59 AM

                                                                                            query: if one is carrying a little snoot-full in one''s silver and leather flask, might one deduce from your post that it is permissible to just tuck the napkin in one's waistband and wear it around? ;-).

                                                                                            1. re: alkapal
                                                                                              buttertart Sep 24, 2010 01:17 PM

                                                                                              Now now alkapal, a lady wouldn't want to advertise that, would she?

                                                                                              1. re: buttertart
                                                                                                alkapal Sep 25, 2010 05:15 AM

                                                                                                ok, i got it: no napkin! ;-).

                                                                                  3. decolady Aug 30, 2010 06:17 AM

                                                                                    Lots of our manners rules have already been mentioned, but these are the things I can think of at the moment:
                                                                                    napkin in the lap
                                                                                    ask to be excused when leaving the table
                                                                                    stay at the table until everyone is finished
                                                                                    no talking with food in your mouth
                                                                                    no elbows on the table
                                                                                    ask for things to be passed, rather than reaching across the table
                                                                                    pass to the right
                                                                                    break off pieces of bread to butter, don't butter the whole slice at once
                                                                                    spoon soup away from you, not toward yourself
                                                                                    no singing at the table
                                                                                    only cut off two or three bites of meat at at time
                                                                                    never place used utensils on the table, they go on the edge of the plate (or on a knife rest)
                                                                                    men never wear hats at the table
                                                                                    wait for everyone to be served before you start eating
                                                                                    wash your hand before coming to the table
                                                                                    thank the hostess/cook
                                                                                    never announce that you don't like the food on your plate
                                                                                    when you are finished, place your knife and fork together across the plate

                                                                                    16 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: decolady
                                                                                      thew Aug 30, 2010 07:22 AM

                                                                                      no singing at the table???????? sounds dreary

                                                                                      i, for one (sorry b. hunt), am glad that as a whole we are being more casual as a whole, and loosening many of these "rules", especially the ones that really do nothing about how you impact/interact with others, ie the direction of the soup spoon, where the utensils go when finished, etc.

                                                                                      1. re: thew
                                                                                        decolady Aug 30, 2010 08:05 AM

                                                                                        Well, these were the rules I learned as a child. Some of those have certainly been relaxed. And I wouldn't say it was dreary at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. There was certainly laughter and lively conversation. What I was told about singing was that it was like performing and thus rude to draw attention to yourself at the table that way.

                                                                                        My girls are nearly grown now, but I have to say we have been known to sing at the table upon occasion. (At home, of course. Not in public.) Just don't tell my Mom! LOL.

                                                                                        1. re: decolady
                                                                                          buttertart Aug 30, 2010 08:55 AM

                                                                                          At least you weren't raised with the Irish superstition that it's very bad luck to sing at the table.

                                                                                          1. re: buttertart
                                                                                            decolady Aug 30, 2010 09:24 AM

                                                                                            Which does seem odd, given that one strand of my family is Irish.

                                                                                        2. re: thew
                                                                                          Bill Hunt Aug 30, 2010 07:31 PM


                                                                                          You are not as sorry as Bill Hunt is. While I do not view the current state of manners (table and otherwise) as a sign of the total decline in civility, it might well be an indicator.

                                                                                          Above, an in response to Barbara, I cited a very recent dining experience. Here, I thought that the mid-80s to mid-90s was the "ME Generation," but I was naive, and had no clue - I had not seen anything - yet.

                                                                                          In the end, I will live my life, as I have been "raised," and try to overlook the actions of others, though I may make note of them, and add them to this thread. [Grin]


                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                            thew Aug 30, 2010 08:49 PM

                                                                                            on this, Bill, we know well that you and i disagree. but i still think we could enjoy a good meal together

                                                                                            1. re: thew
                                                                                              Bill Hunt Aug 31, 2010 05:18 PM

                                                                                              I have no doubt on that.

                                                                                              I worry that I will just have to become accustomed to a "new sensibility." That is probably part of the price for getting old. [Grin]


                                                                                        3. re: decolady
                                                                                          ospreycove Aug 30, 2010 12:15 PM

                                                                                          Wow, your list sounds like my Mother wrote it.!!!!!!!!!!

                                                                                          1. re: decolady
                                                                                            Bill Hunt Aug 30, 2010 07:45 PM

                                                                                            "spoon soup away from you, not toward yourself"

                                                                                            At least I am not the only one to have been taught this. Also, one does not blow on the soup in the spoon. Holding it slightly above the liquid is OK, and one might talk for a moment, to let it cool down.

                                                                                            "break off pieces of bread to butter, don't butter the whole slice at once"

                                                                                            Here, it was a practice to take butter from the serving device, and place that onto one's bread plate. As you mention, each small piece of bread would be buttered from that "pile" on one's bread plate, and not directly from the butter serving plate (or device).

                                                                                            I an NOT alone!!!! [Grin]


                                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                              decolady Aug 31, 2010 07:10 PM

                                                                                              Yes, that is exactly right about the bread and butter. I didn't elaborate thoroughly.

                                                                                              Perhaps it is a southern thing. You were reared in Mississippi and I was reared in Louisiana. :-)

                                                                                              1. re: decolady
                                                                                                Bill Hunt Aug 31, 2010 07:31 PM

                                                                                                There is probably some overlap in our heritages there.

                                                                                                The bread plate, knife and the butter are fairly well delineated, or at least they WERE. At a dinner the other evening, our guest, to my left, grabbed my bread plate an knife. Confusion happens. All was cool, as it did not look like interesting bread anyway.


                                                                                                1. re: decolady
                                                                                                  OCEllen Aug 31, 2010 07:40 PM

                                                                                                  In Indiana, too, what I was taught.
                                                                                                  Comes from old ritual, I believe. I'll look for a link.

                                                                                                  1. re: OCEllen
                                                                                                    Bill Hunt Aug 31, 2010 08:03 PM

                                                                                                    I'd be very interested in seeing that. Much of what I was taught, fell into the realm of "that is the 'approved' way of doing it." Love to see the "why."

                                                                                                    Thanks, and please post any links,


                                                                                                2. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                  pikawicca Aug 31, 2010 07:18 PM

                                                                                                  I think the buttering the bread by bites thing is pretty universal. (At least it used to be.)

                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                    Bill Hunt Aug 31, 2010 07:33 PM

                                                                                                    I once thought so, but am having to re-access things.

                                                                                                    I'll just keep up what I am doing, and let the younger folk wonder what the heck the old-guy is doing at the end of the table.


                                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                      Caroline1 Sep 21, 2010 03:19 AM

                                                                                                      I was raised in California, and the dictates of buttering bread one bite at a time came from two sources: My English born Victorian grandmother, and Emily Post. No idea where Emily Post got it from, but it does seem to be ubiquitous.

                                                                                              2. Barbara76137 Aug 29, 2010 08:13 PM

                                                                                                I've participated on this thread quite a few times already, but got a new one. Don't you think that at a $200/plate fundraiser dinner the "gentleman" should pull out the chair for the lady and not just plop himself down? Salads and desserts were on the table and table service was excellent. As guests finished salad, entree was presented, waitstaff were wonderful.

                                                                                                The meal was good considering it was for about 500. Salad wasn't wilted, entree was hot although I didn't eat the beef, only the potatoes and veggies. Dessert was a mini pecan pie and I gave that to a friend of mine who was volunteering at the event.

                                                                                                I just think a man should pull out a chair for a woman and rise when a woman excuses herself from the table.

                                                                                                22 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Barbara76137
                                                                                                  alkapal Aug 30, 2010 03:24 AM

                                                                                                  uh, barbara, my dearheart, we TOLD you to dump this b****rd, and yet you come back on this thread and complain MORE about his behavior? are you SERIOUS?

                                                                                                  1. re: Barbara76137
                                                                                                    queencru Aug 30, 2010 05:12 AM

                                                                                                    I don't know either of those behaviors are common anymore. I know I feel incredibly uncomfortable when a man stands up when I leave the table. I like to be rather discreet when I go to the bathroom (especially in a group) and don't like it to be made more obvious if I leave the table 5-10 minutes for whatever reason. I do not think this is a dumpable offense.

                                                                                                    1. re: queencru
                                                                                                      decolady Aug 30, 2010 05:53 AM

                                                                                                      I think part of it depends on where you live. A gentleman pulling out the chair before sitting himself is quite common in my circle. Him standing up when a lady leaves the table is more iffy.

                                                                                                      However, to Barbara, is this the same guy who's giving you all the grief? Please do yourself a favour and remove yourself from his company. How can you possibly enjoy your meal (or anything else?) in the presence of someone who acts this way?

                                                                                                      1. re: decolady
                                                                                                        Bill Hunt Aug 30, 2010 07:21 PM

                                                                                                        I was just dining in a mid-up-scale restaurant in SF. A couple with a young child entered.

                                                                                                        The man, wearing a Trilby hat (never removed it) walked briskly to the table, and plopped down. The lady (his wife?) arrived, holding the hand of the little girl. She seated the child, and then herself, while the man was busy texting. He did that for most of the meal.

                                                                                                        When the meal was done, he paid, but immediately left the table, leaving the lady and child. I saw him outside texting, while the lady took the child's hand to walk out.

                                                                                                        Obviously, when the child grows up, she will NOT expect a man to pull her chair for her, much less stand, when she leaves, or returns to the table. Actually, she will likely not expect a man to remove his hat, upon entering, or even dining, or even put the smart phone down at any point during the meal.


                                                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                          pikawicca Aug 30, 2010 07:25 PM

                                                                                                          The only part of this that REALLY bothers me is the cell. The hat, the chair, the who "seated" the lady is not an issue for me. But, if you can't be there, "in the moment" with your dining companions, you have failed as a human being.

                                                                                                          1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                            igorm Sep 16, 2010 03:17 PM

                                                                                                            I think one of the rudest manners is keeping your hat on in the house or restaurant. I know it is accepted by the "younger" generation but it is still rude behaviour.

                                                                                                            1. re: igorm
                                                                                                              Bill Hunt Sep 17, 2010 08:54 PM

                                                                                                              I also find that rude, but am definitely "old-school." When I enter a building, I remove my hat, and would never think of dining with one, but that is just me.


                                                                                                              1. re: igorm
                                                                                                                cosmogrrl Sep 20, 2010 12:07 AM

                                                                                                                I still can't quite get why a lady can keep her hat on, but it's rude if a man does. I suppose it's because a lady removing her hat may muss her hair? But men can get hat head too. Also, I know certain men who've grown a bit to tall for their hair that like hats to keep their heads warm.

                                                                                                                I understand that it's good manners, but this one doesn't make a lot of sense to me, and most other etiquette rules do.

                                                                                                                1. re: cosmogrrl
                                                                                                                  Bill Hunt Sep 20, 2010 07:15 PM

                                                                                                                  I think that it might well go back to a much earlier time, and the consideration of the lady's hair might be a big player. Though I do not quite go back to the Victorian Era, I have always expected the ladies to keep their hats on, but all gentlemen to remove theirs. Would be interesting to hear some historical perspective on this subject.


                                                                                                                  1. re: cosmogrrl
                                                                                                                    Caroline1 Sep 21, 2010 03:11 AM

                                                                                                                    "I still can't quite get why a lady can keep her hat on, but it's rude if a man does. I suppose it's because a lady removing her hat may muss her hair? But men can get hat head too. Also, I know certain men who've grown a bit to tall for their hair that like hats to keep their heads warm." ..........cosmogrrl

                                                                                                                    Women wearing hats inside is a VERY old custom that actually can be traced back, one way or another, to religious dictates. For centuries in Western Cultures, women have worn hats/scarves to church because the Old Testament dictates such and so was followed religiously in Christian communities, even post Reformation. So "high fashion" took the custom to heart and when fine dining restaurants began to appear, one always dressed in their "Sunday best" to frequent them, so the hats went along as well. Women gave up hats in restaurants (and Protestant women in church) as a fashion statement in the latish twentieth century.

                                                                                                                    In mid-twentieth century, fashionable women wore hats appropriate to the occasion. Broad brim picture hats were appropriate to tea parties, garden parties, and polo matches. Small, close to the head hats (even Jackie K style pill boxes) were for church, theater, and dinner parties.

                                                                                                                    Ahhhhh, for the good old days. '-)

                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                      buttertart Sep 21, 2010 09:13 AM

                                                                                                                      Two words: cocktail hat. I was too young to participate fully in the glory days of hatwearing, but a little glamour would be nice these days...

                                                                                                                      1. re: buttertart
                                                                                                                        Caroline1 Sep 21, 2010 11:13 AM

                                                                                                                        Oooooh, cocktail hats! My farorite when I was in my early twenties was sort of like a very wide head band that was completely covered in electric royal blue feathers that swirled down over my left ear then up onto my cheek. The other side started just above my right ear. If you took it off and held it as close to flat as you could, it sort of looked like a blue angel's wing. I LOVED that hat...! People today don't know what they're missing. '-)

                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                          buttertart Sep 21, 2010 11:51 AM

                                                                                                                          Absolutely not. And veils...a nice veil...

                                                                                                                          1. re: buttertart
                                                                                                                            alkapal Sep 21, 2010 05:58 PM

                                                                                                                            those black net veils always make me think of sexy italian film stars from the 60's...

                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                              buttertart Sep 22, 2010 08:50 AM

                                                                                                                              Yep, and a cigarette is an essential accessory. Wish smoking were safe, it's such fun.

                                                                                                                              1. re: buttertart
                                                                                                                                Bill Hunt Sep 22, 2010 05:59 PM

                                                                                                                                Ah, but only in a faux ivory holder! [Grin]


                                                                                                                      2. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                        Bill Hunt Sep 22, 2010 05:58 PM


                                                                                                                        Great comment. Though Jewish, I had not even considered that. Guess that my congregation is so very liberal, that it never crossed my mind. I see other congregations, where all of the ladies are wearing their hats, and all men either hats, or yarmulkes, depending.

                                                                                                                        Had just never made the connection, until you detailed it.

                                                                                                                        Thank you,


                                                                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                          Caroline1 Sep 22, 2010 10:21 PM

                                                                                                                          Thank you, sir! Generous words that are much appreciated.

                                                                                                                    2. re: igorm
                                                                                                                      melpy Sep 23, 2010 08:38 AM

                                                                                                                      I'm only 26 but I asked my SO to remove his hat when we went to eat in the little diner. I don't mind some environments inside (in a store or at the mall), but if we sit down to eat even if it is the norm (all the farmers from town were there in their baseball caps), I want no hats. This also applies in anyone's house (ours or someone else's). Religious observances and cancer/alopecia (sp?) patients excluded.

                                                                                                                      1. re: melpy
                                                                                                                        alkapal Sep 24, 2010 06:57 AM

                                                                                                                        farmers used to know better! it was rude for men to wear their hat indoors. period.

                                                                                                                        you can watch any old black and white movie and learn the customs of the era! ;-).

                                                                                                                  2. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                    OCAnn Sep 19, 2010 12:52 PM

                                                                                                                    Another reason for military service: you learn to remove your cover.

                                                                                                              2. re: Barbara76137
                                                                                                                Bill Hunt Aug 30, 2010 07:06 PM


                                                                                                                With the exception for a banquette seating arrangement, where the man is in a "booth" and the lady is at a chair, and is returning to her seat, In this case, I think that a gentleman should at least raise his rear off the seat, upon that arrival, and hopefully the staff will accompany the lady and pull her chair.

                                                                                                                I feel that a gentleman should always pull out the chairs, and this goes for the ladies around an event table. Obviously, one man might not be able to do it for all of the ladies, but if he does it for a few, nearby, the other gentlemen should get the idea. In most event settings, it's tough to get around a table, due to spatial constraints. Also, there are often people standing around those, who are seated, and there is little room to maneuver.

                                                                                                                Good point,


                                                                                                              3. roxlet Aug 19, 2010 06:18 AM

                                                                                                                I have written a bit about my Egyptian house guests, and I have to say that they have the most appalling table manners. As soon as one of them is served, he immediately begins eating. And although I always put serving utensils on all the dishes, they will spear items with the fork they have just put in their mouths. I went off on one of them who had a cold, and I thought he understood, but no, the next day he was back tot he same behavior. Napkins are never put in their laps, which I understand since napkins are rarely used in Egypt -- sometimes a meal will come with a box of tissues! No compliments to the chef are ever received. They finish eating, and they get up and leave the table. I feel like I am running a boarding house. My son, who, I am proud to say, has beautiful table manners, was getting increasingly upset by their churlish behavior and he told him that we don't eat until every one is (including the cook -- me!) is served and seated. Oh yes, they said, we do that. They seemed slightly embarrassed as if they did know better. It is very strange to me because they come from affluent families in Egypt. Normally, we do not begin eating until all are seated and we have a brief toast. These guys are gone from the table almost before I am seated.

                                                                                                                32 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: roxlet
                                                                                                                  alkapal Aug 19, 2010 06:20 AM

                                                                                                                  WHEN are they leaving? egads, what a--holes.

                                                                                                                  i'd stop cooking (except you need to feed yourself and your son). why ARE you feeding them?

                                                                                                                  sounds like they really don't respect you whatsoever. maybe their affluent family status makes them feel entitled to treat you like a servant.

                                                                                                                  gosh, i wish yayadave, beach chick, linda whit and i could come help you out! we've gotta bat, you see.

                                                                                                                  1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                    thew Aug 19, 2010 06:40 AM

                                                                                                                    no, it sounds like they have different cultural mores, not like they are respectless aholes.

                                                                                                                    1. re: thew
                                                                                                                      alkapal Aug 19, 2010 06:47 AM

                                                                                                                      uh, right.

                                                                                                                      1. re: thew
                                                                                                                        alkapal Aug 19, 2010 06:50 AM

                                                                                                                        i don't care that you think their "different cultural mores" excuse their disrespectful behavior. i don't. and i seriously doubt that their parents would find their behavior acceptable either!

                                                                                                                        1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                          thew Aug 19, 2010 09:36 AM

                                                                                                                          im not so sure. but ive never been to egypt so i cannot say

                                                                                                                          1. re: thew
                                                                                                                            Fydeaux Aug 19, 2010 10:55 AM

                                                                                                                            I'm with you on this one, Thew. No doubt there people and places in the world where most Americans are considered barbarians because we serve ourselves at the table rather than 'being served', or because we have music (or <GASP> the television) playing in the background, or dont always dress for dinner.

                                                                                                                            Are there perhaps any native Egyptians in this discussion that can enlighten us on what is common and traditional behavior at meals?

                                                                                                                      2. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                        LindaWhit Aug 19, 2010 07:26 AM

                                                                                                                        Seriously. BIG bats. I agree with alka, they are treating you as a servant. Much has been said about Americans learning a country's cultural mores so they are respectful of the people in that country. This goes BOTH ways - roxlet's Egyptian guests should be acting in a proper manner and not treat her as they probably do their hired help at home in their parents' houses.

                                                                                                                        roxlet, perhaps call them out about it at the dinner table. As queencru said below, set the expectations for future dinners, and hold them to it.

                                                                                                                      3. re: roxlet
                                                                                                                        queencru Aug 19, 2010 06:51 AM

                                                                                                                        I don't think it is all that strange at all. Eating practices within the home vary widely from one home to another. They may come from a family where people eat at different times or where it's casual and you're free to start/leave at any time. My family eats together but no one cares if one person starts eating before another or leaves the table early. These guests are not from the US and I think it's asking too much for them to be able to infer how you do it in your house.

                                                                                                                        The best way to avoid these problems is to lay out the expectations from the start. "I am not sure how you do it in your house, but here we all eat together, don't start eating until everyone is seated, and wait until everyone is finished to leave the table."

                                                                                                                        1. re: queencru
                                                                                                                          LindaWhit Aug 19, 2010 07:28 AM

                                                                                                                          These guests are not from the US and I think it's asking too much for them to be able to infer how you do it in your house.
                                                                                                                          And there we disagree. How often is it said here on CH that if one is going to another country, it's very easy to learn how "things are done" in that country, so you don't offend people? Why shouldn't that be the same in reverse? These Egyptian men shouldn't be treating roxlet or her son as hired help - and yet they are.

                                                                                                                          I do agree with your last paragraph - and it should continually be stated until they leave. "Excuse me, but as I said at yesterday's dinner, in our family we wait until everyone is served before anyone starts eating." "I'm sorry, but it's considered polite to wait to leave the table until everyone is done eating. Thank you."

                                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                                                                            queencru Aug 19, 2010 08:13 AM

                                                                                                                            I think the issue is that things are not done the same way in every family in the US. In many families, parents work late, kids have activities that end at 7 or 8, and not everyone is eating dinner at the same time. It's potentially the same scenario that kids have in Egypt.

                                                                                                                            1. re: queencru
                                                                                                                              LindaWhit Aug 19, 2010 08:24 AM

                                                                                                                              True. But yet again, they are guests in roxlet's home, and should be cognizant as to what their host does, not the other way around. They are being flat out rude to her. But having said that, I suppose that it would be rude to constantly remind them that that is not how it's done in roxlet's home.

                                                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                                                                                queencru Aug 19, 2010 08:29 AM

                                                                                                                                As I said, I just think laying everything out initially is the best approach. If they don't follow the rules after that, then I agree that they are probably just rude people. If they follow the rules initially and then start to slack, I see no problem with reminding them.

                                                                                                                            2. re: LindaWhit
                                                                                                                              Bill Hunt Aug 19, 2010 07:20 PM

                                                                                                                              I agree.

                                                                                                                              When traveling to a culture, different from mine, I try to study the habits, and adapt to the "norm." When attending a dinner at the Palace in London, I used a protocol director to bring me "up to speed," and this was US to UK.

                                                                                                                              When dining in an ethnic restaurant, provided that there is not too much of a language barrier, I try to learn how one would customarily eat each dish. This could be as simple as the order, or could be more involved.

                                                                                                                              Were I visiting hosts in Finland, I would spend much time trying to acquaint myself with the culture, and especially with regards to dining.

                                                                                                                              Some folk do not share that sensibility, and that is their choice.

                                                                                                                              Heck, moving from my home territory in the Deep South to the Great American West, induced culture shock for both me and for my wife. To a degree, we adapted. In some areas, we shared our sensibilities with others, and they thanked us for that.

                                                                                                                              In Colorado, I was the only male to stand, when a lady was excused from the table, or returned to the table. After a few years, our circle had adopted that tradition. Maybe the wives shamed their hubbies, or maybe the example just caught people's attention? I'll never know. Same thing happened in PHX. I'll bet that every male in my wife's senior management team, whether the actual member, or a spouse, does the same thing now.

                                                                                                                              Sorry that I have digressed from different international cultures, to cultural differences within the US.


                                                                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                JerryMe Dec 27, 2010 04:13 PM

                                                                                                                                Don't be sorry Mr. Hunt - I remember being freaked out that when I came back to the dinner table, all of the gentlemen stood up. Table manners matter and I try to adapt as well.

                                                                                                                          2. re: roxlet
                                                                                                                            OCAnn Aug 19, 2010 09:07 AM

                                                                                                                            Feed them Pizza Hut on the patio table & chairs. Give them paper plates, no forks for spearing, no napkins (theirs shirts should suffice) and let them use their hands (regardless of how appalling that may be to them). What's more Backyard Americana than Friday Night Pizza?

                                                                                                                            1. re: OCAnn
                                                                                                                              roxlet Aug 19, 2010 01:14 PM

                                                                                                                              Actually, they would probably be thrilled with Pizza Hut as long as I gave them some Ketchup to put on the pizza. Yep, you heard me. Ketchup. I wouldn't allow them to put it on my spaghetti and meatballs, and they were extremely puzzled by that. Egypt is so much not a foodie culture, that the idea of respecting the food that is served you by the cook is truly unknown. But they have pizza nearly every day for lunch at the club where they are playing, and it's not what we're having...

                                                                                                                            2. re: roxlet
                                                                                                                              buttertart Aug 19, 2010 09:37 AM

                                                                                                                              I was just thinking about this and maybe it IS the status thing - since you cook for them and they come from servanted households you are putting yourself in the position of a servant as far as they are concerned, therefore they don't have to do anything to please you. Or maybe they're just slobs. ( I work with a Turkish guy from a high-class family who treats waitpersons in restaurants abominably for just that reason.)

                                                                                                                              1. re: buttertart
                                                                                                                                roxlet Aug 19, 2010 01:11 PM

                                                                                                                                Well, there are a couple of things at work here. First of all, I don't know their families, but I assume that they are quite affluent since they belong to one of the most beautiful private clubs in Alexandria, Egypt called Sporting. It was built by King Faisel and it looks like something out of the Raj with gorgeous wood paneled club house rooms, polo fields, race tracks, golf course, etc. You simply cannot imagine the scope of the clubs in Egypt -- they dwarf anything we have here. Anyway, I assume that they are pretty affluent and have full time help and that their "servants" (their usage not mine) cook for them, plop the food down, they eat and then they leave. They are here to play squash at a club near our house where my son plays. Since my son trained in Egypt for a year, and the standard of squash is much higher there than here, it is a real benefit to his game to have them here so he can play with them every day. He plays about two hours a day, which at the club's billing rate is about $200 a day that we are not charged since we are hosting them. I do not believe that they know about this arrangement exactly, because they are paid a fairly low flat salary each week and are very happy with it. Anyway, obviously having them in my house as guests is fbeneficial to us in terms of keeping down the cost of my son's training. But my husband has been out of town on business, and I do think that it became very grating to me since it was all my responsibility. All that being said, I think that by the time you are 19 and 22 you should have learned some manners or at least some understanding about being in a different culture.

                                                                                                                                1. re: roxlet
                                                                                                                                  buttertart Aug 19, 2010 01:15 PM

                                                                                                                                  You would certainly think so. The Turkish guy is young too by the way.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart
                                                                                                                                    roxlet Aug 19, 2010 01:22 PM

                                                                                                                                    Sometimes I find that attitude towards waitpersons from very rich Europeans as well. Something about having "servants" I think...

                                                                                                                                  2. re: roxlet
                                                                                                                                    Barbara76137 Aug 19, 2010 05:04 PM

                                                                                                                                    roxlet wrote: 'I think that by the time you are 19 and 22 you should have learned some manners or at least some understanding about being in a different culture.: '


                                                                                                                                    1. re: Barbara76137
                                                                                                                                      LindaWhit Aug 19, 2010 05:21 PM

                                                                                                                                      Would that that were real life! But not everyone gets there at that age. Hellzbellz, not everyone gets there ever! LOL

                                                                                                                                  3. re: buttertart
                                                                                                                                    cosmogrrl Aug 27, 2010 03:03 PM

                                                                                                                                    Actually it's not because he's Turkish, it's because he's a rich, entitled a-hole. That is not acceptable behavior in Turkey. Turks may have a more rigid class structure than we do here, but one is always taught to treat everyone with respect, and politeness no matter who they are.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: cosmogrrl
                                                                                                                                      roxlet Aug 28, 2010 06:38 AM

                                                                                                                                      I have a friend who is married to a very nice Turkish guy, and when I told her about my Egyptian guests she told me that happens all the time when she has Turkish friends and relatives of her husband visit. She said it's because all their mothers wait on them hand and foot...

                                                                                                                                      1. re: roxlet
                                                                                                                                        alkapal Aug 28, 2010 07:46 AM

                                                                                                                                        they're *spoiled* a-holes, then! ha!

                                                                                                                                        roxlet, how much longer must you endure this indignity? summer's end is here, no?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                          buttertart Aug 28, 2010 01:47 PM

                                                                                                                                          It is the entitlement that's the real factor here, other Turks I've eaten with don't act like a-holes to waitstaff. Turkey only came into it because of the neck of the woods the guests are from. He's also an only son and the light of his mama's life.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: roxlet
                                                                                                                                          cosmogrrl Aug 28, 2010 03:22 PM

                                                                                                                                          My Halas (Aunts) would have sweetly, and gently admonished any man who would be so rude. In that very gentle, sweet tone of voice that carries the undertone of "Do it again and you'll be very sorry!" that they do so well. I've yet to master this skill, my Canadian sarcastic side comes out too much.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: cosmogrrl
                                                                                                                                            alkapal Aug 29, 2010 07:22 AM

                                                                                                                                            somehow i'm imagining the english equivalent -- miss marple! ;-).

                                                                                                                                    2. re: roxlet
                                                                                                                                      roxlet Sep 26, 2010 01:42 PM

                                                                                                                                      The guys are leaving tonight, and I am happy to say that their table manners definitely improved over the course of their stay at our house. The actually began to wait until my husband was seated before eating, and one of the boys actually got up and did the dishes one night. The others seem to catch on after that. I don't think that they are ready for dinner with the Queen (among us I think that only Caroline1 would be up for that!), but our meals have become more pleasant and less rushed affairs. The one thing I will miss is having someone to devour everything that I bake,!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: roxlet
                                                                                                                                        Caroline1 Sep 26, 2010 05:38 PM

                                                                                                                                        Oh, bless your heart, but don't bet on that dinner with the queen thing for me... Are you talking about RuPaul or Elizabeth II? '-)

                                                                                                                                        Seriously, you are truly special for hosting the squash players. Despite how their behavior may have come across at times, I'm sure it is something they will remember and cherish all of their lives. And you've been instrumental in spreading the reality that not all Americans are ogres. Good on you....!!!

                                                                                                                                        Oh, and be wary of most American star team athletes, especially football. Some of them can make your squash team guys seem like unspoiled simple folk by comparison!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                                          alkapal Sep 27, 2010 01:44 PM

                                                                                                                                          """And you've been instrumental in spreading the reality that not all Americans are ogres."""

                                                                                                                                          really, caroline? REALLY?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                            Caroline1 Sep 27, 2010 03:24 PM

                                                                                                                                            Well, admittedly I'm an American ogre, but not all Americans are created equal, no matter what you read! '-)

                                                                                                                                    3. Barbara76137 Aug 15, 2010 09:09 PM

                                                                                                                                      For the past 2 1/2 years I have tried to instill some table manners on my boyfriend's two teenage sons. HE has very good manners but somehow his ex-wife never instilled these on his sons. I guess tonight was my reward but I still feel guilty about it. Tonight his poor 15 yr. old son was patiently waiting at the table while his father was still messing around with something on his laptop. The kid had carefully taken the chicken kabobs off of the grill and I had already announced to his father that dinner was ready. I told his kid that he could start serving himself and eating since his father wouldn't respond.

                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Barbara76137
                                                                                                                                        Bill Hunt Aug 17, 2010 07:36 PM


                                                                                                                                        You bring up an interesting bit of "table manners." I was always taught that no gentlemen would touch their food, until all of the ladies had been served, and had begun to eat. Old-fashioned? Yes, I guess so.

                                                                                                                                        Fast forward to today. All so often, one, or more, of the ladies at the table are called away. Maybe it's an important cell call (at least they excuse themselves from the table), or maybe it's a plea to "work the room, and meet Lady ____ ." Happens so very often.

                                                                                                                                        Most gentlemen in my crowd will stand, as the lady excuses herself, and then just sit, in conversation, with not eating, until she returns. In a few cases, the "missing" lady has failed to return, until the next course, or maybe even the one after that, has been served. At least we all are having good conversation, if not food.

                                                                                                                                        This is a two-way street. Either gentlemen need to modernize and realize that ladies might well leave the table, and they are on their own, or ladies must recognize that all the gentlemen at her table might be waiting on her return.

                                                                                                                                        It is similar, when a lady approaches the table. All gentlemen stand, at her presence. Then, a very long conversation will ensue and no one eats, so long as she's standing at the table. I have observed idle chatter go on for three courses, all being untouched, so long as she was standing at the table. A simple dismissal would take care of this, but usually, the idle chatter is too important.

                                                                                                                                        Just something for both ladies and gentlemen to consider.

                                                                                                                                        Hunt (yeah, "old-school," that is life)

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                          JerryMe Dec 27, 2010 04:07 PM

                                                                                                                                          Ha Ha Ha - Bad but good memories Bill! I was raised the same way! Too funny - inside comments were "shut the '(^(&(()$@# up and let us eat!

                                                                                                                                          1. re: JerryMe
                                                                                                                                            Bill Hunt Feb 9, 2011 07:52 PM

                                                                                                                                            Well, since this thread started, what was that - 1968? I have noticed that things, especially at events, are starting to modernize a bit. I am even falling "into line," with some of it. I do the perfunctory rise, but then am starting to join my table-mates and just eat, while the idle chatter continues.

                                                                                                                                            Recently, three ladies at my table had great sport with me. They choreographed feigned departure from the table, one at a time, just to see me stand. About the fifth time this happened, they all laughed and confessed that it was joke. At least they understood, and had great senses of humor - even if it was at my expense...


                                                                                                                                        2. re: Barbara76137
                                                                                                                                          ricepad Aug 30, 2010 12:11 PM

                                                                                                                                          It's not just the ex-wife who should bear the blame...your BF had equal responsibility, too.

                                                                                                                                        3. whs Aug 4, 2010 05:30 PM

                                                                                                                                          We were taught never to use metal spoons when eating caviar. Apparently it changes the taste. We have an ivory spoon, but I'm so terrified of using metal that I've used a plastic spoon in a pinch.

                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: whs
                                                                                                                                            pinkysmom Aug 5, 2010 11:48 AM

                                                                                                                                            I can't even go to a certain popular ice cream franchise restaurant because they serve ice cream in a metal dish and provide you with a metal spoon. It's like chalk on a blackboard to me. If I do go there, I ask for a glass dish for my dessert.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: whs
                                                                                                                                              serah Jan 1, 2011 09:11 AM

                                                                                                                                              We had a few spoons carved out of animal horn for things like this - mustard was another thing that used a non-metallic spoon.

                                                                                                                                            2. p
                                                                                                                                              pinkysmom Aug 3, 2010 08:20 AM

                                                                                                                                              My first dinner with my husband's family was a holiday meal with about 20 people. The food was plentiful and delicious but everyone ate and passed food furiously around the table like it was their last meal. And I nearly passed out when "Ma" put two cans of whole-berry cranberry sauce at one end of the table and two cans of jellied sauce at the other, STILL IN THE CANS! Her meals were legendary and mine aren't nearly as complete or delicious but I've always been persnickity about putting cranberry sauce in a serving dish. Thirty-five years later I'm still using her recipes and remembering her "rum sauce" for the pumpkin pie!

                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: pinkysmom
                                                                                                                                                alkapal Aug 19, 2010 05:15 AM

                                                                                                                                                well, may we surmise that "ma" had done a bit of "tasting" of the rum sauce back in the kitchen?

                                                                                                                                                and in any event, everybody knows that you put one can EACH of jellied and one can of whole-berry cran sauce on both ends of the table. geesh!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: pinkysmom
                                                                                                                                                  VelvetRose Nov 28, 2010 05:22 AM

                                                                                                                                                  Perhaps, someone should have bought "Ma" one of these:

                                                                                                                                                  We had something similar at our house for serving the canned jellied cranberry sauce. Ours had a rounded bottom which fit the de-canned jelly perfectly. The trick is to use a can opener to pierce one end of a well chilled can. When the other end is opened completely, the jelly just slides right out.

                                                                                                                                                2. j
                                                                                                                                                  JRinWV Jul 27, 2010 05:39 PM

                                                                                                                                                  We were raised with several sets of manners, one was farmhouse manners, with people eating with gusto, talking about their week, at my maternal grandmother's where we ate every weekend with aunts and uncles and cousins. Frequently there was a table just for kids and we just ate.

                                                                                                                                                  At home, we learned "proper" manners, but knew that they were optional at home. Dad was a newspaper editor, and had the 6-7 news on, and would sometimes yell "You kids be quiet, I can't hear the news!" He wore a family crest ring, heavy gold, and would rarely knock me or my brother with it - Ouch!

                                                                                                                                                  But he also taught us to sing childish dittys - camp songs and the like. We went to fancy restaurants sometimes and were expected to use silverware properly and all.

                                                                                                                                                  My wife and I spent long week in NYC recently, and did nightclubs every other night, and fancy dinner clubs. Cafe Carlyle was the max, the first time I got a check with a space for a waiter-captain tip AND a waiter tip. We spent more on that dinner to see and hear Judy Collins... A waiter came around with a basket of different breads, and my wife just picked one up, so I did too, though the waiter had tongs to serve us with.

                                                                                                                                                  We did our best to use company manners, the right fork or spoon, the food was great. The maitre'd broke a wine glass near by, and the waiter who had to remake the table gave him such a look. One waiter was pouring us champaigne, and I remarked thatg he was so expert he must have a lot of experience with it, and he said "I started here in 1968."

                                                                                                                                                  A wonderful night!

                                                                                                                                                  1. s
                                                                                                                                                    snax Jul 31, 2009 03:56 PM

                                                                                                                                                    From my European father:

                                                                                                                                                    1. wash your hands before you eat
                                                                                                                                                    2. don't leave any food on your plate (licking your plate clean gave you extra points)
                                                                                                                                                    3. don't obstruct his view of the t.v


                                                                                                                                                    apart from that, it's all good

                                                                                                                                                    I didn't learn how to use cutlery until I was about 8, I used to often eat my dinner in the bath, just as long as my hands were washed.

                                                                                                                                                    Now I enjoy to eat with a napkin on my lap, t.v off, and if someone is having a shower when dinner is ready, then I wait till they can join me.

                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: snax
                                                                                                                                                      alkapal Aug 1, 2009 05:50 AM

                                                                                                                                                      ""I used to often eat my dinner in the bath, just as long as my hands were washed."""

                                                                                                                                                      snax, that sure made clean-up easy, huh? was that your mom's idea? ;-).

                                                                                                                                                    2. Mawrter Jul 30, 2009 07:59 PM

                                                                                                                                                      We got some strange looks this evening while picnicking... as I was getting out the food and my dh was handing out silverware, my 6-yo son got out the napkins and unfolded his & put it on his lap. Is this really so very unusual?

                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Mawrter
                                                                                                                                                        racer x Jul 31, 2009 10:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                        Better to look silly (although I don't see anything wrong with it) for a few minutes with a lap napkin or a bib than to walk around for the rest of the day with a juice or ketchup stain.

                                                                                                                                                      2. s
                                                                                                                                                        soccermom327 Jul 29, 2009 07:26 AM

                                                                                                                                                        A lot has already been said: do not eat until all are served; ask for items to be passed and do not reach; use your napkin; do not slurp or talk with food in your mouth; children should ask to be excused once everyone is done, etc. But a big one for me is no cellphone, no texting at the table.

                                                                                                                                                        1. f
                                                                                                                                                          Fromageball Jul 13, 2009 07:42 AM

                                                                                                                                                          Oh I can't stand smacking. My children will not do that(don't have any yet). I want to run away covering my ears, too! What's odd though, is that I really wasn't taught strict table manners(and my family makes the smacking noises...arghhh) but I've never been able to stand that, my mom remembers me coming home from dinner at friends houses as a kid complaining that they chewed loudly with their mouths open. Gah, close your mouth!! It's disgusting!

                                                                                                                                                          1. alkapal May 6, 2009 05:33 AM

                                                                                                                                                            i take the floor to revise and extend my previous remarks on removing olive pits from one's mouth. i hereby defer to my chow-leagues who advised removing the pits with the same utensil (fork or spoon) that put the olive into the mouth. two old-time etiquette books i've recently consulted agree with this prescription.

                                                                                                                                                            20 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                              Bill Hunt May 6, 2009 08:05 PM

                                                                                                                                                              Thanks for that. In the middle of this thread, I encountered olives with pits at a rather formal dinner. "What the heck should I do?" I thought. For a moment, I was frozen - hand? Napkin? Spit towards a near-by table? Finally, I chose the napkin, and then quietly removed it to my appetizer plate. It worked, and not too many were aware of it. I looked about and saw every possible action, except spitting it at the near-by table. No one really had a plan either. Now, I know. Can I use my utensile as a catapult... ?


                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                                                racer x May 11, 2009 01:18 PM

                                                                                                                                                                Doncha know, Bill, well-mannered diners always swallow the pits. Same goes for watermelon seeds?
                                                                                                                                                                And it's good for the digestion.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: racer x
                                                                                                                                                                  Bill Hunt May 11, 2009 06:46 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  Had not considered that possibility. Maybe I will run it past my GI Dr. first though. [Grin]


                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                                                    alkapal May 14, 2009 10:17 AM

                                                                                                                                                                    i'd run it past the g.i. doctor before i ran it through my g.i. tract.

                                                                                                                                                                    but, otoh, i ain't swallowing any olive pit.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                                      Bill Hunt May 14, 2009 03:25 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      Good point. I don't want olive trees growing out my ears. My mama said that would happen, but with watermelon vines, if I swallowed any seeds.


                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                                                        Das Ubergeek May 26, 2009 08:11 PM

                                                                                                                                                                        No, Mr Hunt, that's how babies are created, remember? ("She looks like she swallowed a watermelon seed...")

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                                                                                                                          Bill Hunt May 27, 2009 09:47 PM

                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks. I had long since forgotten that phrase. Now much makes sense.


                                                                                                                                                              2. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                                OCAnn May 6, 2009 08:44 PM

                                                                                                                                                                Regardless of the offense, olive pit, cherry pit, bone piece, it usualy comes out the same way it goes in.

                                                                                                                                                                The funnest one--without a utensil catapult--are watermelon seeds. Best done outdoors.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                                  Sam Fujisaka May 11, 2009 07:00 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  Although I follow basic traditional manners, I 've also learned that in the US you need simply to act as an alpha male or female. Discretely take the olive pit out of your mouth by hand even when looking someone in the eye during a conversation. Your classic cut suit, tux, or gown combined with the rest of your manners and with your self-assuredness makes it impossible fro anyone thinking or even noticing that you may have done something less than perfect in terms of manners.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                                                                                    steve h. May 11, 2009 07:19 PM

                                                                                                                                                                    boat shoes, no socks, khaki trousers, button-down white oxford shirt, worn blue blazer will get you into the best places. a rolex on the wrist will let you get away with murder.

                                                                                                                                                                    funny how that works.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: steve h.
                                                                                                                                                                      Sam Fujisaka May 11, 2009 07:49 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      Exactly! You captured it better than me!

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                                                                                        jfood May 12, 2009 04:12 AM

                                                                                                                                                                        The worst part is the next time you wear the Blazer or Tux you find all those little pits and toothpicks in the side pocket from the last event.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                                                                                      ricepad May 11, 2009 08:59 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      I thought classic Alpha Male behavior might entail spitting said seed *AT* your companions while looking them squarely in the eye!

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ricepad
                                                                                                                                                                        chef2chef May 13, 2009 09:17 AM

                                                                                                                                                                        dont talk with food in your mouth, no elbows on the table always make sure and thank who ever cooked

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: chef2chef
                                                                                                                                                                          Chefpaulo Jul 10, 2009 06:45 AM

                                                                                                                                                                          I wholeheartedly agree with the thanking gesture but watch out for cultural nuances.

                                                                                                                                                                          My dad (a Philadelphian) was a house guest of a prominent Charleston, S.C. family and complimented the African-American cook on her superb biscuits. An icy stare from the hostess signalled a faux pas. Later, the host edified my dad on Southern manners in that only the hostess should be complimented and accolades may (or may not) be passed on to the cook.

                                                                                                                                                                          That was in 1949 and, hopefully, times allow more direct communication these days.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Chefpaulo
                                                                                                                                                                            pikawicca Jul 10, 2009 06:52 AM

                                                                                                                                                                            The only bad manners on display here is the host telling a guest that he had exhibited bad manners!

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                              alkapal Jul 10, 2009 08:11 AM


                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                Bill Hunt Jul 10, 2009 08:04 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                I agree with you. The faux pas was on the part of the hostess. Now, she might use this to instruct her children, but should have been a gracious hostess, and never corrected a guest. That just did not exhibit true Southern Charm, and as a Southerner, apologize for it, though belatedly.


                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                                                                                          betsydiver Jul 28, 2010 04:45 PM

                                                                                                                                                                          ewwwwww... at least cover your move with a napkln!

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: betsydiver
                                                                                                                                                                            alkapal Jul 28, 2010 08:11 PM

                                                                                                                                                                            to remove an olive pit? nah.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. Emme Apr 26, 2009 01:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                                        i was raised british, so i got the following:

                                                                                                                                                                        1) say please and thank you. always. more times than necessary.

                                                                                                                                                                        2) always look at the waiter when he or she is talking or you're talking to him

                                                                                                                                                                        3) if asked to pass the salt or pepper, don't use it then pass it. just pass it. if you didn't need it before the other person requested it, you can wait til they use it to use it yourself.

                                                                                                                                                                        4) chew with your mouth closed; you look like a cow chewing its cud

                                                                                                                                                                        5) this isn't so much table manners, as kitchen doings -- i reuse silverware, like the spoon i use to stir my tea

                                                                                                                                                                        12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Emme
                                                                                                                                                                          Bill Hunt Apr 30, 2009 10:11 PM

                                                                                                                                                                          Though I was raised Mississippian, I ascribe to all but #5. If I got it right, I do not reuse any utensile, whether cooking (if used to taste), or while dining. Maybe it's some sort of hangup, but if I have used the spoon for coffee and need one for my sherbert, etc., I will request another one. Usually, there are enough to handle most situations. If I missed the statement on #5, I apologize.

                                                                                                                                                                          Maybe GB and MS are not THAT far apart, after all. OK, don't tell any of your friends, as it would spoil everything for them... [Grin]


                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Emme
                                                                                                                                                                            jfood May 1, 2009 02:07 PM

                                                                                                                                                                            jfood born and raised in New Jersey.

                                                                                                                                                                            He agrees with #1-4 and disagrees with #5. There is another thread that has this same sub-thread. Utensils are used with a course and moved away with the dirty dishes.

                                                                                                                                                                            So there's another Dog with the Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jfood
                                                                                                                                                                              Emme May 1, 2009 07:03 PM

                                                                                                                                                                              no no not reuse within a meal -- yuck!

                                                                                                                                                                              if i have a cup of tea and stir it with a spoon, i'll rinse and reuse it later in the day again to stir tea rather than throwing it in the dishwasher. i'll leave my cup and spoon out.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Emme
                                                                                                                                                                                Bill Hunt May 1, 2009 07:59 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                Are we perhaps confusing home-use, with restaurant-use? They are not the same. At a restaurant, the utensiles should be cleared. At home, well it does not really matter. I also wash, by hand, and re-use. That option is not available in a fine-dining restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                                Maybe I am missing something really important here - sorry.


                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                                                                  Emme Mar 20, 2011 11:25 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                  a bit late on the clarifying i'm afraid, but #5 was really meant as an anecdoctal side note for home use. not talking about restaurants or even meals. we just use our spoon and tea cup throughout the day... we needn't use 6 of each per day. further, this is really amongst family. if you come over for dinner, i won't ration your utensils, i promise. you'll have separate, and clean i might add, ones for every course. they'll all get washed at the end.

                                                                                                                                                                                  and to agree in restaurant settings, please bring me a new one. i hate feeling like a dope asking for one. and i say feeling like a dope because i've had an alarming number of occasions where the person i have asked looks genuinely surprised and occasionally slightly miffed that i have done so... if you took it away, then...
                                                                                                                                                                                  funny side story on that. once was out with friends, and we requested silverware, as we had none when the next course arrived. the server said, "sure." then we sat. he returned 10 minutes later, saw we all had not touched our plates, and asked how things were. my friend said, "we don't know." the server asked why... and my friend said, " because we don't have any silverware, and you said you'd be right back." the server didn't miss a beat and said, "right on."

                                                                                                                                                                                  oh, another side peeve that isn't manners per se, but i hate when i request something from a server, and it doesn't come, so i will ask the server again. at which point, he or she says something like, "i told the busboy to do it. i don't know why he can't just..." please don't make me feel like i'm getting in the middle of your relationship with your co-staff.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Emme
                                                                                                                                                                                    alkapal Mar 21, 2011 07:24 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                    >>>>>"""" the server didn't miss a beat and said, "right on."""""<<<

                                                                                                                                                                                    oh yeah, well i'm gonna pass "right on" over your good tip!

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Emme
                                                                                                                                                                                      BobB Apr 29, 2011 09:41 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                      I can top that. We were trying out a new restaurant last week. After we'd been sitting for about 40 minutes after ordering with no food on the table, our server came by and asked us whether we'd received our starters yet! The fact that HE had to ask US I found a bit much.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Granted it was a crowded Saturday night, and apparently the kitchen uses runners to bring out some of the food in addition to the actual order-taking servers, but he could plainly see that there was no food on the table and our flatware was untouched.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: BobB
                                                                                                                                                                                        ChristinaMason Dec 1, 2011 08:26 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't quite see the issue. Maybe he thought you'd received your starters, eaten them, and then gotten new flatware for the next course?

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ChristinaMason
                                                                                                                                                                                          BobB Dec 2, 2011 08:49 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                          Theoretically possible, but he was our server, and the fact that he had not only provided us with no food, but was not even aware that we'd gotten no food after 40 minutes of waiting, was inexcusable.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Emme
                                                                                                                                                                                alwayscooking May 1, 2009 02:21 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                Raised with country manners in the wilds of Idaho and Washington . . .

                                                                                                                                                                                1) Absolutely
                                                                                                                                                                                2) Of course
                                                                                                                                                                                3) Pass the salt AND pepper together without using it first
                                                                                                                                                                                4) Doesn't even need to be stated although cows typically chew with mouths closed
                                                                                                                                                                                5) Separate utensils for every course & plate please - what would I do with them between?

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: alwayscooking
                                                                                                                                                                                  toodie jane Jul 31, 2010 10:24 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                  #5 --Yes! I hate it when plates are cleared but you are expected to retain a fork for later use.


                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: alwayscooking
                                                                                                                                                                                    Bill Hunt Aug 2, 2010 08:17 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                    "Separate utensils for every course & plate please - what would I do with them between?"

                                                                                                                                                                                    I could not agree more.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Just completed two fine-dining trips, back-to-back. In each, we dined on multi-course meals, with specialized utensils for each. I observed that each, used, or unused, was removed, and replaced, with zero hesitation. Good fashion!

                                                                                                                                                                                    I keep lecturing my country club of such, and they never seem to train the staff. If one wishes to indulge the diner with a "fine-dining" experience, more goes into it, than just charging more.

                                                                                                                                                                                    A pet-peeve of mine too. I do not reuse my utensils, unless I am at a diner, and then only with hesitation and protest. That is what dish washers are for.


                                                                                                                                                                                2. Sam Fujisaka Apr 23, 2009 03:44 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                  Regarding this thread: did anyone notice that the most amazing and hilarious description of someone's - his father's in this case - manners was posted by xorlonston. Xorlonston posted several times in the thread, but had not previously nor since posted. Either he was quite successfully leading us on or his father killed him.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                                                                                                    mshenna May 26, 2009 05:45 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                    And ate him.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                                                                                                      southernitalian Jul 10, 2009 06:53 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                      Again Sam, with the investigating. You're killing me! You're right up there with Lynnlato who can always spot a Charlotte restaurant owner trying to drum up some free press. LOVE it!

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. 1
                                                                                                                                                                                      1 dol fan Apr 23, 2009 10:04 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                      One thing that I think I may have been mistaught or have misperceived was that one should chew with their mouth closed or open as little as possible to avoid others viewing your food in a chewed form and to minimize the noise that comes from the chewing of your food.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. s
                                                                                                                                                                                        sidwich Dec 5, 2008 05:19 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                        We were raised by by a pack of wild animals!

                                                                                                                                                                                        But seriously, one or both of my parents were in residency while my brother and I were growing up and I'm not sure they actually taught us anything about table manners. (To this day, my mother cannot chew with her mouth closed. CAN NOT.)

                                                                                                                                                                                        Mostly we learned through absorption and the rule of thumb that if you didn't do anything too disgusting at the table and treated others as you wished to be treated, you were probably doing okay.

                                                                                                                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sidwich
                                                                                                                                                                                          dumas Dec 21, 2008 02:32 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                          Interesting thread and loads of good reminders here, but also some confusing points.

                                                                                                                                                                                          So now I wonder if anyone knows who is considered the final arbiter of table manners (at least in the U.S.) these days??

                                                                                                                                                                                          Is it Amy Vanerbilt? Emily Post? Miss Manners...? I'm not up to date on this and if anyone knows, please share!

                                                                                                                                                                                          And one more point, is it just me or do others mind too when men and boys show up at restaurants to dine and don't remove their ball caps? It absolutely drives me crazy!

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: dumas
                                                                                                                                                                                            KevinB Dec 22, 2008 01:35 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                            My parents told me more than once that the essence of good manners was to never unintentionally cause offence. Thought that was a pretty good rule of thumb.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I like Miss Manners, but that's probably because she's wittier than Vanderbilt or Post. But seriously, are there any areas where they are in disagreement?

                                                                                                                                                                                            As to the caps.. they don't bother me at fast food joints, but at any place that has serving staff, I think they should come off - and that includes Pizza Hut and the like. You reminded me of that great line from "The Philadelphia Story" where Jimmy Stewart asks Cary Grant what Kate Hepburn's character was like. Staring fixedly at the fedora on Stewart's head, Grant replies "She has a horror of men who wear their hats in the house". I've seen that movie at least ten times, and it always cracks me up.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: dumas
                                                                                                                                                                                              alkapal Jan 17, 2009 11:44 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                              the hat thing is bothersome. i think a lot of these folks are clue-less! (are manners taught in school? or is it now politically incorrect to "impose one's 'culturally-myopic -- and undoubtedly euro-centric (and therefore inherently suspect, neo-imperialistic and insensitive) own view of what is 'proper and correct' upon another?

                                                                                                                                                                                              i'll bet that's what school administrators believe.... and i'm so tired of the malarkey like this.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                                                                mshenna Jan 18, 2009 03:51 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                I've always thought, especially when the offender is a man over 35, that he is going bald & thinks he'll look younger & presumably hairier with it on. Dead giveaway.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Guys out there (no one on this board, of course, but shall remember to spread it around): we're on to you. And if that isn't why you have it on, you won't want us to think that, will you?

                                                                                                                                                                                                Don't know what would dissuade teenage boys -- perhaps "you'll look like your balding Dad"?

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mshenna
                                                                                                                                                                                                  alkapal Jan 18, 2009 05:46 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                  what seals the "i'm losing my hair" conclusion: baseball cap AND ponytail! ;-).

                                                                                                                                                                                                  it was just this new year's day at our fave indian buffet lunch when the two young men next to our table never removed their hats. they also stacked their new buffet plates on top of their old ones, rather than waiting for the server to remove. they also stuffed their mouths. the single female with them didn't bat an eye.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. steve h. Dec 4, 2008 02:51 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                            elbows off the table. sit up straight. sunday dinner was serious business.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: steve h.
                                                                                                                                                                                              OCAnn Dec 5, 2008 09:41 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                              And the other six days of the week?

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Bill Hunt Dec 3, 2008 05:00 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                              Your general statments reflect what I was taught. However, in prep for an international appointment, my director of protocol called me on the "other hand in the lap." Her instructions were that both hands should be visible at all times, when dining in the UK/Europe. It seems that this tradition stemmed from rather ancient times, when the host could never tell if a guest was hiding a dagger in the "hidden" hand. She was adamant on this - keep both hands visible at all times. It went against almost everything that I had been taught. She did NOT advocate elbows on the table, but forearms at the wrist.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Over the decades, I've observed the "hands visible" in genteel company abroad. While I am not saying that she was correct 100%, but she seems to have been in the vast majority of UK/European diners.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Now, with soup, it should always be eaten by moving the spoon away from the diner, and then lifting. Never with the spoon drawn towards the diner. The bowl may never be tilted. If the soup cannot be emptied, no matter how good, that is life. Sometimes, it pains me to leave soup, that IS good, and I cannot get to, without tilting the bowl. That is usually when I ask for the recipe.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Just an observation, and a lesson learned,


                                                                                                                                                                                              PS my protocol director's father was an ambassador and her late husband a high-ranking State Department person.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                                                                                Sherri Dec 3, 2008 06:17 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                "Now, with soup, it should always be eaten by moving the spoon away from the diner, and then lifting. Never with the spoon drawn towards the diner. The bowl may never be tilted. If the soup cannot be emptied, no matter how good, that is life. Sometimes, it pains me to leave soup, that IS good, and I cannot get to, without tilting the bowl. That is usually when I ask for the recipe."

                                                                                                                                                                                                As young children we were taught, "first my boat goes out to sea, then I bring it back to me" to reinforce the soup spoon rule. Today, I cannot spoon soup without (silently) remembering this rhyme.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. r
                                                                                                                                                                                                racer x Nov 25, 2008 06:55 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                Weeding out old newspapers in the closet the other day, I came across a 5-year-old article from the New York Times on "How to Set the Table, and Why: The Short Course." In the section of the article in which the placement of the bread & butter plate and butter knife are discussed, the author avers:
                                                                                                                                                                                                "Though butter is never served at a formal dinner or banquet and bread is optional, Thanksgiving is different. Aunt Alice may have made pumpkin bread, or Uncle Brent may have brought biscuits or cornbread, so the bread plate is useful."

                                                                                                                                                                                                I was surprised by claim that butter is never served at a formal dinner or banquet. I know that in France and Italy they do not serve butter for bread at the table. But I've been to many formal meals in the States over the years, and this was the first I ever heard that serving butter is verboten at a formal dinner or banquet.


                                                                                                                                                                                                10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: racer x
                                                                                                                                                                                                  queencru Nov 26, 2008 06:54 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Weird. I always thought butter was normal in the US. Don't most people here expect butter with bread? It seems strange that we'd always get butter in a restaurant but not serve it at a formal dinner/banquet. I am pretty sure most weddings/formal dinners I've attended all had the butter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: racer x
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Caroline1 Dec 4, 2008 02:28 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                    A response a couple of weeks later... Oh well, better than no response at all! '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                    According to custom, a "formal" dinner table NEVER includes a bread plate or butter knife. They are only used for what is called an "informal" table setting. But bread is often served at formal dinners, but you set the bread (usually in the form of a dinner roll) directly on the tablecloth when it is passed, usually by staff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I've never heard of butter being banned at a formal dinner. Older formal sterling flatware service from the days when individual place settings offered as many as twenty or more pieces for a hostess to choose from for table settings, there were special service forks, usually with three tines similar to Neptune's triton, but sometime with just a single spiral twisted tine that were used as "butter forks". They were used to take a butter curl from a tray of chipped ice piled with them, and the butter fork/spear went with the butter curls.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Personally, I always decline bread at a formal dinner simply because for me, putting crumbs on the table cloth is like fingernails on a blackboard. But then, that's why those little crumb trays with brushes are made. The butler (or somebody like that) sweeps the tablecloth before dessert is served.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Life with more than a three piece flatware setting was be interesting! Sometimes confusing, but then you just tried to hold out and not be the first one to pick up a fork when you didn't know which one to use. I think that's where the saying originated, "All things come to him who waits.". And hopefully your food didn't get cold. '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Bill Hunt Dec 4, 2008 02:50 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      We have spent much of our married life searching for less-ornate (think Scandinavian, or Modern Italian designs here) flatware patterns, that offer a rather full range of flatware. Now, I'm not talking quite as full a set, as you allude to, but with fish knives, lobster-forks, etc. I'd guess that the right 12-14 pieces would work, not counting the various service pieces. So far, best that we have been able to do is piece similar-looking pieces together.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Now, if we wished for a full set of very ornate antique flateware, we've seen a few dozen sets in shops on Magazine & Royal Streets in New Orleans. Same types of sets at Thomas Goode's in London, Mayfair.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'd love to see some more contemporary designer take it upon themselves to do a "full-boat" set. I just wish that we both liked the ornate sets, but that is just not our style. Maybe one day...

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Now, I have never encountered the "bread on the table," and have attended several formal dinners (white tie/tails and in a few royal palaces). I know that I would have noticed that. Interesting. I guess that I just *thought* I'd attended formal dinners. Must be another level above, and people, such as I, are never invited. I'm sure that those folk would know what to do with the bread, while I would be holding it, and looking around (after admonishing the server, "what the heck you doing there sport?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                      As always, I learn something new every day!



                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                                                                                        pikawicca Dec 4, 2008 04:11 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        France does really strange things with bread. You get a plate and butter for breakfast, but at lunch and dinner, you get neither. You just plunk your bread down on the tablecloth. This seems very odd in a 3-star restaurant where you're surrounded by crisp linens and sterling that extends to a chicken drumstick holder!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Caroline1 Dec 5, 2008 12:08 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Bill, I recently bought this set of stainless from overstock.com:http://tinyurl.com/5qq7j4
                                                                                                                                                                                                          The pictures do not do it justice! It is continental size, though some of the place pieces are smaller than I had expected, such as the cake forks and the teaspoons, but the dinner and fish knives and forks are pretty standard continental size. I especially like the depth of the cream soup spoons. My sole regret is that there are no cocktail forks, but my escargot forks coordinate well, and as long as there aren't more than six of us, I'm there!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          BergHoff is a German company, that reportedly was a great favorite of Hitler. I had never heard of them before buying this flatware, but their workmanship is excellent. I would rank it at least on a par with my Wallace stainless, and maybe a small cut above.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          As for bread plates and formal place settings, I was taught how to set a table for any and all occasions way way back when I was in junior high, and no bread plates in a formal table setting was drummed into us! I've just checked about a half dozen websites on formal place settings, and they ALL show a bread plate and butter spreader! I suspect a marketing plot by china manufacturers. The more usage, the more breakage, the more sales! '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Bill Hunt Dec 5, 2008 05:05 AM


                                                                                                                                                                                                            Thank you for that link. These do have nice clean lines. I'll check into them more. These might well work, and I appreciate the reference.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Hey, remember that this "old school table manners," and some of us might have been exposed to concepts that pre-date the advent of the "china producer's lobby!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Still, you pose an interesting concept. As I said above, had I found myself in that situation, I'd have definitely looked to my host/hostess to see what was happening, after I got over my shock, that is.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I like to think that I know my way around knives, spoons and forks, and have found myself amidst a dizzying array of them on occasion. That's when I start watching very closely. Still, some ascribe to the view that the flatware should only be present for its intended course. I've seen it both ways.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Once, when served a bowl of cioppino, I was given about six implements. Obviously, the fork and the semi-soup spoon made sense. The others were totally foreign to me. They looked neat, but even watching my host handle them, I could not tell what part of the stew he was using them on. I wish that I had been able to flag down a friendly server and quietly ask, “what am I supposed to do with THIS?” I ended up poking a few of these around, like I knew what I was doing and just faking it. Though it was probably clearly evident to my host, that I was a rube, he did not point me out to the table, as such. That shows me that HE had good manners. I’d still love to find some of these items in a catalog with a full description of their use. I think I’d know my way around a tray in a neurosurgery suite, than these. Maybe the host was just playing a joke on the guests?


                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                                                                                                              OCAnn Dec 5, 2008 09:46 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                              They're lovely C! Where are they made? And how do they feel in the hand--are they nice & heavy, but not heavy & cheap?

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Thank you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: OCAnn
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Caroline1 Dec 5, 2008 01:55 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                They're made in Gemany, well balanced, and very well polished and formed. I don't find anything "cheap" about them. The most striking thing for me is that the cake forks and mocha spoons are smaller than I expected, a the fish knives and forks a tad larger. I think my favorite pieces are the individual butter spreaders. There is a nice selection of service pieces as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I do a lot of shopping with overstock.com, and the thing I really like about them is that returns are hassle free. I'll share an interesting tale about overstock.com.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                This year I made new flatware a priority. My old set started out as service for 12 many years ago, and through the years 4 kids and countless housekeepers diminished the numbers. I needed new stuff! So I ordered a service for 12 continental size Wallace pattern from Overstock. When it arrived, it had 23 dinner forks, knives, soup and teaspoons and ONE (1!) dinner knife! So I called Overstock and explained the problem. They said they would send 11 dinner knives immediately, and the overages on the other pieces were mine to keep. They emailed a tracking number. Nothing came. When I checked the tracking number, it said they had been delivered! Not to me, they weren't! So I called Overstock again, and they said they had been having trouble with that shipper and they would send again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Instead, I got an email saying the warehouse was empty, they refunded my money for the Wallace flatware and told me that what I had already received was mine to keep, thanks for shopping with them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                So I called Wallace to see if I could buy the missing knives. They shipped them to me at no cost. So in the end, I have a beautiful set of Wallace stainless steel flatware with service for 23 in most pieces and 12 dinner knives, all gratis! Am I a happy camper! A special occasion was coming up fast while I was waiting for the knives, so that's when I bought the BergHoff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I used it with my Mikasa "Persian Red" bone china for Thanksgiving, and it set a lovely table. As I said, if you order it and don't like it, returns are not a problem. The packaging when it arrives is interesting: It comes in a "briefcase" with a lock, and packed in several fitted layers inside. The Wallace just came in plastic sleeves in a cardboard box...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  OCAnn Dec 5, 2008 03:15 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Thank you for the info! I too have used Overstock and found the returns hassle-free. However, many of the items I've purchased (linens) were from China. (I'm avoiding Chinese-made products when possible.) In any case, it didn't even occur to me to shop there for flatware...so thank you! =)

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                                                                                                                decolady Aug 30, 2010 06:41 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                We got the "no bread plates" in junior high home ec, too. But the first time I ever ran into that in practice was in France when I went in 1975.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. c
                                                                                                                                                                                                          CocoaNut Nov 21, 2008 07:26 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I was taught the same as you by my southern family. Scrolling through the thread I saw "no reaching across the table". That, and only cut 3 bites of meat at one time and also, when passing food around the table, it should be passed to the right.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. j
                                                                                                                                                                                                            jarona Nov 18, 2008 10:55 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Let's see...my sisters and I were not allowed to come to the dinner table with our hair in rollers (as someone else stated--we were of the large, straighten your hair rollers), nor were we allowed to bring reading material to the table--EVER--that was a huge pet-peeve of my dad's. We had to chew with our mouth closed, elbows off the table, and we had to ask to be excused. Those were the manners we had to follow--what we didn't do was speak softly because I come from a very large Irish family in which we needed to yell to be heard..so although we may have been well-mannered in some areas--we were just a bunch of tinkers in others! Slainte!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jarona
                                                                                                                                                                                                              foodslut Nov 20, 2008 12:00 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                              My parents were strict. We ALWAYS had to sit when eating (to this day, the sight of toddlers running around while eating makes me crazy) and learned to use a knife and fork (fork in left hand, no switching) at a very young age. No hats at the table, ever. We were not allowed anything but water (and later wine) with dinner. Milk and juice were for breakfast only. At formal dinners, we spoke only when spoken to and had to sit for the duration of the meal. No elbows on the table, no chewing with mouths open, were standard. We also had set mealtimes: breakfast, a 10 o'clock recess snack at school, lunch, a small cookie/fruit right after school, then dinner. Otherwise, the kitchen was closed and off limits. To this day I'm shocked at my in-laws raiding the fridge in the middle of the night.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. hypertomatoes Nov 18, 2008 09:58 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Fascinating thread!

                                                                                                                                                                                                              My ex and his family had the absolutely WORST table manners you can imagine - so bad that I ran out of excuses when asked to dine with them. A bit surprising that they couldn't conduct themselves properly at the dinner table...seeing as they ran with high society. Even worse is that they didn't tip! Ever! $400.00 meals at exclusive restaurants with impeccable service and not a dime for the waitstaff!

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Anyways. Maybe I'm mistaken, but I haven't seen anyone post about not licking your fingers?! I find it as gross as lip-smacking and slurping.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: hypertomatoes
                                                                                                                                                                                                                pikawicca Dec 3, 2008 05:50 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                They NEVER tip? Be glad that he's your ex! That's way worse than lip-smacking and slurping.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. m
                                                                                                                                                                                                                mpepper72 Nov 2, 2008 11:44 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                When invited for dinner (and I know there was a piece published on this), I was taught to ask if I could bring something, thinking a side, salad or dessert would be requested.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                When invited over to my boyfriend's parent's house for dinner (they were having steaks), we asked. The mom's reply, "bring your own steak and beer". Is that rude or am I loosing my mind?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mpepper72
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  nkeane Nov 2, 2008 02:40 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If she was being serious, thats unbelievably rude. But it sounds as if she was just being playfully crass......but then again you know her better then I do. Thats something I would say to a good friend or family member, completely joking of course!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mpepper72
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    LA Buckeye Fan Dec 2, 2008 04:22 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I have a friend who has a house with a big pool. As a result the summer get togethers are always at her house. We have a summer of bring your own protein to grill and a side dish to share. This way she doesn't always have to foot the bill for being the hostess. My friend invited a new neighbor to join us once, who whispered to me that she thought it was rude to bring your own protein and If you can't afford to entertain, then only entertain when you can. Needless to say, she didn't need to worry about what protein next time. Some rules are meant to be broken. Oh and my father's favorite pet peeve...you bring your drink up to you...you don't go down to your drink....as I just lowered my head down to the straw in my Shirley Temple.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. scc48 Aug 8, 2008 09:57 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    what never fails to irritate me without fail is when people get up from a table and scrape it rather than lift it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    the sound it makes is enough to make me feel really angry...and unfortunatly i live above a woman who does exactly that from morning till night and it drives me to despair.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    now to be fair i have a set of drums which are set up directly above her living room and i can only imagine the frustration my drumming causes her?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    but according to her it doesn't bother her which amazes me.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    but perhaps it shows i am less tolerant and long suffering than she is.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    for the first time in 8 years i stamped down on the floor when she dragged her chair a few minutes ago...i'm hoping she will figure out that i'm indirectly trying to communicate a message in that i am finding her chair scraping habits hard to endure.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    i have put up with that kind of nusiance for decades in my previous homes and my patience is wearing thin.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    this is one of the long standing problems created by man.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    the fact that humans are forced to in high rise flats under and above each other, makes it inevitable that people will unintentionally get on each others nerves.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    believe me even with the best will in the world to be tolerant and long suffering towards one another, sometimes all it takes is a simple scaping of chairs across floors, to make one become angry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: scc48
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Bite Me Nov 2, 2008 01:01 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      We put felt pads on the bottom of our dining room chairs so that when you pull them out from the table they are quiet and they don't scratch the floor. Maybe you could find those at the hardware store and put them on for her. Anyone who doesn't complain about a drum kit over her head is either a saint or deaf!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. HillJ Apr 25, 2008 01:33 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      No singing? Holy cow....you would have hated my childhood. SINGING was a requirement. As a matter of fact, your god given talent was shared at the dinner table. Poem reading, singing, eye rolling, laughter!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I suppose if your entire family has the same manners, they are good manners!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My kids must sing, laugh and if that's considered bad form by some--lighten up and eat!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: HillJ
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        lynnlato Dec 5, 2008 03:37 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        My whole family - all four of us - will bust out in a chair dance session usually started off by my 7 yr old son. We always have music playing, it's a requirement. Pap-Pap would be shaking his wooden spoon if he saw us!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: lynnlato
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          HillJ Apr 23, 2009 06:45 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Gosh, I wish I had seen your reply back in Dec.! I was beginning to think we were the only family of music lovers! If my house is quiet, there is usually trouble of some sort. Sing, laugh, dance but silence-no thank you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: HillJ
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            lynnlato Apr 23, 2009 12:10 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            LOL! I was just laughing to see this thread still out there and alive. Then saw your comment. Yep, if the house is quiet people are either sleeping or up to no good. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: lynnlato
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              HillJ Apr 23, 2009 12:13 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Good to "see" you lynnlato. It's always nice to find a comrade on CH!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'm still enjoying your blog.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: HillJ
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                lynnlato Apr 23, 2009 03:37 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Likewise, HillJ. Glad you're still tuning in.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. EWSflash Apr 20, 2008 09:45 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It amazes me that there are people out there who were never told-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        close your mouth while chewing, no clanking spoons and forks, no sucking air between your teeth, no nose blowing, no slurping, etc. Mouth noises make me want to gag and ruin the meal for me. I don't much care how you hold your utensils, or at least I can live with your choice as long as you don't make those damn mouth noises! That goes for nose noises, too, and we have us some bad hay fever at this house. No mercy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And for crying out loud, don't say anything about how much or little food I'm eating! Don't you have your own meal to eat???

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Halie Apr 18, 2008 11:25 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          my parents always told me that if I had bad manners and was invited to the white house, the president would send me away.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Halie
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Mawrter May 4, 2009 10:03 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Hee, must be one of those parenting universals... we are always telling our little Chowpup to pretend he is at the White House using his Very Best Table Manners. Then we debate whether we are eating with Sasha and Malia, or whether we are all heads of state eating with the grown-ups.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I sincerely hope that whoever said manners are more or less set by age 5 is extremely wrong. Our little guy still can't manage all sorts of refinements that we fully expect him to attain by adulthood. It's just silly, not to mention dispiriting, to harp on about where the tines of the fork go and how the napkin should be folded when the kid is still working on eating soup without the use of fingers. Children develop at all different rates -fine motor skills, socially, etc.- and I don't think it's even close to reasonable to expect everyone to be on the same, rather formal, page by kindergarten.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Mawrter
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              OCAnn May 5, 2009 08:51 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I believe manners can continue to develop well into adulthood: an embarrassing situation or moment can be a great teacher.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: OCAnn
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                mshenna May 26, 2009 05:34 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Well, yes. After an unfortunate incident in my early 20s at a Chinese restaurant, involving a lobster claw in a slippery sauce, me insisting on using chopsticks & the lobster claw sailing off the plate & into the v of my black v-necked top, where it hung, suspended & swaying gently, until I could stop laughing long enough to retrieve it ... after that, I learned not to be so pretentious or at least to practice in private first. But in all seriousness, learning better habits as an adult or a child is really just a matter of paying attention -- & if at age 5 you are able to get your food from your plate into your mouth without being (a) disgusting or (b) too messy, you have the basics down.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mshenna
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  pikawicca May 26, 2009 05:51 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My junior year in high school, our French club earned money to take us all out to dinner at the upscale Le Bistro in D.C. I ordered L'Escargots. Was presented with these weird little things and tongs, with a little fork. Managed to grasp a shell with the tongs, but as I was attempting to extract the snail, the tongs slipped and the shell flew across the room onto the bosom of a haughty matron. Biggest culinary gaffe of my life (thank god).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    mshenna May 26, 2009 06:57 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Is it wrong that I laughed so loudly at this? My co-workers think so. Thanks -- I needed that tonight.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      alkapal May 27, 2009 02:40 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      pikawicca, i laughed, too. hey, i know those shells can be very slippery!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Mawrter Jul 30, 2009 07:56 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Holy cow, Pika - what a moment. I can actually empathize, though, because I did something similar -but not the same- at about the same age.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I was out with my family at a fancy restaurant that had a bi-level dining room - the better to exploit the view of the creek outside. (See link below for photo of new resto in same location.) I was wearing a dress with a cummerbund that was originally too loose. My mom re-did the hooks for me. I was still growing, though, and I hadn't worn it for a season or two, so the cummerbund was pretty tight.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        We ate. Heartily. By the time dessert was through the cummerbund was *really* tight. I was okay, though, sitting up as straight as possible, sucking in my stomach - and hey, you're supposed to sit up straight with your gut in *anyhow*, right? All good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Then someone said something hilarious and I burst out laughing - and "burst" is really the right word, because that's just what happened. I popped right out of the cummerbund and the little hook FLEW clear across the room, over the table of an older couple and plopped right into the man's plate. I was mortified, my family was hysterical -- but even worse was the thought that the poor man might *ingest* the metal hook. So we appointed my dad with the mission of discreetly slipping over to their table to make sure the man didn't eat it. The man had the last laugh, though, because before my dad made it over to their table, he'd already scooped up the hook, wiped it off with his napkin, and arrived at our table. He offered the hook to me with the absolute most deadpan, "I believe this is yours, young lady?". I don't think the etiquette books cover this one, but I did manage to choke out "Thank you. I beg your pardon!" before practically crawling under the table with embarrassment. Fortunately 1) the man didn't die, 2) he & his wife thought it was funny, and 3) we left after that.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: mshenna
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        thew May 30, 2009 08:28 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        i'm almost 50 and those are my criteria.....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. p
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  pengcast Apr 18, 2008 09:53 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  We had pretty strict rules at my house. We were taught the fork in left hand rule and no switching. When I grew up and was fortunate enough to get invited to a few state dinners (I had a friend in the protocol office) as a seat filler, I was very happy that my parents had been so strict with us. Because they were several people who clearly did not know many of the most obvious points of etiquette.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I am trying hard to do the same with my darling son, but not nealy as succesfully.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: pengcast
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    KevinB Apr 19, 2008 10:28 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Pengcast, I completely agree with you. I went to one of the most exclusive and oldest boys' schools in Canada (it celebrates its 180th anniversary next year), and while I brown-bagged it the first two years, for my last two years, I was on the cafeteria plan (pay one price, load up your plate, come back as often as you want - for a growing boy, my parents thought this was a bargain!). I was appalled by the table manners of many of my peers: chewing or laughing with their mouths open and full of food, never asking for anything to be passed, but just standing and grabbing, attacking their meat with such lustiness one might have thought they were decapitating voles rather than transferring nourishment to their mouths, waving knife and fork around as they spoke, etc. I am no longer surprised when I hear there's a thriving business in teaching grown-up executives proper table etiquette - these boys were supposed to the sons of Canada's most rich and powerful, and they behaved as if they had been raised by stevedores.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: KevinB
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Das Ubergeek Dec 29, 2008 02:17 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I realise this post is eight-plus months old... but when I was at boarding school in Switzerland it was full board (of course), and some of the things we were told to do by the staff were very different. We had to file in and sit down, then stand immediately back up as one and recite "Bénissez-nous, Seigneur, ainsi que la nourriture que nous allons prendre...", then sit down again as one. We were only allowed to sip our drinks after each few bites ("ça aide la digestion") and had to wait for the proviseur (I guess he would be called the "dean" in English) to pick up his utensil before we could begin to serve ourselves. If any of the teachers stood up, we all had to stop eating, set our utensils down, and stand up until they'd left the room (or had sat back down).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Eating American-style (with fork in right hand and utensil-switching) was called "manger à la barbare" and was forbidden, and if you dropped food on yourself you were sent immediately -- whether you were done or not -- back to the dormitory to change. (The horror of the call of "TOI, retourne à l'internat!" resounds still in my head.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Then if dishes needed to be refilled (the pots of chocolate in the morning stand out) we were to raise them above our heads. I thought it was the rudest possible thing to do, but time erased it from my mind until the first time I went to dim sum and someone held up the tea pot for refill, and held up the bill for totting up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Yet because our parents were only allowed to call during meal times, there would be continual announcements over the tannoy of "Becky Perkins, cabine deux," "Jean Lafontaine, cabine quatre," "Lise Beaulieu, cabine cinq," etc. If you were new to French you learned VERY quickly what your name sounded like when read by the unapologetically monolingual telephone operator and the numbers une, deux, trois, quatre, cinq and six, and you learned to have a very quick conversation so your food would not have been cleared away when you returned.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Bill Hunt Dec 30, 2008 06:05 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        That sounds like a wonderfully formal education. Considering that the location was in Europe, I can understand most of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The cup above the head eludes me, but I guess one had to be there to fully understand. I can imagine the possibility of scaldings and such, but maybe it is not as I envision.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Some aspects do translate to my upbringing, especially all diners waiting until someone is served. For me, that is all of the ladies at the table, especially the hostess. No "headmasters" for me, but maybe I just missed too much.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It's the same, as people are joining the table. I stand, until the last lady is seated, especially if I am hosting the table, or the even. This does get to be a bit of a hassle, on occasion, as some of the ladies are "working the room," my lovely wife included. Still, until they are all seated, I feel obligated to stand in their attendance. It also makes moving their chairs back and helping them be seated, much easier, should no other gentleman be available.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks for sharing your experiences. It is always nice to learn different takes on things that we too often take for granted.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Das Ubergeek Dec 31, 2008 07:53 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Ah, I think I was unclear -- we were served from communal platters set on the table, so if a platter was empty (or a pitcher of chocolate), we held the empty platter or pitcher above our heads so that the staff would come take it and refill it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Bill Hunt Dec 31, 2008 04:10 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Most probably I missed your statement and my imagination ran wild. I see what you are speaking of now. I had visions of one holding an empty cup/mug above their heads, and an underclassman pouring, while the vessel was still raised. I could imagine "payback!" Thanks for the clarification. It now sounds much safer.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    allie_in_wonderland Apr 16, 2008 05:15 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I was brought up to sit straight, chew with your mouth closed, do not start eating until everyone is served, etc...pretty much the basics.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I think my mom had it rough. Her grandfather was Jewish and sometimes insisted on six-hour services when they were eating. My mother said only her grandmother was allowed to leave the table during this, to heat up the food that had gone cold during his sermon!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    19 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: allie_in_wonderland
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      anthrochick Apr 17, 2008 03:06 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This is a very interesting post, I love reading all the threads. I was raised with with the same rules as most of the US-born posters - And I am grateful that my parents gave my brother and me such good lessons- I can go anywhere and feel comfortable with all the appropriate table manners.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My question is how do other posters (nicely) deal with hubands/SO's who have manners that just grate on your nerves? I hate to be a nag to mine, but my 60 yr old, very educated SO has manners that make me shudder and cringe! And yet, he thinks his sons' manners are terrible ( they are!) but not his! He uses his elbow as a resting post, eats soooo fast (wolfs it down before others are even served), shovels it in, takes part in ablsolutely no conversation, and then takes his napkin off his lap and puts it on his empty plate...and moves the whole thing to the edge of the table. This happens at home, at relatives' homes, and in restaurants. I think his colleagues and English boss may notice this lack of manners. Since many of the posters on this thread seem to have the standard strict manners I have, do you all have partners that have the same?? If not, how ( or did) you cope/grow accustomed to? I don't want to be a nag, BUT.....it grates on my Emily Post nerve! Any suggestions from other Mannered CHs?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: anthrochick
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        xorlonston Apr 18, 2008 05:07 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I think that most people's habits are ingrained for life by the time they reach five years of age. I have bad habits of my own which I wish to change, but as all know, it's pretty hard. I once read a book that true habit change takes about 30-60 days of constant daily attention to truly work.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        In the case of your SO and my father, they just don't see the issue. Does your SO notice that his eating habits make you cringe and have you mentioned it to him? In the case of my father, I've mentioned it to him many, many times but he just doesn't see it as an issue. I daresay he'll be a happy dogbowler until the end of his days. The only way I can cope when we eat together is force myself to think intensely about something else and block out the noise of juicy mastication. Good luck to you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: xorlonston
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          anthrochick Apr 18, 2008 09:43 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          xorlonston, An interesting thing happened last night over dinner, as i was trying to use your advice and think about something pleasant while overlooking the super-quick dog -bowling of said SO. In the minute that we had together before he scarfed down his food and burbed, I told him of this thread. We then had this very interesting conversation of our parents' table manners & rules....they were identical! Identical! All the same nice manners! I was purposely subtle in the telling of my family's etiquette, and of the many posts on this thread....trying to be kind....as I have raised this topic with him before and he has gotten hurt feelings and has said I acted morally superior ( that is true). It was very interesting to see that he had been raised with the exact same rules. But somewhere along the adulthood route, he dropped them. I don't think he realizes how rude/crass his habits are to people, my family or me. He is very educated and worldy, but these eating habits make him look like a gross, inconsiderate oaf. And I am left eating alone with no conversation. When we are with other people, it is even more akward. Just wondered how anyone else dealt with this issue????

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: anthrochick
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            xorlonston Apr 20, 2008 08:54 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I can fully appreciate your pain, anthrochick. As an adult now, I only have to visit my parents every once in a while, but you have to eat 2~3 square meals with your SO every single day.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I have of course, directly confronted my father about his eating habits, and like most people under direct attack, he just shut his brain down. A friend of mine suggested that unless I phrased in a way which seemed like I was trying to help him, and not overtly express my disgust, he would not change. That's certainly good advice. It's like trying convert an enemy to an ally: you certainly wouldn't say "You'd better be my friend or I'll kill you." That'd only harden them up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Some of the explanations offered to me by my father include, "Well, I'm relaxed at home, so I'll eat the way I want. If you don't like it, get out. This is my house [Yes, pop, it certainly is. And you plan never to have houseguests again you are more than welcome to continue to act in this puerile fashion.]. When I eat in public, I have great manners!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            What he doesn't realize is that laxity in table manners at home spreads like a decay until he is doing the exact same things in public: chewing with his mouth open, upending unfinished food from plates and bowls into his mouth, vacuuming food in with the dreaded slurping action, and coughing over other people's plates with turning his head and covering his mouth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The man in SO intelligent, I figured that I could appeal to logic. So the other day we did meet up in public for a meal, and he of course coughed about 20 times over all the food on the table. After the other guests had gone to the restroom, I told him quietly, "Dad. Please consider this. Coughs carry germs around, yes? So wouldn't it make good sense, would it not be logical that if you covered your mouth when coughing and turned your head in a direction facing away from other guests and the food on the table there would be less germs spread about?" He just harrumphed and continued his normal habits and coughing up a storm--on our food no less. Insufferable!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Good luck to us both, anthrochick.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: xorlonston
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              soupkitten Apr 20, 2008 09:21 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              get him on camera. sometimes people just *won't* realize how they look to others until they see it themselves. "omg do i really chew like that? is that really the sound of my slurping and belching?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              i also think that people who rudely hoover their food have adapted to scarfing while everybody else at the table is having a polite conversation (i'm thinking of my kid brother here). and it's only natural that other diners ignore the slurping grunting person at the table and talk amongst themselves "ah yes, maribelle, aren't we just, too-too civilized, we'd never mention, well, you know. . ." but it's kind of the duty of the other diner(s) to engage in conversation that forces the oafish person to slow down and respond (hopefully bothering to swallow and speak without his/her mouth full). eating in silence, or having a conversation which excludes the messy eater while trying to ignore the bad manners, may actually make it worse.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                curiousbaker Apr 20, 2008 11:43 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I tend to eat quickly, far too quickly sometimes for decent manners. My brother can do the same, although we both try to slow down. But growing up, there was a lot of tension in the house, and dinner was the worst time. We were allowed to be excused after we had finished eating, mostly because our father ate so slowly, it would have been cruel and unusual to make us wait for him to finish. (He could easily spend an hour and a half on a sandwich and cup of soup). So we learned that by eating as fast as possible, we could get away from the drama as fast as possible. Even now, it's hard not to rush, and any sort of friction at a meal will speed me up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: xorlonston
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                anthrochick Apr 20, 2008 03:17 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                xorlonston, I think you have it worse than I! Wow! I feel YOUR pain now. My SO doesn't slurp or farmer -clutch or cough on food. To your point, I have tried a few times to be "helpful" to my SO, but I must have done a pitiful job...it came off badly. He felt condescended to and said I had a moral superioriority. He didnt see it as helpful or necessary. I don't know if he doesn't see his manners as poor/needing improvement, or he just doesn't see good manners as important. Hmm... I actually think it is both. He eschews many "civilized" things as unimportant /frivolous...yet he takes his sons to task for their poor table manners. I almost wish I could be so rude myself and say, "what happened to the good manners your parents taught you? You have lapsed into oafdom!"...but that would be unkind, rude, and mean ( but i sure would like to be so straightforward).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Maybe I should take SoupKitten's tip to video him , under the guise of some other occasion? He might Get It. ( After all, he does criticicize his 2 sons' poor manners....including their dog-bowling...and blames it on his ex-wife's refusal to give any training to them, of course.) If he doesn't Get it, I would be loath to point out any ill manners in said video...and would have to come up with another CH plan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: anthrochick
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  xorlonston Apr 22, 2008 08:34 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It's really like the pot calling the kettle black if your SO tries to discipline your children for poor table manners but doesn't follow them himself. I think videos are a great idea. I remember having this done to me as a teenager, and I was like "wow, I do that?" SoupKitten's right: people really don't believe unless they see. You could make it unobtrusive, just say that you wanted to videotape the kids and their dad together.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Unfortunately, I think my father falls under the "you can't teach old dogs new tricks" category. He came over to visit us yesterday and started lip-smacking a pear from our fruit basket. I had to relegate him to my SO while fleeing to the restroom (3 rooms over) until he was finished eating. The amazing thing was that I could hear the smacking even 3 rooms away. I don't know. Maybe he has to hear it to enjoy it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: xorlonston
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    anthrochick Apr 22, 2008 02:58 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Xorlonston, your lipsmacking tale reminded me something I had forgotten... my parent's constant nagging about my "clanking my teeth' on the drinking glass. It was constant nag, nag, nag..every meal. I hated to drink anything. They said I was "clanking" my upper and lower teeth on the glass when I drank. I had no idea what they were talking about! I felt like a horse with big ol teeth trying to drink from a glass. I practiced drinking with my lips curved inwards; I tried drinking with my mouth open. ..neither worked of course. This went on from about age 8 to 16. At age 16, I got contacts ..and the clanking stopped! About 6 mo later, my parents figured out that the "teeth clanking" had actually been the drinking glass clinking on my eyeglasses as I drank! I don't remember them apologizing very much; they thought it was funny; I was scarred for life, LOL!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: anthrochick
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                mshenna Dec 26, 2008 05:35 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DH, when I first met him, was the ultimate picky eater & very partial to drama about it -- loud gagging, choking etc. (Fortunately he did keep his mouth closed while eating.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                After we had known each other a while, DH began experimenting with new foods, liked some of them & wanted to go to restaurants more often. The gagging appalled me & I didn't want to put other diners through it, so I sat down & explained carefully not just that loud gagging grossed people out (he knew that already & didn't care) but how to avoid it: take only a small bite of any new food that might not be to his taste, keep it in the front of his mouth until he felt sure, & have the napkin at the ready for rapid & discreet removal if needed. Otherwise, no public eating. I felt like a condescending beast but did it anyhow.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                He has not gagged since.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I do still use the rather strict manners my parents taught me when eating Western food. As far as other people's manners, if it's not disgusting or upsetting others at the table, it's OK with me. Ex-husband was from Pakistan so I learned to eat with my hands (or rather hand), using small pieces of bread as a scoop, which can be done quite daintily & efficiently with practice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It's possible to do most things (aside from smacking, coughing over everything, gagging loudly & a few others) discreetly, & it's always handy to pick up something new. One of my Japanese friends, when eating a quick meal at a Japanese place, carefully folds the paper in which the disposable chopsticks are wrapped into a sort of triangle, in which she puts the ends of the chopsticks when she has finished eating. "So ugly." She's right, it does look better.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                What I find awkward is this, especially when having dinner at someone else's house:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                People who do not follow the basic rule of conversation (for those who talk at dinner -- we were expected to): choose topics that interest & include others, or at least don't throw one out generally without getting everyone up to speed on who's who. Example, with outsiders present: Some minutes of silence, broken by "Pass the salt." Salt passed. Five more minutes of dead silence. "I saw so-and-so yesterday after church." Long pause. "He had an operation on his gall bladder. It got infected. He was in the hospital for six weeks." Not only do outsiders not know so-and-so, they could doubtless do without hearing about his internal arrangements.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                One more thing: anyone who has to deal with a left-handed spouse, child etc. knows that the U.S. switching-hands eating style is tricky, though it can be done backward. European style works much, much better for the left-handed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mshenna
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  racer x Dec 26, 2008 06:28 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The switching-hands style? What is that? Do you mean, holding the fork in the left hand to cut, then switching it to the right hand to pick up food? If so, why would that be any different for a left-handed person than for someone who is right-handed?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: racer x
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    mshenna Dec 30, 2008 05:41 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Euro style means you keep your cutlery in the cutting position here, & just cut up your food as you need it. When you switch your fork back to your right hand to eat what you've cut up, U.S. style, you're back to using your non-dominant hand. (Try doing it the other way around, if you are right-handed; it's really awkward.) My father was left-handed & found it much easier to eat European style.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mshenna
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      racer x Dec 31, 2008 07:35 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Oh, I think I see. So in the Euro style, the knife must be kept to the right side of the plate, even if that means that a left-handed person is cutting with the non-dominant hand? That is really taking protocol to ludicrous extremes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It would be wonderful if the rule-meisters could agree that (a) the diner should be able to hold her/his utensils however it feels most comfortable,so long as none of the other diners is harmed in the process, and (b) even though it may make sense (as a matter of convenience for the host) that the standard setting should have the cutlery to the right, the left-handed diner should feel free to reverse the setting on being seated (assuming that the host has not already done this for the diner, being unaware of her/his lefthandedness).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: racer x
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Bill Hunt Dec 31, 2008 04:16 PM


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I almost inhaled my Montrachet, with a couple of your lines. It was truely a LOL experience.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I do understan, though I am a right-handed "American." I keep attempting to keep up with my multi-cultural wife, when in the UK/Europe, but almost poked my eye out. About then, I revert to my old, "American" ways, and am done with it. I cannot see the need for any harm to come of a dining experience, especially my own.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Thank you for the laughs. I hope that I have not stepped on any toes, because I saw great humor (humour to those playing along at home in the UK) in some of your comments. I just hope that they were intended.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          racer x Jan 3, 2009 12:23 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But, Bill, I wrote that in all seriousness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: racer x
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Bill Hunt Jan 4, 2009 07:09 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Racer X,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Then I must apologize. I must have laughed at totally inappropriate moments. However, with my warped sense of humor, many lines struck me as quite funny.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Intended, or not, thanks for the laughs.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: racer x
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          mshenna Jan 3, 2009 01:51 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          My father said he found it easier b/c one does a lot more forking into the mouth than cutting, generally, so he got to use his dominant hand more often. I'm right-handed but learned to eat that way when I was a child & we lived in England for a while. I liked it better b/c I was unusually clumsy & less switching around meant fewer chances to drop anything: parents frowned upon dropping silverware &, if no outsiders were present, sometimes whomped upon the dropper too. (This last is not recommended but presented for historical accuracy only.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: mshenna
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      lynnlato Apr 23, 2009 12:06 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      As a left-handed person I couldn't agree more with you that the European style of eating is much more friendly to us. I discovered it as an young adult (a friend returned from Europe and was eating like this and I thought she was a Neanderthal - little did I know, Ha!) but I was a quick convert to the European style of holding eating utensils. HOWEVER, I keep my knife in my left hand and my fork in my right. I've never heard that you must have the knife in the right hand and fork in left. Hmmm....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: lynnlato
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        mshenna May 26, 2009 04:52 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        That was how I learned it (but I'm right-handed) -- my father (left-handed)tried it & found that it worked for him too, but perhaps it depends on whether you do more cutting or forking up? Either way, it's more efficient than that whole ballet of cut-put down-switch-fork up-repeat. Also, your knife is not left alone on the plate for your younger brother to flip onto the table (disregard if you are not 10 years old/do not have a younger brother).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. s
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              SSqwerty Mar 8, 2008 10:06 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Then you're the exact right person for me to ask, lamaranthe. When I spent time in Paris as a kid, I was told by my French host family to tear the bread and put the portion that I didn't eat on the table next to me. Not on a plate, on the table. And we didn't use butter, either.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Is this correct?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Entirely different subject: I've had to physically restrain my husband from getting up in a restaurant and snatch some young lout's baseball cap off his head. He says it's grotesque manners, and that even during World War II, when every other person in a restaurant was a soldier, they never wore their hats at the table. They checked them or kept them in their laps.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I must admit that I cringe when I see some Johnny Cool wearing a BACKWARDS baseball cap in a restaurant --often with their parents sitting right there. Isn't this taught anymore?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: SSqwerty
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                xorlonston Apr 15, 2008 10:05 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                My father immigrated to the US more than 40 years ago but never learned old-school American table manners. I learned proper manners through constant embarrassment at school and church (since no one was culturally equipped to teach me at home), and the distinction between our eating habits only makes me even more sensitive to the way he eats when we sit at table.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                He basically uses his mouth as a monstrous straw to suck everything in, instead of extending his fork or spoon another 2 inches into his mouth. One time we were at a Mexican buffet and he made these tacos. Instead of biting down on the shell and then closing his mouth and chewing, he had to suck the meat out of the shell with a huge slurping sound and then devour the shell noisily while make huffing sounds through his nose; he really gets a good workout when he eats and usually starts sweating. Then of course, pieces of meat usually go flying in every direction—if they land on his shirt he happily uses his fingers to plop them right back into his mouth. His idea of properly eating pasta is to take the entire 12” plate and use a fork or spoon to shovel it into his mouth. He usually stuffs his mouth full of food, tries to talk (which ends up sounding like muffled moans which only engender “What? What?” from his hapless partners at table), and then goes into a coughing fit which brings up more food which he then puts back into his mouth. It’s just barbaric and truly sad because he actually has two advanced degrees from US Ivy League schools.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Since I was raised in the US and realize the value of good table manners, I have tried to tell him to adopt some American eating habits my entire life but this man just does not know any compromise. Although he has never openly said so, he considers my advice foolish and only thinks about his own satisfaction when eating. If we eat at home, I usually try to finish my meal as quickly as possible and I avoid eating in public with him. It’s sad. I wish he would just try to change his habits just a little.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: xorlonston
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  KevinB Apr 17, 2008 11:44 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Funny; my paternal grandfather was American, and he would wrap his hand around his fork, plunge it vertically into his meat, and then proceed to cut it up into little pieces before eating. My mother, who had two very proper English parents, was horrified, but she also told us that it is the height of rudeness to tell someone they have bad table manners.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Besides the many things mentioned above, we were taught "European" style - knife in the right, fork in the left, no switching. If you were holding your knife, fork tines had to be down; if you put your knife down, fork tines were to be turned up. No scooping food with your knife on to up-turned tines - only the back of the fork. No mopping up sauce or gravy with bread (perhaps that's why we had Yorkshire puddings so often, as that was allowed.) Bread was broken with your hands, and then buttered on your plate, not in the air. Sounds of mastication were to be kept to a minimum, and no slurping - except for spaghetti, which the kids were allowed to slurp up, although my parents would never do it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  We did differentiate between "house" rules, and "party" rules. With the former, which only applied to family meals, we could pick up bones, eat the marrow, and chew off extra bits, etc. At someone else's house or a restaurant, that was all forbidden.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  And I totally agree with the poster who talked about no commercial containers on the table. My mother thought that was extremely vulgar. Most sauces and condiments were put into small containers, although ketchup, for some reason, was always left in the kitchen. You could take your plate in and pour (no plastic bottles back then!) the ketchup on, but you couldn't bring the bottle into the dining room. (And I remember my mom's old rhyme: "Shake o shake the ketchup bottle; first none will come, and then a lot'll.")

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. l
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                lamaranthe Jan 17, 2008 08:47 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                French from France manners 70 yrs ago: No elbows on the table; no talking unless addressed to; no singing; not starting before the eldest did; not cutting salad with a knife; using a fish knife when appropriate; asking for something out of reach; using bread plate and not biting your roll; asking for permission to leave the table. One distinctive difference: the left hand wrist should rest on the edge of the table, not on your lap (this seems to me to be typically American or British).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                My children were born and raised in Canada. I let go of the fish knife and I made the salad manageable. For the rest, I stuck to it and I think that some of it they taught their own children. They do not feel frustrated or mistreated. The good thing is that they behave and can go everywhere without shame.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. FoodieKat Dec 12, 2007 11:05 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My cousin and I were not allowed to put our elbows on the table, slurp our soup or drinks, talk with food in our mouths, wear hats at the table, or, perish the thought, blow our noses at the table. That was the height of bad manners.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. thenurse Nov 27, 2007 11:45 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    One thing I haven't seen, regarding being served rolls - break it if it's warm, cut it if it's cold. Anyone else know of this one? The rules I grew up with were very similar to most here. My dad came from a 'no talking just eat' house, and my mom grew up with strict, British manners. We were eventually allowed to talk at the table (my mom argued with my dad about how uncivilized a conversation-less meal was), but any laughing brought out the yard stick, stored behing my dad's chair, which he brought down on the table to scare us into no laughter (but in later years just caused more laughter). The yardstick never touched us, just 'threatened' our fingertips.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: thenurse
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Caroline1 Nov 27, 2007 04:59 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I was taught that hot or cold, break off a small piece of bread, butter it, and into the mouth. Cutting bread on a b&b plate was frowned on. My family was English, and I grew up in California. I wonder if there's a regional/nationality component involved?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Fuser Nov 30, 2007 11:28 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I was taught the same thing and my family was just plain old American (U.S.). We were never allowed to cut the bread.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          MaggieRSN Dec 1, 2007 05:17 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I agree with fuser, Caroline. I don't think it's a national distinction, at least. We were taught never to cut bread, and always to break bread products into portions small enough for one mouthful. And that would be monitored closely to ensure it adhered to my mother's more civilized criteria, not our younger, greedier measurements. :-).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Her family was English, too--until about 1620. (Well, strictly speaking, I'd guess we'd say they were English until the Declaration, eh?) But, seriously, my friends and I were all taught the same growing up in the Northeast as you were in California.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MaggieRSN
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Caroline1 Dec 1, 2007 05:24 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Maybe it's all traceable to Emily Post? '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              MaggieRSN Dec 1, 2007 06:25 AM


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Caroline, why has Emily abandoned us in this age of cellphones, when we really neeeeeeeed her?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. j
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        jsedlock Nov 27, 2007 08:57 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Chewing with your mouth closed sounds nice in theory, but in reality it's not that simple. Ever see someone eating with mouth completely -- completely -- closed? Did you hear him breathing in and out of his nose? Not a pretty sound, is it? Aha! That's what happens when you teach this simplistic-sounding but actually dumb idea to kids. They end up breathing through their nose, which is actually just as bad as the lip-smacking if you think about it. The answer is to open your mouth a little bit but not so much that there is smacking. This is how you eat and not make noise, AND not have food visible in your mouth. But no one in this blog is saying this. Incredible.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jsedlock
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          StrawbrryF Nov 27, 2007 01:29 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          If you have a reasonable amount of food in your mouth, breathing through your nose quietly is not a problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jsedlock
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            soupkitten Nov 27, 2007 05:13 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            gotta say i don't think it's too hard to chew with the mouth completely closed, breathing through the nose with no sound. this is being married to someone who's had his nose broken 6 or 7 times, and sometimes has breathing-normally-through-the-nose problems. he is completely capable of eating in polite company with mouth completely closed, not making disgusting nose noises, or disgusting mouth noises. my kid brother, otoh has never had his shnozz broken and smacks his lips in a way that's completely repulsive. oh well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              jsedlock Nov 28, 2007 01:31 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              yeah, ok. i guess i've been putting too much food in my mouth, cuz i'm the one who's been guilty of this in the past. it's harder when you're eating a big sandwich -- you kinda have to put a lot in your mouth sometimes. i hate that i've done this around people! i must have sounded like an f--ing pig! why is it so hard for me? you can't tell me you can keep your mouth completely closed and have NO internal smacking noises and/or nostril breathing whatsoever! there has to be a little bit of mouth-opening to let out the pressure. come on! plus, there IS a way to talk and eat at the same time, tactfully. you see people on TV do it all the time, you just chew a little bit on one side of your mouth while talking, and you only talk in one-word or short sentences at a time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jsedlock
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Caroline1 Nov 28, 2007 03:13 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Maybe you've been putting too much food in your mouth, and maybe you haven't. The question that comes to mind for me is whether you may be consfusing what YOU can hear while you're chewing with what other people can hear. Have you asked your family what they hear? There is no possible way to chew quietly enough that you can't hear yourself chew.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jsedlock
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  soupkitten Nov 29, 2007 08:22 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  i also think that there are some situations, esp when eating "a big sandwich" that some mouth noise is totally acceptable! LOL! it's not like they serve dagwoods in fine dining restaurants, i don't think anyone would fault you for making some noise when eating a big sandwich at a casual place. i agree w Caroline that you yourself can hear yourself eat when others across the table can't. ask someone you're not self-conscious around for feedback-- "hey, dude, do i make a lot of noise when i eat?" you might be totally fine. it does help to take littler bites, though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    jsedlock Nov 29, 2007 01:45 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    All of this makes me want to run to a farm somewhere in rural Iceland and be by myself and eat sushi every day and read books by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn et. al.!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: jsedlock
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    MaggieRSN Dec 1, 2007 06:04 AM


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    LOL, jsed. I'm worried about the consequences of this pressure you're describing. In my mind's eye, I'm seeing heads exploding and chunks of muffaletas flying around the room. ;-) (teasin' ya, no offense meant.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I truly don't believe there is any circumstance in which it is considered courteous to speak, even a syllable or two, when food is in one's mouth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Regretfully acceptable and even morally necessary, yes, to do so, to call for help if a dinnermate needs the Heimlich maneuver, or if one happens to notice that the curtains have caught on fire. Manners be dam*ed, under those eventualities!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    But, otherwise, no. I urge you, don't let what you see on television today be your guide. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I agree with you re the big sandwiches. They're tough for all of us, and especially subs or even clubs with big sheets of lettuce and tomatoes with obstinate skins. And the fact that those are usually made with toast complicates things further.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I expect this is one of the reasons big sandwiches don't show up on more formal menus at private dinner parties or luncheons or at formal restaurants. The trick is to use your teeth as a instrument to break off a *small* portion, which sometimes mean you have to forego getting something from every layer in there at once. We're not shoveling coal into a furnace, after all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The reason to make that small enough bite is so that your companion or the waiter only has to wait several seconds, and not a half-hour, for your response if they accidentally ask you something just after you've taken that bite. Notice I said, "accidentally", because they also have a responsibility in this. Etiquette also stipulates that we don't *knowingly* ask someone a question that requires a response at the moment s/he is putting food in her/his mouth. Courtesy is a team sport. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Nibble in public, gobble in private ("public" meaning, if even one other person is with us, and "private" meaning, not another soul in the county). Gobbling with abandon is never a good idea, not so much because of etiquette, but due to issues of self-preservation. We don't want to get ourselves into a situation in which we need the Heimlich maneuver, since nobody will be there to aid us.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I agree with Caroline that we can't avoid hearing ourselves chew. I generally find that people who care enough not to want to sound like a pig to others, don't. I'd bet you're just fine. But if you're not sure, Caroline's suggestion that you ask someone close to you makes a lot of sense to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MaggieRSN
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      jsedlock Dec 4, 2007 08:53 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      So right about courtesy being a team sport. I don't know how many times people have said something to me (insofar as I'm expected to respond) just as I'm taking a bite of something particulary chewing-intensive. This is the height of rudeness. Not only is there an awkward pause before my response, I look like a freakin' idiot chomping away while everyone's staring at me. As for making noises while I eat, I'm much better at listening to myself, and thus am eating more quietly. Especially challenging for me, though, was learning how to eat particularly crunchy snack chips quietly. The key is putting an entire chip, or a piece of a chip, if too big, in your mouth, and enclosing your mouth entirely around the chip/piece of chip before biting down and chewing, thereby lessening the "crunch" sound considerably.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jsedlock
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Caroline1 Dec 4, 2007 10:42 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Has anyone ever figured out where the wait staff lurks while waiting for you to have your mouth full before they come to your table and ask if everything is okay? I have NEVER had anyone ask me that when I didn't have a mouth full.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          soupkitten Dec 4, 2007 10:49 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          lol! unfortunately some of the corporate chain server training leads to this, i think. the servers are supposed to ask how the food is within the first 2-3 bites & it can result in a more preemptive habit on the servers' part that comes across as predatory or rude-- on the other hand people really look for a reason to ding the server's tips--from the servers' viewpoint, at what time can s/he approach with a quality check question when someone *isn't* physically eating-- it's a MEAL after all? we'd all agree that after everyone has finished isn't appropriate-- what if there was a problem/mistake?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: jsedlock
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Caroline1 Dec 4, 2007 02:28 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Well, my feeling is the server KNOWS who s/he will be asking the question of, so it is possible for them to either step up to the table, smile, wait until the person to be questioned has swallowed and THEN ask, or just don't bother. A brisk "Everything okay?" and they're gone like a flash doesn't cut it for me. And nooooooo--- I am not shoveling food into my mouth the entire time I'm at the table. It IS possible to ask when I can answer. When it's hit and run, I just figure they didn't want to know anyway.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            MichelleRenee Feb 28, 2011 02:32 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            One of the problems here is that a server doesn't necessarily have time to lurk near a table and wait for everyone to not have food in their mouth in order to ask them if everything is okay. They usually have more than one group to serve... Not only don't they always have time to stand aside and wait, but patrons generally feel awkward with their server staring at them, waiting for a lull to ask them how their meal is. A little patience and courtesy from both sides is important.... In my opinion, it's okay to cover your mouth and respond to the server's question, or ask them for something if you need it. Or, in my case, to nod your head enthusiastically and give 'em the thumbs up sign! But, as others have said, it's best not to shovel so much in your mouth at one time that a response in a situation like this is difficult to get out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MichelleRenee
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Bill Hunt Mar 1, 2011 06:13 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Not sure about this, as they can almost ALWAYS come to the table, just as everyone has a mouthful - maybe it's just bad timing?


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. JayVaBeach Nov 15, 2007 04:08 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My child rearing expereince happened during the early 70s with extraordinary parents & very formal grandparents. My siblings & I learned at an early age the importance of fine manners & which fork was for which course & so on. Literally, my "old school manners" were continued during my Episcopalian boarding school expereince enhancing the tradition & I am glad that I have "manners" - it's amazing how many folks today who have lost this fine detail.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. eLizard Nov 14, 2007 10:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    so I don't see this one.....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    where the salt goes, so goes the pepper. so if you ask me to pass the salt to you, you'll also get the pepper. They travel as a pair. drives me crazy when I see them separated. But it's a short drive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    also, as for the hands on the lap versus in sight, my german friends say it's rude to have your hand in your lap because it looks like you're "feeding the dog." And yes, even if there is no dog!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    today on Good Morning America, there was a butler ettiquette segment, and the rule of waiting until everyone is served to eat was said to be false.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    and no hats!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: eLizard
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      MMRuth Nov 14, 2007 10:39 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      "today on Good Morning America, there was a butler ettiquette segment, and the rule of waiting until everyone is served to eat was said to be false. "

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I think that might depend on how many people are at the table - was that mentioned?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MMRuth
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Caroline1 Nov 14, 2007 02:39 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The only rule I've ever heard about when it's okay to start eating is that guests should never start to eat before the hostess begins. That was carved in stone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          MMRuth Nov 14, 2007 02:42 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think I've read that when it is a table of 8 or more people, it's acceptable to start eating once that number of people have received their food. Otherwise, I agree with you about the host/hostess point.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MMRuth
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            MaggieRSN Dec 1, 2007 06:20 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            What I think I've read/heard, Ruth, is that it doesn't depend on the number of people, but rather on what's being served and the setting. Here's what I think I've learned:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            At a privately hosted meal, one always waits for the hostess. However, if there is a course that demands being eaten immediately, and waiting for her would compromise that (and, yes, probably often due to the size of the guest contingent), it is her prerogative to ask folks not to wait for her. And they should respect her wishes, based on the premise of appreciating all the effort that has gone into preparing the meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In a restaurant, it is the staff's responsibility to make sure all guests in a party are served in a close enough interval so that no item would be ruined by waiting for every person to be served. If that means the restaurant has to have two or three or twenty servers bring a course to the group, that's its job.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I don't know if I'm right about all this, but this is what I've learned. It's very difficult to feel confident about the finer points, sometimes, because I hear variations of etiquette from different sources. I think it was easier to know when there were one or two arbiters, e.g., Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MaggieRSN
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Caroline1 Dec 1, 2007 07:00 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I was always taught that it is never okay to begin eating before the hostess, no matter what the number of guests. Of course, this put the onus on the hostess to plan a menu that would live up to this requirement, so souffles were pretty much not a first course option. It was also the hostess' responsibility not to formulate a guest list beyond her staff's abilities. It's a two way street. Guests have responsibilities, but so do the host and/or hostess.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I love the guest's responsibilities of 19th century England. Class was not the determining factor. All guests were expected to be prepared to contribute to the after dinner entertainment. Kept a lot of kids on piano benches, and a lot of elocution teachers in business! But it was a wonderful rule. Can you imagine those rules being observed today? Retire to the drawing room after dinner to hear Iggy play air guitar and Sammy play his iPod...! <sigh>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                pikawicca Jun 1, 2009 12:55 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Longstanding Thanksgiving tradition in my house: All guests are required to play charades after dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  alkapal Jun 4, 2009 03:25 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  i love charades, but most people today don't want to play any games. we did venture into a cranium game last month after a big family gathering, but it was just us gals and the kids. the men don't want to participate. trust me, it is hard to play cranium with under age-13 kids! they don't even know what some of the clues refer to! <so, i guess that's why we cover for our young "partners". while it was an abbreviated game -- some getting cranky, plus some wiggly-worms -- it was fun nonetheless!>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Caroline1
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  serah Jan 1, 2011 09:00 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Heh, I grew up in the 1980's and 1990's and my cousins and I had to trot out our party piece on the piano/cello/violin/voice every time we went round to my Great Aunt Kathleen's house at Christmas. Critical appraisals were given and performances compared with the previous years! Suspect it's still going on but I haven't been back home for Christmas for a while.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                3. re: MaggieRSN
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  appleannie Jul 27, 2010 12:56 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  You can start if the last person to receive their meal says you can, "Don't wait for me!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. w
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          weezycom Nov 13, 2007 03:21 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I was brought up with pretty much all of these rules, but I notice little has been mentioned about place settings. When I go to restaurants that wrap the silverware in the napkin, I compulsively must unwrap and make a proper place setting with fork on left, knife on right blade in, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As for the glorping noises made by some while eating, there are a couple of folks I know who will never be invited to my house for a meal again, the sounds were so repulsive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: weezycom
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Romanmk Nov 14, 2007 09:20 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Being caught off guard by glorping is no fun. Usually we eat with the relaxing sounds of TV entertainment news, maybe 80's pop music, or heavy metal on the stereo. A surprise moment of background silence can make chewy-swallowy sounds a little horrifying if you aren't accustomed to hearing them. A few moments of internal wincing is all I can take before I have to put on the Duran Duran.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. c
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ctflowers Nov 13, 2007 10:55 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            -No elbows on the table
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            -Keep your napkin on your lap
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            -Keep your left hand (if you're righthanded) in your lap
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            -No "boarderhouse" reaching across the table
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            -Break off a piece of bread before buttering it & eating it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            -If you have to spit out a piece of food, put your napkin in front of your face
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            -Keep your mouth closed when you chew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            -Soup bowl tilted away for those last few drops
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            -No slurping
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            -Only cut one piece of food at a time before eating it
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            -Ask for permission to be excused

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            14 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ctflowers
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              MMRuth Nov 13, 2007 11:03 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I would just qualify this by adding that if you are not in the U.S., don't keep a hand in your lap - rest your wrist on the table.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MMRuth
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                lagatta Nov 13, 2007 11:10 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                How on earth does one eat with one hand in a lap? Or talk, for that matter?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: lagatta
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  MMRuth Nov 13, 2007 11:17 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Well, while I don't eat that way, the traditional U.S. (I'll refrain from saying American) rule is that if one is not using a hand to use a utensil, that hand should be in one's lap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MMRuth
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    lynnlato Nov 14, 2007 03:49 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ..."the traditional U.S. (I'll refrain from saying American"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Just curious, what the difference b/t U.S. & American? Cuz I said "American" up above in reference to the hand in the lap! :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: lynnlato
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      MMRuth Nov 14, 2007 09:24 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      When I lived in Canada (where I believe Lagatta lives), I noticed sensitivity to the use of term "American" to refer to people living in the U.S., since in a way, any one living in the Western Hemisphere is "American".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MMRuth
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        lagatta Nov 14, 2007 10:13 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Yes, I live in Montréal (Québec). I have also lived in Italy and in France.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: lagatta
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    SweetPea914 Nov 13, 2007 02:57 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    "Or talk, for that matter?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    That is funny, My Mother is a 'hand talker" On occasion I have held her hands during conversation when they are flailing about and she forgets what she was talking about completely!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. re: MMRuth
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    soupkitten Nov 14, 2007 09:11 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    i was taught that keeping a hand under the table while eating is *extremely* rude. this whole thread, with where your second hand is supposed to be, is really funny to me!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      WCchopper Nov 14, 2007 01:50 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I was taught to sort of keep the left hand in my lap or wrist on the edge of the table. The point my mom seemed to be making was to keep your hands out of the food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: WCchopper
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        soupkitten Nov 15, 2007 09:50 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        oh the rule was wrist on edge of table, ready to pass dishes family style, or handle cutlery, having both hands in view at all times unless handling one's napkin. i understand not wanting hands in the food, my impression was that it was considered impolite to hide one's hands (actions) under the tabletop, while the rest of the meal, conversation, everything, was "above boards." i have a friend who was taught to always put her off hand in her lap at the dinner table, & now the habit gets her in trouble when she hides one hand at the card table!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          WCchopper Nov 15, 2007 11:40 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I guess we were learning "hybrid" manners!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: WCchopper
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            soupkitten Nov 15, 2007 11:59 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            well after reading so many posts from folks taught to keep the off hand in the lap, i'm wondering what exactly the "american" way is-- i can't be sure, because my grandparents, the rule enforcers, were immigrants. keeping the off hand on the table seems to be the norm in continental europe, keeping the off hand off the table is the norm in india. . .

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              lagatta Nov 15, 2007 12:53 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yes, I'd have a horrible time eating in company in the Middle East or South Asia, as I'm left-handed, and we know what the left hand is used for in those cultures!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: lagatta
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                jsedlock Nov 30, 2007 08:35 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                No, I don't know what the left hand is used for "in those cultures." Please educate me on what you think you know.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. m
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  MakingSense Nov 5, 2007 08:45 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Link 930's post reminded me about Family Hold Back.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Remember when you had guests and suddenly you weren't sure if there was quite enough food for everybody? So you quietly told everyone to take just a little bit less when the platters and bowls were passed to make sure that everybody at the table got some?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I hate when people at the table eat so fast that they're going back for seconds when some at the table have barely begun to eat anything on their plates. These are the people who usually start chowing down before all the dishes have been passed at a meal.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  And then they're on to thirds, finishing off the food without caring if anyone else wanted a second helping. Oink, oink.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MakingSense
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    link_930 Nov 5, 2007 10:01 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    LOL, that makes sense! :D
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    That first paragraph really does apply to how my family was. Except in that case the hosts' kids pretended that they weren't hungry until all the adults were done with their food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Even as a university student, I always hated the use of "free food" as an enticement -- generally, a lot of us aren't starving, so I wonder why we don't we have a bit more pride than to show up just for the food, without regard to other guests? Seriously, who raises kids who turn out like the "oinkers" in MakingSense's post?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MakingSense
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Diane in Bexley Nov 5, 2007 11:21 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My DH grew up in a family of 4, Mom & Dad and 2 boys. They could buzz through 5 lb. roast beef dinner with all the trimmings in 15 minutes flat and thought nothing of heaping tons of food on their plate. This was shocking to me, as my family valued conversation, polite table manners. Even more shocking because they considered my parents the "immigrants" since they came to the US in 1953 where their family arrived in 1865.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Took a lot of work to slow down DH - but you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Diane in Bexley
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        link_930 Nov 5, 2007 03:48 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Now THAT is one skill I'd like to have. I eat so slowly that I have to pretend I'm done just so I don't hold up others, and I'm hungry all the time! My best friend can finish off her burger, fries, and three drinks before I even get halfway with mine. In a group setting, not so ideal, but neither is sitting there with a growling stomach! I've left dates early before just because I was so hungry!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I guess we all have to find a good medium.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. l
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      link_930 Nov 5, 2007 08:13 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Meals in my family were a very stern affair -- no laughing, joking, etc. But everything else was pretty standard -- no eating before everyone is served and head of household, guest, or host, depending on the situation, has begun to eat. No getting up from the table until everyone has finished. Etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My two biggest pet peeves -- as in, I will pay for the absence of these abominations -- are chewing with one's mouth open, and what I call the "greedy grab." Growing up eating family-style vs. individually served plates, maybe I was trained earlier as far as sharing a plate of food and knowing when to stop. Everyone knows the "greedy grab" -- from people who are repulsively focused on "getting theirs," or act as though you are going to take the plate away from them at any time. I hate this so much that I actually broke up with a boyfriend because he loved sushi, but every time we went out to eat, he would shovel as much in as possible, pull pieces in while chomping as fast as he could, and even grabbed a piece away from my chopsticks because it was the last one (my third piece or so, bc I couldn't stop staring at his disgusting habit)! A lot of times, these things speak to character.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: link_930
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Zucumber84 Nov 5, 2007 08:49 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        My father always taught me to sit at the end of my chair -- not sure why, but now it is an annoying habit in restaurants where there isn't enough space for people to walk past you....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: link_930
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          danhole Nov 5, 2007 10:51 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Ha! The "greedy grab." That ticks me off, too. My oldest daughters BF is one of those, but I didn't realize until we all had crawfish. The 3 lb platter was 50% good size and 50% not so good, and I was shocked to see him dig through, pick out the largest and inhale them like air. I couldn't believe how fast he ate those bugs! My DD saw my expression and managed to snag a couple big ones for me, but NEVER again! What a pig.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: link_930
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            digkv Nov 5, 2007 12:06 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I totally know what you mean. Whenever we have extended family functions it's always scary with how fast the food is being eaten. Sometimes it seems like they can't even enjoy the food because they're eating so fast.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. l
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            lagatta Nov 4, 2007 12:52 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Lynn, I'm very surprised about the hands in lap thing. That is far more British (and British North American) - hands in lap is bad manners in Latin Europe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: lagatta
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ljubitca Nov 4, 2007 02:59 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              and in south america.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Ljubitca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                MMRuth Nov 4, 2007 03:07 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                My understanding of the one hand in the lap thing is that that is an American custom and that in Europe/Latin America one's hands should always be visible, i.e., not in the lap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MMRuth
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  whs Nov 4, 2007 04:50 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Wrists resting lightly on the table, fork in right hand. My Dutch grandfather had a whole ritual involving the consumption of fish--if I can remember, I will share.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: whs
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    brendastarlet Nov 4, 2007 05:14 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I was taught to eat European style. i.e., fork on the left, knife on the right, no switching of the fork to the right hand. I think hand in the lap is an American affectation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    We were taught no elbows on the table (the reminder was, "Joints on the table will be carved! which always cracked everybody up.) No talking mid-chew, and no starting until everyone was served. The exemption to that is if your host or hostess says, "Please start, it will get cold." But it's still polite to wait. I always notice if someone digs in before everyone has their plate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    When finished, the folk and knife go together at 4'olock. If there's room, they can go straight across, but otherwise at an angle so they don't fall off the plate when it's removed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Romanmk Nov 3, 2007 11:22 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My parents didn't like the way I cut up my lasagna as a kid. My mother would make a tomato sauce, cottage cheese, and ground beef lasagna. Before taking any bites I would reduce the lasagna to a homogeneous mass with knife and fork. This way I could shovel the food in as fast as possible. No need to slow down to use the knife again. Barely had to chew at all. A short-lived habit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. j
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                JuanitaZ Nov 3, 2007 08:48 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I was taught that fork tines should be placed down on plate when finished, up while still eating. I know servers in restaurants don't know this.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I've also heard that if you get a piece of grizzle, to put it from mouth to fork and place it back on the plate. That is sometimes a dilemma for me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  avena Nov 2, 2007 03:40 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Only thing my dad insisted on was to never leave the chopsticks sticking out of the rice bowl when finished eating. Always leave them flat across the bowl or on the table. And use the opposite end to pick up food from shared dishes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. c
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ceekskat Nov 1, 2007 05:29 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    My parents came here from India when they were in their mid 30's. I was never taught any table manners...learned the basics from TV shows! I am sure there are many families in India which teach Western table manners but for many, I don't think this is a big deal especially when it is customary to eat with hands (washed clean & with right only). Then of course there are traditions such as in joint families, a DIL doesn't eat until in-laws have eaten. The only thing I remember my mom telling me was "don't drink so much water".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I've lived in the States for a long time so I don't know what kids are being taught in India today. Also, the times in the US have changed too. The message everywhere is "drink lots of water" so I let my kids drink all the water they want at dinner as long they eat a proper meal. They barely drink water otherwise:-( Water bottle in lunch box sometimes comes back unopened. Also, the notion of not reading at the dining table? Many kids these days don't read enough...I'd be thrilled if my daughter read a book at all! I wouldn't care where she read, as long she read:-) Of course, I would not encourage reading at the table outside my house.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. katydid13 Oct 21, 2007 07:01 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My grandmother taught me most of my table manners, and one of the rules I haven't seen others mention is that you should wait till your hostess picks up her fork to pick up your own.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: katydid13
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Marsha Oct 22, 2007 03:45 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Yes, that was always the case with us (and Mom or whoever did the cooking was the hostess when we ate at home). Also, it was the obligation of the hostess to observe guests and, when appropriate, repeat any faux pas that might be committed in a casual way, so that no one would be embarrassed - e.g., this meant using the inside fork for salad if a guest had done so, and could extend to drinking from the fingerbowl or even breaking a wine glass ("Oh pish, these wretched glasses have always been too hard to hold onto properly!).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: katydid13
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Fuser Nov 30, 2007 11:22 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I forgot about that one. We always had to wait for the lady of the table to pick up her fork and when we were done, we had to line our knife and fork up together to indicate to whomever was clearing the plates that we were finished. My grandparents had money and formal meals were served by a live-in couple. My grandmother had a little bell she would ring when she wanted someone to come from the kitchen, but then she got the idea of putting a button under the carpet that she would hit with her foot and it would buzz in the kitchen. She was forever trying to hit the damned thing and could never find it, which was actually rather funny to watch as she wiggled around trying to find the button. But then she'd step on it inadvertantly and someone would come from the kitchen and she'd have to apologize ...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Fuser
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Cheflambo Jan 17, 2008 09:34 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I think waiting for everyone to be served, and waiting for the hostess (or mom) to take her first bite are GREAT rules, and should be applied more often. I occasionally go to dinner (under duress) with a group of someone else's relatives who like to order "separate checks" so the food inevitably arrives in shifts. If my dish come out first, I wait until the others are served. But the others, if they get their food first, dive in like hungry dogs regardless of who else has been served. The small children in the group are not learning anything from this either, but the last time I ate with them all and I was served ahead of some others, I had a little chat with the 7-year-old sitting next to me and explained why I was waiting until he and his mom got their food before starting. He thought that was a very nice thing to do. They CAN be taught!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Cheflambo
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              pikawicca Dec 3, 2008 05:41 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I don't understand why "separate checks" dictates that the food arrives in shifts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. c
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          chowmel Oct 20, 2007 06:26 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Many of these are the same for me. Most after all, just seem like good manners. We alos however could not talk during dinner - breakfast and lunch were okay, but not dinner, unless we were spoken to. And forget singing !

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. p
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            phoebek Oct 20, 2007 02:42 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In addition to all the other things cited here (except the one about the singing!), I was taught always to use my napkin to wipe my mouth before taking a drink--presumably so that no food particles would stick to the glass.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Kajikit Oct 19, 2007 01:23 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My parents weren't obsessive about table manners other than the basics - eat with your mouth closed, don't gobble, don't talk with your mouth full, and dinner time is not a race to see who can finish first. I also learnt that when you're finished with your plate you put the knife and fork together in the middle, and that you should try to keep your arms close to your sides when you eat so you don't poke your tablemate in the ribs (I'm left-handed so I used to bang elbows with my brother quite often!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. r
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                ricepad Oct 19, 2007 01:03 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                What is the origin of the "no singing at the table" rule? I learned it (and also now enforce it), but have no idea of its practical basis.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ricepad
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  pikawicca Oct 19, 2007 01:17 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I assume it's because singing interferes with conversation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Cheese Boy Oct 19, 2007 01:32 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Pikawicca, what if the conversation(s) were operatic ?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      alkapal Oct 21, 2007 04:49 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      it might also cause you to choke while inhaling -- food down the windpipe!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: ricepad
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      GoalieJeff Nov 2, 2007 08:24 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      No singing at the table !?!? How about no singing , period . ( Unless outdoors ) And no pierced ears ? Because , according to dearly departed grandma , only Gypsies pierced their ears and sang indoors . Loved her to death , but there are two rules I can do without .

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. digkv Oct 19, 2007 09:45 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My Vietnamese grandfather would always yell at me for putting my hand in my lap. I learned "table manners" from a Christian (American) school but when I had meals with my grandfather and placed my hand on my lap he would ask, "what are you doing with that hand?" So no i generally have two hands on the table.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: digkv
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        jeni1002 Oct 19, 2007 10:00 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I was taught:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        * Elbows on the table - big no-no
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        * Hands on my lap - equally big no-no
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        * Wrist on the table - OK

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: digkv
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          GoalieJeff Nov 2, 2007 08:34 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          What's the official Vietnamese rule on slurping ? I always assumed it was fine to slurp the noodles out of your pho , how else do you get them out of the bowl without spraying the table with soup ( yuck ) ? Slurping soup at grandmas house in my family was verboten , but at dinner tonight people were slurping pho ga all over the place .And yes , in our eastern European family , both hands were to be seen , and children were to be seen and not heard , unless spoken to . The king of all high crimes however , was spitting something out . Grounds for banishment to the garage . Seriously . No dinner , just get out , heathen . That and take all you want , but eat all you take , something my son has real issues with .

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: GoalieJeff
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            digkv Nov 2, 2007 09:38 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            My take on it the slurping rule is that without slurping, it would be very difficult to eat pho and thus it perfectly acceptable. However, in most Vietnamese restaurants it is doubtful that you'll hear loud slurping and the such so yea, slurp when necessary but I think in today's Vietnamese-American culture it's slowly fading out and becoming a sort of faux pas.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. meatn3 Oct 18, 2007 10:58 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Don't lick your knife! Seems like the past few years I've been seeing younger co-workers doing this quite often. Drives me nuts!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: meatn3
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            revsharkie Oct 19, 2007 02:17 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I actually remember my grandma once saying, "Lick that knife off before you stick it in the jelly!" Didn't want butter and crumbs in the jelly, you see.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            But we MIGHT be rednecks...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: revsharkie
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              toodie jane Nov 4, 2007 11:12 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              re: licking:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'll never forget going out to breakfast at a cafe, glancing at the next table past us and seeing a man pour ketchup on his plate, then lick the threads of the ketchup bottle before replacing the cap. Horrors. I guess he forgot he wasn't at home, alone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: meatn3
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              murpho Nov 2, 2007 01:08 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My grandfather taught me that one. I can still remember him explaining how rude it is. I also cannot stand the noises some people make when they eat, I'm very sensitive to noise, and often I will have to leave a restaurant because people at other tables will be doing it. We're not cows, you know, close your mouth. And no slurping.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: meatn3
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                GoalieJeff Nov 2, 2007 08:20 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I try , I try , but after 40 years , I still find myself licking off my knife from time to time . Drives my wife nuts . Thing is , I can't stand to get food , or juices , or butter , or jam or anything , on the table or tablecloth . Lesser of two evils thing for me . All the aforementioned rules applied growing up , plus many , many more . I still have an urge to throw my coat over a puddle when I see a woman approach one , I have to ( always ) walk on the street side of the sidewalk unless walking with my father , and I am a compulsive door-holder-opener for women and children .

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: GoalieJeff
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Caroline1 Nov 5, 2007 05:42 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ummmmm.... Not to be too nosey, but how would you get butter or jam or anything else on the tablecloth? Tradition says you rest a used knife on your plate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: meatn3
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  pikawicca May 27, 2009 01:36 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I've recently observed a few 20-somethings using their knives to convey food to their mouths! In nice restaurants, too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: meatn3
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ChristinaMason Mar 1, 2011 07:28 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    God, my DH does this. Kills me every time...especially if we're dining out. I actually said something to him the last time.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ChristinaMason
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      buttertart Mar 2, 2011 05:01 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Oh no!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. d
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Diane in Bexley Oct 18, 2007 02:01 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This thread has been very interesting. Having been raised by European Holocaust survivors who experienced starvation in their lives, we were REQUIRED to eat everything we put on our plates (hence all of our family is overweight!). Mother was adamant about trying new foods/recipes on us and the family rule was that you had to at least try it. My father was in retail and ate dinner at home 3-4 nights a week. Those nights were much stricter, the food was better and more formal. You had to have nice clothes on when my Dad joined us for dinner, no jeans or shorts. Absolutely NO TV. We didn't begin dinner till CBS News and Uncle Walter (Cronkite) shared what had happened in the world that day.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    We were required from an early age to know things about world affairs, my parents were (are) news junkies and you better know what was going on and have an opinion you could defend. I think they were trying to raise labor negotiators or lawyers (didn't work).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    When I married into my DH's hoity toity Chicago family, I discovered arcane rules about etiquette like no scraping of plates at the table, no shouting, very different from my own family. They fancy themselves aristocrats and have "airs", very quiet, demure and retiring. No controversial discussions at the table. Very European in the handling of silverware.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    To this day, I can't eat in a car or over the sink, I need a tablecloth or placemat, napkin, silverware and glass cup (unless outdoors), even if it's only me. I miss the boisterous dinnertime conversation, as there is only 3 of us at home now and very often only DH and me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      alliebear Oct 18, 2007 01:45 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I learned that it's not polite to blow on your food or do the reverse blow to cool off food you've already put in your mouth. You're supposed to wait till it's the right temperature instead.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alliebear
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        MMRuth Oct 18, 2007 01:56 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Right - my husband still 'catches me out" on that one occasionally!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. b
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        boomerbaby2 Oct 18, 2007 01:34 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I was brought up Sicilian as well. Many of the same rules that you mention, were applied to us.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        We had to ask to be excused from the table, however, we couldn't do that until everyone was finished eating. We always ate together as a family no matter what day of the week it was.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Cheese Boy Oct 17, 2007 09:18 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Many of the replies so far have made me chuckle, but others have made me somewhat sad. Some people in this thread really really had it tough at the dinner table. I had very overprotective and strict parents, but fortunately for me, I wasn't subjected to any INCOMPREHENSIBLE rules at the dinner table. I was taught to be well behaved, to clean off my plate, and I was excused only when I asked politely. After reading some of these replies, I guess I was one of the lucky ones.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I will say this though. One rule that made me laugh here was the person who stated that they were subjected to NO singing at the dinner table. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined anyone belting out a few lines of 'Old MacDonald had a farm ...' ... before, during, or after scarfing down a meal. The thought of that is simply hilarious to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Cheese Boy
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            danhole Oct 18, 2007 07:41 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            When my girls were little they would burst into song at the drop of a pin, and I would fuss "no singing at the table!" So then they would start playing "footsie" with me, which became a new rule - You do NOT mess with Mama's feet at the table. They knew it drove me crazy, LOL! We had lots of fun at dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            And that reminds me of another rule - Don't eat with your fingers (unless it was appropriate.) One time my youngest picked up her pork chop and started chewing on it. I said why in the world do you think that is okay to do. She said that when she ate at a girlfriends house that is how they ate them. So after that it was "No eating like a Smith!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Cheese Boy
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              revsharkie Oct 18, 2007 03:57 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We didn't really have group singing, but I am one of those people who's always got a song in my head and sometimes it comes out. So I might be sitting at the table, and start singing some little ditty, and then I'd get called on it. "Don't sing at the table."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The old-timers around here (Iowa; my great-grandfather mentioned upstream was from Illinois) say there's a proverb about it, something about crying later if you sing at the table. I don't remember exactly what it is; I'll ask one of them next time I see somebody.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. jfood Oct 17, 2007 04:35 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              jfood has a few from his weird childhood, but here are a few:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - only dad gets iced tea
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - children should be seen and not heard. that's right children were not allowed to speak at the table
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - one child clear, one child washes, one child dries
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - be careful with the tin glasses with iced beverages. they will stick to your lips and cause some pain when you pull it awauy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              good news is that none of these are part of his life now

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jfood
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                pikawicca Oct 17, 2007 05:09 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                You really were not allowed to speak at the dinner table? Ours was a free-for-all -- if you made the best argument, you won, age didn't matter. It was hard-core debate, and I loved it. Scared the heck out of visiting friends, however. Dinner at our house was always tasty, and always contentious. I've continued the tradition with my own kids, and I have to say, they're pretty sharp. Dinner in our house is never boring.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  MakingSense Oct 17, 2007 09:58 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sounds like our house. No TV, no phone calls during dinner, etc. The only excuse to get up was the reference shelf in the kitchen to settle arguments - The US Constitution, some history reference books, dictionaries in a couple of languages, an atlas, sports stats, etc. - right there with the cookbooks. You better be able to back up your argument with facts or you were going to get killed. Never boring!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MakingSense
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    mariekeac Oct 18, 2007 03:23 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    that's so true!! we did that too!! too Funny!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: jfood
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  LindaWhit Nov 14, 2007 11:19 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "- be careful with the tin glasses with iced beverages. they will stick to your lips and cause some pain when you pull it awauy"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  LOL! OK, instaneous thought that came to mind was Flick with his tongue stuck to the flagpole in "A Christmas Story". I think that was a good rule, jfood. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    alkapal Jan 18, 2008 10:48 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    also done in "dumb and dumber" -- a fine cinematic tour de force.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: jfood
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Bill Hunt Dec 3, 2008 07:15 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    For me, it was somewhat similar. As I was so often the only child dining, I was allowed to speak, when spoken to. Since I was the only child, most of the adults induced me into conversation. To this day, I still converse, while dining. This is especially true, when I am the host. Depending on the seating arrangement, I will include all diners in conversation. When it does not permit, I usually spend an equal amount of time with the ladies to my right and my left. If I am fortunate, my wife will be to my left.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I have seen other replies on silence while eating. I cannot imagine that, but that is just how I conduct dinner. Maybe I have a lot to learn.