Over the years, I’ve come to the realisation that table etiquette is dying. Elbows on tables and right handed fork usage has become commonplace in many restaurants. I suppose we’re more of a “progressive” generation and as a result rules have become guidelines. I have memories of childhood dinners, being told that forks are for the left hand only, which was not a problem for me since I am left handed. My older brother found this quite frustrating since he was right handed but my father insisted. My father used to say, “I want you to be cultured when you eat out of the house”. These formal dinners weren’t the norm though, generally we would eat whilst watching the Television, this was my favourite as a child. The atmosphere was different, there was more laughter, less seriousness and even more fun.
Learning table etiquette reminds me of the time when I nervously had to sit with a driving instructor who was telling me what to do and what not to do. Some things came naturally like using my left hand for the fork, but other things we’re more difficult, like having to constantly check my blind-spots. I wonder if many of us hadn’t learned table etiquette, how would we conduct ourselves in public? Would we chew with our mouths wide open? Or even throw food into our mouths using our hands? It would be quite a chaotic scene to watch. The same goes with learning the rules of the road, what would’ve happened if we didn’t have someone teach us that green is go and red is stop and yellow is go faster? We would have people travelling on the yellow lane when traffic is bad and people skipping red lights because they’re in a rush. The result? Chaos.
Another valuable lesson I learned about table etiquette is the pace that I must eat at. Chewing all my food was key, instead of speedily gobbling it all up. The reason for this I was told, was because I could run the risk of choking as I eat and that could end in death, death is not good. Again I think of my driving instructor, apparently I was quite heavy footed, so I was told that if I was not careful I could cause some damage if I was carrying too much speed and that again, it could end in death. All these rules can seem somehow constricting and tedious but if we were all left to our own devices and we could all do whatever speed we wanted, the result would be again, chaotic.
The last thing I was taught regarding table manners, is the rule of distractions. We had a strict “no devices” policy when eating at the table. The table was meant for conversing and catching up on our day as well as learning from older and wiser ones. To do all that, one could not be distracted by pagers or texts from friends and secret crushes. Although a text from a friend could not cause death while eating, it could certainly make you lose your concentration and perhaps you could swallow without chewing and that could cause choking which could definitely end in death. The same goes for driving, a text won’t be the cause of death, your lack in concentration will.
I earlier stated how I enjoyed eating by the Television, the lack of rules made it fun. A spoon could be used instead of a fork, things would spill and clothes would get dirty. As fun as that was though, in a public setting, it would be quite embarrassing to watch. I can liken it to being on the track. There are not many rules on the track, you can drive fast, attempt to drift and even crash without hurting anyone else but yourself and your ego. On a public road though, attempting such actions could be potentially embarrassing. When you have your hands cuffed and you’re being escorted into a Metro Police vehicle, it’s not exactly a highlight in your life is it? I am grateful for those formal dinners as I often have to eat in public and because of my training, I can say I am cultured when I eat out of the house. At times I do forget those rules, my elbows do touch the table sometimes and I do eat too fast. Each time I do forget though, I remind myself that if I am not careful, I could choke and die.
*Image taken from www.prosperearchives.delectablychic.com
Thought Thursday: The Forks of the road