With most families on the go it seems that there’s less and less time spent at the dinner table. Recent studies have shown that here in America most families don’t sit down to a traditional dinner anymore and with the advent of fast food and individual microwavable dinners the so called family dinner is fast becoming a thing of the past.
Back when I was growing up in the late 60’s and throughout the 70’s and even though there were only three of us it was considered a sin to miss a family dinner. Even though the food wasn’t all that fancy I could just about always count up on dinner hitting the table at around 6:30 PM after my parents got home from work. Snippets of conversation usually included school events and things that went on during the work day. Occasionally politics or religion was injected into the nightly talks but those instances were rare. We focused more on ourselves than what was going on in the outside world.
After dinner was over I remember having to ask to be “excused from the table”. After that it was off to my room to do some homework until I was summoned back in order to help dry the dishes. These days, those days are gone. Nowadays I’m seeing more and more people eat in front of the television or some other type of glowing rectangle and the art of face to face conversation is all but gone.
With that in mind I thought it might be interesting to take stroll down memory lane at what was considered good table manners. The ones that I’m listing are for a more formal setting but are probably a good rule of thumb for diners everywhere.
Let’s start with the table itself. Here in the States it’s considered bad form to load the table with a barrage of utensils that won’t be used during the meal. A tablecloth is considered a nice touch for formal settings but for more informal meals placemats are a good idea. If you’re in a decent restaurant (McDonald’s and the like don’t count), men should always remove their hats when dining.
For God’s sake, put away your damn cell phone and shut up or stop tweeting. Try and show some decorum and respect to those you’re dining with and those that are at surrounding tables. That goes for iPads and any other electronic gizmos you might have attached to your hand. Your friends on Facebook or any other social media outlet can freakin’ wait and I sincerely doubt they care what you’re having for an appetizer or if the server is “hot”. The same goes if you’re dining in someone else’s home. Show some respect to your host and put the gadgets away or at the very least, on mute.
The same goes for the food. If your host serves up something unpalatable it’s considered bad form to say something along the lines of “This tastes like shit”. Instead, take a napkin and as discreetly as you can deposit said shitty substance into the napkin and return it to your lap. If you’re in a fancy restaurant and don’t want to cause a scene by asking the waiter to return your dish, the same etiquette applies.
It always amazes me to see how some people cut their food. Folks, cavemen probably did better. I’ve seen some folks holding their knife and fork in a clenched fist and hacking away at their food like they were getting ready to disembowel an animal. That’s disgusting.
Here’s another handy tip. Try not inhaling your food like you were in an eating contest or it was your last meal before facing a firing squad. And, for the love of Christ, don’t chew with your mouth open or try or carry on a conversation with your pie hole full of food. Nobody needs to see or hear that.
Naturally all of these rules don’t apply to all situations. If you’re at a backyard barbecue or tailgating with your friends they might even be discouraged. However, when with a group of strangers at a restaurant or even if you find the time to chow down with your family members at home it’s always considered polite to act civilized.