Posted by: foodtalker | April 28, 2010

manners maketh man

I’m a bit of a Tartar about table manners.  Not that I’m a snob about what you eat, just how you eat it.  Really, is there anything worse than sitting opposite someone who chews with their mouth open, or worse yet, chews and talks with their mouth stuffed full of food?  It’s like watching a great big human cement mixer.  

Waving or stabbing a utensil in the air is another of my bête noir.  And that goes for breadsticks and chopsticks too.  This aggressive behaviour does not increase authority or help to emphasis some illusive point.  In fact such overly demonstrative gestures are alarming and hostile.  I worry about sharp points, prongs and serration.   

 Narcissistic self adulation in a mirror is, guess what, rude.  It’s hard not to sneak a sideways peek now and then, but blatant use of it to either admire yourself or scope out the rest of the restaurant behind your back is inexcusable.   Peacocks don’t belong in restaurants. 

Finger licking or the licking of any other body part at the table is strictly prohibited – unless being incorporated into some sort of seductive re-enactment of the movie 9 ½Weeks – hopefully being staged privately.  One exception to the licking rule.   Until the age of four, allowance might be made for a “training” period.   Otherwise, napkins are cheap and disposable. 

On the subject of napkins, I’ve never been someone who enjoyed having it smoothed into my lap by the waiter.  How did that creepy habit ever start?  It’s way too personal and up close for me.  I can’t imagine a self-respecting waiter finding it anything other than humiliating.  Having a stranger hold my coat as I squirm into it is about the limit on personal services for me.

Another pet peeve is a waiter who tries to clear away my plate when it’s obvious I’ve not finished.  There’s still food on it, I’m not acting in a restless manner, I’ve not asked for the bill and my utensils are poised for continued use.  All I have done is take my hands off them for a minute.  Maybe I need to rest my wrists, do some digesting, use my hands to pass the salt or pick up my own napkin.   Here comes a waiter to grab my plate.  This always provokes an unpleasant wrestling match and glaring session – the waiter seeing their tip diminish in an instant.  What happened to the universal signal of completion?  There’s something “unfinished” about not putting your knife and fork together at the end of a meal, i.e. the meal. 

 Gargling and slurping both need a dishonourable mention.  These are not noises that others find appealing.  If we’re married and you are gargling mouthwash over the bathroom sink, naked, it’s cute – maybe.  Otherwise I expect you to swallow like everyone else and skip the swishing segment.  Sucking down the last few sips of a drink through a straw smacks of dehydration.  Just order another drink for Pete’s sake. 

And, whilst on the subject of noises, it goes without saying (surely?) that all “noises” are off limits.  None of them is clever, artistic or amusing in the adult world.  However, I will concede that if you find yourself in Arab company belching loudly at the end of a meal is expected and seen as the highest compliment you can pay your hostess, but then you’ve probably just sucked down a sheep’s eye.



  1. Thou wouldst be an intimidating dinner companion, particularly for a clumsy eater such as myself. No pasta, soups, sauces (my shirts exert a gravitational pull on marinara sauce). Even water (a clear, colourless liquid) turns cloth dark, something I’ve never figured out.

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