[Sca-cooks] food manners, from the blog Tigers & Strawberries.

Celia des Archier celiadesarchier at cox.net
Thu Nov 2 01:43:58 PST 2006

Jadwiga Zajaczkowa / Jenne Heise said:

<<So, I thought about it and decided that I should write a little primer 
on manners relating to food, in order to help those confused by the 
issue get on a little better with the rest of the world.>>

One of the problems I always have with "manners guides" is the arrogance
implied in telling other people what good manners are when the concept of
"good manners" is so culturally bound.  What is good etiquette in one
culture may be very bad manners in another.  Cultural norms vary widely.  So
it is always important, when handing out "manners guides" to indicate which
culture you're referring to.  When it comes to manners there is no such
thing as "the rest of the world", as though we were all one homogenous
cultural identity (no matter how deeply the Anglo-Euro culture would wish it

For example.  In some cultures it is imperative that one eat everything on
one's plate.  In others, it is bad manners to eat everything on one's plate
- one should always leave a small amount of each dish behind to indicate
that one is satiated.  In Japan it is acceptable to "slurp" noodles, but
it's unacceptable other places.  In some cultures (most specifically several
Asian ones) soup is lifted to the mouth and sipped from the bowl, with solid
contents "raked" into the mouth with chopsticks... this often startles
Europeans where eating soup is done silently, often with very specific
etiquette about how the spoon should be loaded and carried to the mouth.  In
many Asian cultures it is considered bad manners to use a knife to cut food
at the table (it should already be cut into small enough portions.)  In most
Islamic countries it is ill mannered to eat with the left hand.  In many
European countries the American custom of cutting meat with the right hand,
then putting down the knife and moving the fork to the left hand to eat is
considered gauche (one cuts with the right, eats with the left, and the
utensils are placed on the plate between bites, but one does not switch

One could go on forever with such illustrations.  In some cases being formal
is expected... in others being too formal is seen as "stuffy" and would be
insulting ('affectation' or 'putting on aires'... i.e., saying you are
better than the host/ess.) 

So while many of the ideas offered are certainly cultural norms in the U.S.
and may translate to many other cultures, especially European (i.e., taking
what you are offered with a smile and a "thank you" is pretty universal, but
beyond that things get much more complex), assuming that someone's manners
are "bad" because they don't equate with your idea of "good manners",
especially if that person is from another culture, is arrogant.  And
assuming that the whole world operates by your rules of etiquette or that
people who don't are somehow lesser people is one of the reasons that people
from differing cultures can have a great deal of difficulty getting along. 

In my experience, people get along best when consideration becomes a matter
not of treating people as you would wish (or expect) to be treated, but
rather to try and learn how *they* with to be treated, and behaving


 Not that I 
think that my readers are in any way unmannerly, because they are all so 
super and wonderful. No, I don.t expect that anyone who comes here 
regularly will have need of this primer, however, they may know someone 
who needs enlightened. In such a case, you can email the url to this 
post to them with no explanation, or print out the primer and leave it 
on their desk, in their lunchbox or tape it to their foreheads. Whatever 

This is not a comprehensive list, because I am no Judith Martin, and 
thus am not really an authority. But this list is just a handful of 
things that I think are pretty important that might help dinner guests, 
hosts, servers, customers and family members get along at the table just 
a little bit better.

Rule Number One of Barbara.s Table Manners is simple.within reason, eat 
what you are offered, and do so graciously, even if it tastes like ass. 
This is the big rule that was drummed into my head from early childhood 
on: if you are offered food in someone else.s home, it is rude to turn 
it down. It is also rude to explain how you don.t eat whatever it is 
that is being served to you, unless you have a damned good reason to do 
so, (like .God will hate me if I eat pork.) and even then, you should 
try to avoid saying no to your host. If it is something you don.t 
normally care for, take as small a portion as possible, and eat it, and 
smile, even if it tastes bad.some might say, especially if it tastes 

And after you have eaten it, you praise the cook and thank them 


Because when someone cooks something for you, it is an expression of 
love and fellowship, and such an expression should never be spurned, 
because that is akin to spitting in someone.s face. Bringing people 
together at the table to share food is a sacred act, and is meant to 
create bonds of friendship and community among human beings. To refuse 
food is tantamount to refusing the friendship of the host and the cook, 
and in some countries and cultures, this is a dire offense. To accept an 
invitation to dine, and then refuse to eat what is presented to you as a 
guest by the host is an even worse offense.

My Grandma always told me that when you serve food to a guest, it is 
always the best that you can give.and that meant that when you went to 
someone else.s table, what they served was the best that -they- could 
offer. Not every person has the means to present a five course meal, but 
even if they are poor, whatever they put before a guest is the best that 
their hearth and hands can offer, and it should never be looked down 
upon, ridiculed or refused. It should be eaten graciously, and many 
thanks should be given for it.

To be a good guest, one should therefore be humble.

Barbara.s Second Rule is a corollary to the first rule: in order to be a 
good host, make every effort to know what your guests do and do not like 
and can and cannot eat; in order to be a good guest, make your dietary 
needs known to your host ahead of time politely and remember that there 
is a difference between what you cannot eat and what you will not eat. A 
good guest should understand that his host is under no obligation to 
please his palate so long as she does not serve food which will cause 
her guests bodily harm or death. A good host should do his utmost to 
provide for the comfort of his guests, while a good guest will do her 
utmost to not be an undo burden to the host.

For both hosts and guests, this means that discreet inquiries, done 
privately, on the subject of dietary needs are a must for successful 
dinner parties.

Guests should also strive not to be an undue burden on the host by not 
making unreasonable requests. If one is a Muslim on the Atkins diet, and 
is genuinely allergic to a number of foods such as milk and almonds, one 
should then also not give the host a list of foods that one simply does 
not like. Stick with what is a genuine problem, and leave the rest be.

For hosts, I say this: if you have vegetarians dining with you, please 
do not cook vegetables with meat and call them vegetables. It is not 
cute, clever or compassionate to do so. It is rude. Do not secretly put 
pork in the green beans and then .forget. to tell your Muslim guest. And 
for goodness sake, treat food allergies as serious health problems 
because they can be deadly. You don.t want to kill anyone do you? I 
didn.t think so. (Do you really want to have someone come to your door 
in the middle of a dinner party, and when you open it, you find it is 
the Grim Reaper? If you think it would be fun, please view Monty 
Python.s The Meaning of Life and see that while it can be funny, it 
really puts a damper on the evening.s entertainment.)

Barbara.s Third Rule is a corollary of the First and Second Rules: 
please do not make ugly faces, icky noises or derisive comments about 
other people.s food. Whether it is served to you, or is on someone 
else.s plate, if you don.t care for it, Keep It To Yourself! No one 
wants to hear you make gagging sounds if they are eating meat and you 
are a vegetarian, nor do vegarians want to hear you go on about how 
terrible tofu is. If you don.t like it and you aren.t eating it, leave 
the person or persons who are eating it alone to eat it in peace for 
goodness sake. Else you risk never being asked out to eat again.

Rule Number Four is not related necessarily to the other three rules, 
but it is very important nonetheless. When one is out at a restaurant, 
please treat your servers as human beings, because that is bloody well 
what they are. They are not there to be your personal emotional punching 
bags. They work hard doing a physically, emotionally and mentally 
demanding job in order to make a living wage, so please don.t make their 
life worse by acting like an arrogant ass with a sense of entitlement.

And while you are at it, here is a thought: learn the the difference 
between bad service (an inattentive, surly server who never brings water 
or remembers what you asked for), a very busy night when the restaurant 
is filled with loud tables and the waiters are harried, (the service is 
slow, but the waiter is apologetic, never forgets your requests, and is 
running around like a chicken with his head cut off, but still getting 
everything done), and cases where the server is not at fault, but the 
kitchen is (a steak is medium rare instead of medium well, but the 
server takes it right back to fix it with an apology and a smile.) Once 
you have figured out what good service and bad service are, tip 
accordingly, and never, ever stiff a server unless they are truly out of 
line with your party.

And never ever say some stupid crap like, .The restaurant should pay the 
servers a living wage so that I don.t have to tip,. and then use that as 
an excuse not to leave a tip, because that is a crass bullshit excuse to 
just be a tightwad. If you go out with me and say such a thing, guess 
what? I won.t go out with you again. End of story.

There are lots of other little rules that could be added here.and I 
welcome folks to leave their own musings on manners here in the comments 
section. Afterwards, perhaps we will collate them into a grand listing 
of table manners for the twenty-first century. We can keep adding to the 
big listing as situations arise and warrent inclusion.

Oh, and one more thing.remember this: manners are not just for guests, 
hosts, company and restaurants. They apply to everyday home meals, too. 
In fact, I would say it is just as important to treat your family and 
intimate friends with great courtesy and manners as it is to treat 
strangers and guests, because manners make life go more smoothly. 
Families have enough stress heaped upon them from living in close 
quarters day and in and day out; it never hurts, and in fact helps to 
alleviate stress if we all just treat each other with a bit of mannerly 
kindness on a daily basis.

Manners matter, every day, and in every way. 

excerpted from: 
-- Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, Knowledge Pika jenne at fiedlerfamily.net 
"History doesn't always repeat itself. Sometimes it screams
'Why don't you ever listen to me?' and lets fly with a club."
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