"Don't eat as if you have only moments to live...." and other wonderful ideas that will never take hold
I've been chortling my way through Nicholas Clayton's, "A Butler's Guide to Table Manners" over the last day or two. It's been a welcome distraction. Any book that starts with "Never be rude or patronising to the people serving you- it's never justified..." is always going to find favour with me. But I'm not sure Mr Clayton would appreciate my guffawing and tittering as I read his informative and neatly written text. But it is very very whimsical, not sure it was meant to be but it is. Of course it's done nothing more than arm me with more ways to be offended by guests. You are, it has to be said, a crass and boorish lot with your pinkies poked out and your blowing on hot food (both are considered no no's) . Quite rum indeed.
Not all of you....but most of you.
"A Butler's Guide to Table Manners" is full of fascinatingly superb nuggets of information pertaining to how one should conduct oneself whilst dining. For example it is considered "beyond the pale" to discuss money, illness and medical procedures at the dinner table but sex, religion and politics are fair game. I assume not at the same time though. Could get ugly. I recoil at the idea that polite society should set the parameters of my dinner conversation.
But then again polite society has never had din dins at my house where conversation with The Cousin stretches no further than football and the lives, loves and whippets of the Coronation Street characters.
"Go on ye boy ye Ken", remarked The Cousin the other evening as Ken slipped off to his lover on a barge.
To which I replied, whilst shifting the plate on my lap of sausages a la mash, "Aye...". It's a dignified and humble household full of sophistication but mainly vagary and whimsy and farting. So much farting.
There are pages, with diagrams, on how to hold your cutlery. There are more pages than you would expect detailing the rules of etiquette for using a toothpick. This is a particular issue for me as I fucking detest, with a passion I normally reserve for stepping in dog poo and Scousers, the use of toothpicks at the table and the resulting leaving of them for me to pick up. Good grief surely you don't need a lesson in etiquette to realise that stuffing your sweaty man paw into your damp hot mouth and rooting around with a little piece of plastic whilst there are other people dining may be more than a little off putting. It's crassness in the extreme. Like this charmer here.
But Nicholas has the answer in a section amusingly titled, "Biting Talk". (There are also sections called, wait for it, "Plate Expectations" and "It's no choke" amongst others. Arf!
- Before gouging around with a pick, try a swill of water to free the problem.
- Go somewhere to probe the teeth in private, never do it at the table.
- Never do that thing with a flattened hand over the top lip in a failed attempt to hide the picking going on underneath; this is unparalleled in it's vulgarity and in, on a par with sniffing.
In the same section Nicky baby, as I'm sure he would be delighted to be called, lists some other don'ts for the dinning table. Some make good sense, some are just fanciful dreams...
- Don't pick your teeth at the table (or anything else for that matter)
- Don't lift your glass for a refill, as a moving target can be hard to hit.
- Don't gulp at drinks; it's looks desperate and greedy
- Don't get drunk; you'll look absurd. (Arf!)
- Don't make a fuss; if you don't like something just leave it. (More arfs than I can possible manage. If only. Sigh)
- Don't treat the waiting staff badly, or you might end up with more than you ordered.
A Butlers Guide To Table Manners is a great read and I urge all waiting staff to get a copy. But you mustn't be tempted to carry it in your apron pocket and quote lines to the rude and boorish mouth breathers that clog up your restaurant. It will take an age to pull it our of your ass.....