Friday, 8 May 2009

"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.
Sniffing? That's right sniffing. No sniffing at the table, apparently. How disappointing.

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)
and my favourite
  • Don't treat the waiting staff badly, or you might end up with more than you ordered.
Well that's just sage advice right there. But really at the end of the day I couldn't give a fudge which spoon you use to scoop your soup and I wouldn't bat an eyelid if you were graphically explaining the intricacies of your last anal exam, as long as I don't hear it that is. Etiquette is one thing manners are another and manners matter more.

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.....

20 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

Tuesday Kid said...

Is used to live with a guy who, after he finished eating, liked to light up a fag and blow his smoke carelessly into my and other people's faces.

Everything tastes like muck when that happens. He was left to eat alone most of the time after the first few shared meals, and he never quite knew why (even though we'd told him to stop it).

Manuel said...

tuesday kid: i used to be that many ways it was the best part of eating, the smoking after.....sigh...

Tuesday Kid said...

No the smoking after was okay, it was just when he blew it in our faces. It spoiled the taste of our lovely food (pasta and stock cubes - yummy).

Anonymous said...

the picking of teeth is a most private matter. more private than masturbation, which can, on occasion, be performed in the presence of someone you care for.... picking teeth? never. not even in the dark.

belfast Plate Carrier said...

does it cover the 'arm wrestling at the table is inappropriate' part? Like when Mr Sheils and a certain member of popular beat combo Therapy? came to Ginger?

Medbh said...

Picking teeth is ghastly but blowing your nose is far, far worse.
The nose is basically a contagious biohazard.
Your hands should never go near it in public but surely not at the table.
We were out with a couple once and when the dude picked it and flicked it, I had to leave the table with the urge to puke.

savannah said...

oh my...seriously, oh my word, sugar! xoxox

Boxer said...

tsk, tsk, tsk.

MJ said...

Send your cousin round to mine.

I've been known to eat my spotted dick during an episode.

MJ said...

An episode of Coronation Street, to be clear.

Oh dear.

wv: deemin
A deemin made me do it.

PRyin said...

I do believe one of the worst rules of etiquette often broken at many a table is the commenting on another's table manners. It's fine in parent/child way and it's vaguely acceptable in a "they say that in some circles picking one's toes at the table is considered rude" *glare at sockless oaf*.
But I reckon it's usually far ruder to pass comment than it is to be somewhat unmannerly.

Incidentally, without fail, at a restaurant, I will always blow on my ice-cream. Then roll my eyes at my idiocy and do it again.

Manuel said...

oooh crikey 10.20am.......must go so so much to do........mainly go to work......

Anonymous said...

You guys are never going to enjoy China with those petty preconceptions of manners. Sniffing is de rigeur (and snorting and big hackles), picking your teeth is essential and very much accepted, and as for those awkward things like bones and shells, well my friend just spit them onto the table with gusto. It's funny how different things can be.

Anonymous said...

Sounds pretty funny. I will keep this in mind when I buy my next book. Just finishing one off now.

Flann O'Coonassa said...

Don't treat the waiting staff badly, or you might end up with more than you orderedIt's so true. I once mistreated a waitress and ended up with extra fries. Not a bad thing, you say? Well, while I was eating the extra fries, she was breaking into my car and taking a dump on the front seat.

To this day, despite a rigorous valeting, I drive from the back seat, reaching forward over the front seat to the wheel and using snooker cues to press the peddles.

The extra fries were nice though, so it's swings and roundabouts I guess.

Killer said...

Don't bring my to a restaurant!!!My manners are shit!!!

Native Minnow said...

You say sex, religion and politics is fair game but not at the same time? What about when talking about the likes of Bill Clinton/Monical Lewinsky or Larry Craig/Random Bathroom Guy He Was Trying To Solicit Gay Sex From?

Anonymous said...

If we talked about sex, religion, and politics at the table, medical procedures would be required.

I once had a boss who winced whenever anyone even said the word "toothpick." We took to saying it a lot. Snif.

Belfast Barista said...

I had a devil of a time eating in restaurants in Japan- blowing your nose in public, let alone at the dinner table, is considered one of the most rude and disgusting things you could EVER do. And handkerchiefs are thought of as no better than toilet brushes. Tissues and antibacterial handwipes all the way.
And I was there in the middle of cherry blossom season- HAYFEVER.
Cue running to the toilet and hiding under the table pretending to be looking for something in my bag every few minutes!

Another Japanese one is taking a piece of food to your mouth that is large enough to make you open your mouth wide- okay for men, but for women it's very unladylike. Small bites!

You must never ever point your cutlery or chopsticks at anyone, even when setting them down- they should never point at anything above the level of what's on the table.

Also it's very rude to pour your own drink, it makes you look desperate.

I think all these points would do well to be applied in Western restaurants.

People chewing with their mouths open is also a pet hate of mine.

Old Knudsen said...

Comment moderation? Yer no that big yet.
Speaking of big yer arse has yet again made an appearance on me blog. I do it to get the traffic.

Its the 21st century whats all this about table manners ? the amount of crap I get here about always holding my fork in my left hand and knife in my right (like normal people) while I eat and you go on about not scratching at the table. Too much man.