Exactly who gets to decide what defines good table manners? In Brazil, blowing or wiping your nose at the table is unforgivably rude, I’ve read that in Ecuador, one doesn’t eat with their fingers and in Egypt if you look at someone else’s plate, they must out of politeness, offer you their food. Who decides all that?
Last month, the Smithsonian’s food blog, Food and Think, issued a writer’s challenge on “Manners”. I didn’t think about it much at the time, but it keeps creeping back into my consciousness after reading their guest posts over the month.
When I was growing up, the ultimate rule in our house (as decreed by my father) was “No singing at the table.” Well, why not? I don’t really remember why my sisters or I would feel compelled to sing at the table, but I do remember being frequently admonished, “We do not sing at the table.” The only worse offense was all the times that in my youthful awkwardness, I managed to turn over my full glass into my father’s plate at dinner. And this happened frequently. So frequently it became absurd. And my mother’s giggles at how ridiculous it became only infuriated my father.He would storm away from the table, and thus I was never punished for this inexcusable behavior.
How can something so joyful as singing be bad manners? If my grandchildren want to sing “The Wheels on the Bus” at the dinner table, I’ll probably sing with them. Forget someone else’s definition of table manners. This is my table.