Table Manners and Eating Habits
This is a topic that most people will find familiar from personal experience, I’m sure. I can only hope it doesn’t bother you as much as it bothers me.
If you are not new to my rants
then chances are by now you will have been exposed to my views on toilet lids and litter as well as tailgaters and lazy clichés in film scripts. I’m sure there will be many more rants to come, as there are all sorts of things that get my goat, including, but not limited to, overpopulation, poor language skills, modern music, reality TV, television talent shows, and people being rude to complete strangers, and don’t get me started on children.
This rant, however, is something that I’m sure a lot of you can get behind. Not too controversial, shall we say.
As an introduction to today’s topic of vexation, I would like to point out that I am not overly keen on dining out. I am picky about my choice of eating establishment and also the company I keep at the table. This is for a number of reasons and I am sure that any mental health professional could have a field day picking apart my various neuroses on the subject. The thing I don’t like, besides dirty cutlery, sticky tables, slimy condiment receptacles and grubby china are my fellow diners eating habits. Now I’m not talking about everybody here. Chances are if you have eaten with me more than once then your manners are either up to scratch, or your friendship and company is valued to the degree that I can tolerate or ignore your feasting shortcomings.
My dislikes are quite possibly a list you are familiar with.
Although I expect there are some things that most of you may not have considered. I’m not saying I’m peculiar or in any way special here, but there are probably some things that I find revolting that would never have crossed your mind.
Let’s start with the basics.
Now stupid as it may seem this is something that it turns out I have been guilty of myself without even realising. Or so Jo tells me and I can only assume, she is being truthful with me about this. The noises people make when they are eating are something I seem to be overly sensitive about. It turns my stomach. It’s the noise of moist food being moved around inside a mouth. The smacking of lips. The movements of the tongue. The squelching sounds. Those are the things that make me want to run screaming from the table. I suppose it’s possible that this could just be due to an overly sensitive auditory faculty. I used to be a sound engineer. Spent countless hours picking apart sounds. As a result, I formed the habit of hearing all sorts of things that most people don’t notice. Some of these became an irritation, primary among them being mouth noises.
There are of course sights to go along with these masticatory horrors.
Food around people’s mouths. Can’t you manage to hit your mouth? Does it have to be smeared across your face to get the full culinary experience? I can understand it in young children, and that’s one of the reasons I avoid them. Children are sticky. And how do you not notice once it’s there? Can’t you feel that thing sat there? And when you have managed to get the food into your mouth, close your mouth while chewing. What are you an animal? I don’t want to see the process by which you make the morsel of food you have placed into your mouth suitable for swallowing and digestion. Once it is in your mouth, keep your mouth closed. We’ll be coming back to this.
In brief, these first two items can be dealt with just by closing your mouth when you chew. It ain’t hard people.
Moving away from the sights and sounds
We come to basic table manners and common decency.
Firstly, learn how to use cutlery. Ninety-nine percent of the time the tines of a fork should face down. I am prepared to forgive this with peas and sweet corn but what you should be doing is combining elements of your meal so that this doesn’t become an issue. The perfect combination here with peas and sweetcorn is of course mashed potatoes. Use the potatoes to stick it all together which will allow you to pick up the aforementioned items without the rolling off the fork issue. Also, don’t eat peas off the back of a knife. And cut your food, don’t tear it. I have had the misfortune of eating opposite someone who was so inept with cutlery that they would stab their meat with both their knife and fork and then attempt to pull it apart. Dear god.
Handling communal food and cutlery with sticky fingers or fingers that have already been in your mouth is another thing.
If it’s going in my mouth I don’t want anything that’s been in your mouth anywhere near it. In part this is just basic sanitation. Some deep-seated part of me doesn’t want to catch whatever nasty you might be harbouring. I would like to think that this is some trait passed on through evolution, but judging by the eating habits of some of the people I went to school with it is clearly a learned behaviour. If you haven’t already learned it, do so now. The rest of the world is judging you because you have a revolting habit.
Double dipping. You have just stuck that in your mouth and now you have transferred your saliva into the sauce. Obviously, if we are sharing the sauce this is an issue. If it’s not communal, then have at it.
There’s another thing that might seem silly to you,
But I don’t like it when people reach over my plate to grab something. Need the ketchup? Am I in between you and said ketchup? Don’t just reach for it. Ask and I will pass it to you. I have this notion, I know not from whence it came, that something is going to fall off your arm into my dinner. Probably hair. I have an immense issue with hair in food. Human hair, animal hair. You name it I will probably have found it in food at some point. I hate it. Anything that runs the risk of putting hair into my food is, to my mind, an abomination.
Jo has asked me to mention, stealing food from other people plates.
Don’t do that. If someone offers you something then fine, but just helping yourself is an absolute no-no. It suggests that you are either incapable of reading the menu or that you make poor decisions when choosing what you are going to eat. This could be taken as a reflection of your poor life choices.
Finally, we reach the pièce de résistance.
This will be familiar to everyone I’m sure. It is of course, talking with your mouth full. Not only does it look and sound disgusting, but you are quite possibly spraying the contents of your mouth all over the food I am about to eat, but also, quite possibly, me!
It might seem unimportant to you, I can only assume that’s why you do it, but I do not want to be contaminated by the fluids of your internal workings. I find it revolting and if you value at all the people you dine with then you will have the common decency to say your piece once you have finished chewing and swallowing. What is so important that it needs to be said muffled by a mouthful of dinner?
That’s the end and you’re still here so I guess you are keen to see more.
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