Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Good Manners Never Go Out Of Style, But Formalities Have A Proper Time And Place

Dear Tazi:

My twin sister and I are having an argument and since you seem to know so much about so much we are hoping you can settle it definitively. The discussion started over the dinner table over the proper way to eat mashed potatoes (fork or spoon?) and grew into a full-blown discussion on table manners.

We obviously know that certain rules like no elbows on the table will always be in fashion, and that newer rules like no texting at dinner are just plain obvious, but what do you think about flatware? My sister says that the tradition of a salad fork, dessert spoon, and other utensils it outdated and outmoded; that one fork is fine for all courses so long as you wipe it clean on your napkin; I say that some traditions should be cherished, even if they do seem archaic. Am I being “old and outmoded” as my sister says? Or does holding onto tradition as a way to hold onto old-fashioned manners make sense?

Twin In The Right Or Twin In The Wrong?

Dear Twin In The Right Or Twin In The Wrong?:

I personally am a big fan of no utensils at all and just shoving my maw into a plate and chowing, but then I lack opposable thumbs.

Kinda like this...

My opinion on the proper way to eat mashed potatoes is to use the utensil provided – fork or spoon – and to chew them with your mouth closed while being a polite dinner guest. This is also my opinion on whatever other flatware (or silverware) is provided for your meal. A good guest does not criticize his or her hostess’ table.

If you are the hostess and are seeking to set a proper table, I say that the more utensils offered the more formal the meal becomes. If you are attempting to create an elegant atmosphere, by all means provide the proper size and style fork for each course (from the shellfish appetizer to the chocolate torte for dessert). A clean fork for each course will keep the courses from blending on the fork; a cleansing intermezzo will keep the flavors from blending in the mouth. Regardless of how formal or informal the meal, it is never, ever polite to wipe your fork on your napkin. If you are in need of a fresh fork politely and discreetly inform your hostess who will see that your needs are met.

In the end, the answer to your question is compromise: If you insist that each meal served at your table have a half dozen or more utensils for each place setting than you may be asking a little too much of people who lead lives that are busy to the extreme – especially teenagers, who usually have work, sports practices and games, homework, and other lessons on top of their schooling. A once a week formal dinner which all family members are required to attend is not too much to ask, and is an important way to instill table manners and etiquettes that are still very much in use in the business world.

Are you old and outmoded? Not at all. Is your sister too modern? No, again. A balanced blend of old and new is something to cherish.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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