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Letter from the Editor

Table Manners

Article by Robin Moyer Chung

Photography by Ashley Armstrong Skatoff

Originally published in Westport Lifestyle

Here’s a messy fact: table manners didn’t exist, as we know them, until the 1500s. Until then, people ate with their hands.

Imagine doing that around the dining table?

My kids would love it.

Growing up, my parents were hardcore about eating etiquette.

Almost every night we sat down to a family dinner with placemats and cloth napkins. Knife, fork, spoon, regardless of what we were eating that night.

If you forgot to put your napkin on your lap, punishment was swift and severe. To this day, I can’t eat a bite without, at least, the flimsiest shift of paper floating on my thighs.

When one considers the state of the world - wildfires, politics, strikes - table manners may seem trite. Why can’t I eat with my elbows on the table? What’s the point of a napkin on my lap? Who cares if I eat my salad with my dinner fork?

I care. Very much.

Table manners are one of the blocks that build character. Like making one’s bed in the morning, opening the door for others, taking turns merging onto busy highways. It’s part of learning the importance of being a responsible and caring individual.

It may seem silly to care about keeping one’s rim clean at a restaurant, but it’s also a sign that you care enough to not force the waitstaff to get your food on their fingers when they clear the table. It shouldn’t matter if one hunches over their meal, elbows on the table, but it may be the only time you gather as a family and wouldn’t it be nice to sit up and appear open and available for conversation? Do it for mom.

Table manners are also about respect. Respect for the person who made your meal, who served your meal, for those dining with you. Respect for the fact you have a meal and are not going hungry.

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