Tuesday, April 03, 2007

table manners

Sharing a meal, sometimes sitting face to face with strangers, is a curious act that sets humans apart from all other animals on the planet. So strange is this behaviour, yet so important to the development of society and communication, that plenty of scientists and philosophers have tried to decode the origins and history of the human meal.


Kate Colquhoun reviews Feast: Why Humans Share Food by Martin Jones in the 27 March issue of the Telegraph.

I want to know if Jones touches on when we decided it was rude to put our elbows on the table. I'm increasingly struck by how this taboo limits engagement when you're sharing a meal with someone; pulling you back and away from the place of exchange and engagement; calming your body language, hands in your lap, so that animation is stilled, the body is made passive, and conversations evolve in much different directions than they might have otherwise.

I have elected to break this taboo repeatedly, and without compunction. Particularly after the last plate has been cleared and there is still some wine left to drink.

15 comments:

Anali said...

Thanks for the heads up on this! I'll have to look for it. Food has always fascinated me and the idea of why and how we share meals fascinates me even more!

MGL said...

I've had this discussion with my parents since I was able to talk.

And others keep insisting I stop slurping, even though it serves the legitimate function of allowing intake of hot soup before it has sufficiently cooled down.

MGL said...

This guy, btw, wrote a book - long pamphlet, really - on the subject in his youth.

suttonhoo said...

too cool.

gotta link?

Lolabola said...

yes I hate this taboo. it's so anti-social and I hate being berated for being overly social just because of some stupid taboo.

B has a problem of leaning way back from the table so I have to lean over it just to hear him in a bar. Also of slurping his tea which, sorry mgl, is bloody annoying.

Both have always seemed a little passive-aggressive to me, but that's probably because it's B and I want to nitpick.

MGL said...

Suttonhoo: I'm afraid not. It's in Norwegian, anyway. It's called something like "a matter of taste" and is about food culture and preference.

Lola: Slllluuuuuuurp. I'm a foaming-at-the-mouth kind slurper.

Actually - true story - a distant relative of mine was killed by the natives of the Amazon Rainforest because they thought he had gone crazy. He was foaming at the mouth... because he was brushing his teeth.

suttonhoo said...

that is the best true story I've heard all day.

even beats the one about my great-grandfather showing up late and missing his passage on the Titantic.

anniemcq said...

I like it here. Would someone pass the wine?

I could give a damn about elbows on the table - I think that rule is really out of date. I understand slurping if liquid is hot, although it kind of drives me crazy. But talking with a mouth full of food, smacking lips and not wiping food off of ones face makes me feel really, truly queasy.

That said, I've often thought that if people who vehemently disagree with each other could sit down for an amazing meal, with the right atmosphere, agreements could be reached. Unless of course they smacked their lips and talked with giant mouthfuls of food. Then it's unlikely that accord would be reached.

Lolabola said...

hahaha! mgl now B is staring at me for laughing so hard.

Great true stories

suttonhoo said...

definitely time to uncork the next bottle and pour another round.

thanks for coming to dinner, everyone. great company.

anne said...

This has been lovely dinner table conversation, and I don't care who has their elbows on the table (although we are working hard to break our kids of that habit).

Ms. Hoo, thank you for checking on my blog and leaving a comment - it is always good to know someone else reads what I (occasionally) post.

I have a technical Blogger question for you (and anyone else at the table): How do you make the links in your posts read like light blue words, not the http: strings that I have in mine? The link mgl has in his comment above is a good example of what I want to do, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out.

Any suggestions?

We can take this discussion to an email format if it is easier - thanks for your input!

suttonhoo said...

hey anne -- welcome. :) to embed your links you need to set up the html tags just so -- something like this:

<a href="http://www.yoururlhere.com">your url here</a>

there might be a blogger shortcut way, but if there is I don't know about it. :(

hope that helps -- drop back by and let me know if you were successful!

Anali said...

When's the next dinner? I'll be sure to stop by. And I'll have to eat more, because I'm still hungry!!! : )

MGL said...

Anne: When you're posting in Blogger, you can press the button which has a globe and a sort of figure-8 which is supposed to represent chain-links on it. A window will pop up and tell you to input an URL.

Suttonhoo: The Titanic surely beats anything, although if there were natives and poison darts in the story, it would be better.

suttonhoo said...

where are my manners? looks like we need to uncork another bottle of wine...

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