Sunday, August 10, 2014

Early 1920's Table Etiquette for Children

1922 School Picture Day

Table Manners and the Meaning of 'Goop'

You probably thought "goop" was just a term for some sort of glop or sticky substance. The term not only means those things, but in 1922 it also meant a rude and ill-mannered boorish person.  It was coined by Gelett Burgess, an American humorist, in the early 1900's:

Table Manners

"The Goops they lick their fingers,
And the Goops they lick their knives;
They spill their broth on the tablecloth —

Oh, they lead disgusting lives!
The Goops they talk while eating,

And loud and fast they chew;
And that is why I'm glad that I

Am not a Goop — are you?"
Don't be a Goop! 
Which of your friends have good manners at the table? What pleases you most in their manners? Is it the way in which they handle their food? Their positions at the table? Their conversation at the table? 
Eating is not a very attractive process, but in these busy days, meal time affords one of the few opportunities we have for meeting and greeting our friends. For that reason, the unattractive part of eating should be made as inconspicuous as possible, so that the social part of the meal can be emphasized. If you handle your silver and consume your food just as your neighbors do, your manner of eating is unnoticed, and you can dine without embarrassment and be welcome at any table. 
If, however, your table manners are unusual and peculiar, you at once become conspicuous; you embarrass your hostess; and your peculiarities may be so revolting as to take away the appetite and upset the conversation of others at the table. This being the case, you find yourself unwelcome, perhaps ignored and laughed at, because of your clumsy and unpleasant maneuvers. Consequently, it is necessary to know and to follow the customs that have been accepted by those who have learned best how to be agreeable to, and considerate of, their fellow men. 
First of all, be prompt at your meals. It is very trying to the person who planned the meal to have people come in late. If there are guests, allow them to enter first, and in any case, if those partaking of the meal come from the same room, the men and boys stand aside for the women to pass first, except when arrangement has been made for people to enter with partners. At the table, remain standing until all have arrived, or until the mother, or the hostess, or whoever is at the head of the table, gives the signal for sitting. It is a pleasant courtesy for a man to pull back the chair of the woman next to him, and then push it in toward the table for her as she sits down. 
Do not begin to eat until all have been served. The silver at your place is usually arranged in the order in which you will use it—beginning at the outside. If soup is served, fill your spoon away from you, always, not toward you. If this rule is observed, there is less danger of letting drops fall on the tablecloth or on your clothes. Soup should always be eaten from the side of the spoon, never from the front.

If you notice people while they eat, you can see how much less awkward it is to eat from the side than to push your spoon straight into your mouth, as though you meant to swallow it. See that you put the soup into your mouth quietly. Never suck it from the spoon with a noise; a noisy soup eater is most distressing to his neighbors. When you put down your spoon, if soup plates are used, leave the spoon in the plate. If bouillon cups are used instead, never leave the spoon in the cup, but put it in the saucer.

When fish is served, it is eaten by means of the fork only, except in those rather rare cases where a fish knife is provided. Fish bones may be removed from the mouth by means of the fork, or by the fingers. Often the latter method is a safer way of getting the bones to your plate. You should, as far as possible, avoid taking the bones into your mouth; and, when removing any, should shield your mouth with your napkin.

When the main course is served, you may be asked your preference in regard to the cuts of meat. If so, and if you have a preference, express it. If you are not asked, take what is served to you without comment. If the vegetables are placed on the table, help to pass them. If the table is set correctly, you will always find a tablespoon beside the vegetable dish, and it is your part in picking up the dish, to put the spoon into it, and pass the dish to your neighbor. In case your neighbor is occupied, it may be more convenient and less conspicuous to help yourself first. 
Never reach across the table or in front of a person for anything you desire, but ask the person nearest to pass the article. Try to anticipate the needs of your guests, so as to offer them what they need before they are obliged to ask. Always take bread with your fingers, never with your fork. The same is true of olives or radishes, or any food which is not provided with its own spoon or fork. Such dishes are ordinarily those that contain food which you eat from your fingers. Always use the butter knife provided to help yourself to butter. It is exceedingly bad form to help yourself from any dish with your own individual silver.
"At one time it was considered good form to leave a little food on the plate. Our lessons in thrift during the war, however, taught us that it is better to take no more than we want..."
In cutting your meat, be careful not to hold your knife and fork as weapons. The knife should be held easily in the right hand, with the forefinger running along the back of the blade near the handle. The fork, in the left hand, should be held with the prongs down, and the forefinger extended along the handle. Keep your arms close to your sides — never with the elbows out. The latter position produces an awkward appearance and frequently causes real annoyance and inconvenience to your neighbors. Never cut more than one mouthful of meat at a time. It is decidedly out of place to cut up all of your meat at once.

When you have cut off a small piece, the general rule is to rest your knife across your plate, transfer your fork to your right hand, with the prongs up, and so pick up and eat with your fork what has been cut. (It is permissible, however, to keep the fork in the left hand, prongs down, and so eat your meat. This method prevails in England.) 
Vegetables should be eaten with the fork whenever possible. If a vegetable is served in liquid or nearly liquid form, it may be eaten with a spoon. When not in use, the spoon should be allowed to rest in the dish with which it belongs. It should never be put back on the tablecloth. 
Just so, with the knife and fork; after they have been picked up, they should never rest anywhere but on the plate. They should not be put back on the tablecloth, or allowed to lean against the plate. For one thing, they are no longer perfectly clean, and it is unsanitary to spread the germs from your hands and mouth to the tablecloth. Moreover, leaning them against your plate puts them in your way, and is likely to cause accidents. 
In passing your plate for a second helping, leave your knife and fork side by side on your plate — do not remove them. When you have finished, put your knife and fork in this same position. 
Never spread a whole piece of bread at one time at the table. Break the piece in halves, and if one half is more than two or three small mouthfuls, break it again, and spread just one little piece at a time. If a bread and butter plate is provided, your bread, of course, belongs there. If none is provided, rest your bread on your dinner plate, if possible. If that is too crowded, all but the piece you have buttered may rest on the tablecloth. The buttered piece must rest on your plate.

At one time it was considered good form to leave a little food on the plate. Our lessons in thrift during the war, however, taught us that it is better to take no more than we want, and then to eat what is set before us, simply avoiding any impression of scraping the plate. A hostess is more flattered by a normally good appetite than by one which is too dainty. The latter makes her feel that you do not like her food.

From "Everyday Manners for American Boys and Girls" 
By the Faculty of South Philadelphia High School for Girls, 1922 


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