Saturday, June 1, 2019

A Healthy 1930 Etiquette Suggestion

While finger bowls, and finger bowl usage, have fallen in and out of fashion over decades and centuries, clean fingers at the dining table have always been fashionable.

Finger Bowls First

Though it is contrary to the book of etiquette, finger bowls ought really to be served at the beginning rather than at the end of a meal. The present practice serves an aesthetic end, the recommended one would serve as a measure of better personal hygiene. But there is nothing very novel in this suggestion. In fact, it is an old idea. The Mosaic law which includes so many good rules for the protection of health, forbids an orthodox believer to touch food before his hands have been washed. 

Keen observation had no doubt impressed the author of those sanitary laws that unclean hands are a source of, and a means of, transmitting disease. Indeed, the observations need not to have been so very keen to appreciate the point, for in the course of an hour the hands come in contact with a vast multitude of things which in themselves had previously been touched by scores if not hundreds of others, and each contact represents a possible source of danger. 

Now the matter is simple and yet! A large number of our schools have lunch rooms for their pupils, or cafeteria services, where those that cannot, or will not go home for their midday meal, may eat. How many among these schools provide washing facilities? How many shops, factories, or offices have a place where the workers might wash their hands before eating, without having to stand in line for half the lunch period? And also how many parents insist upon having their children come to the dinner table with hands freshly washed? 

Consider the care we bestow upon our foods, how we protect our milk, our meat and our water from contamination and pollution, and then consider how all of the precautions bestowed upon our food substances turn to naught by the soiled hands that transport the victuals from table to mouth. – Edited by Dr. lago Galdston for the N. Y. Academy of Medicine, 1930

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

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