He had been a waiter in a smart West End hotel, London, and had come to Los Angeles, California, for his health. “Speaking of manners,” he said, pointing to an article in a recent woman’s magazine upon that subject while we were eating at the same table in the Vegetarian Cafe, “it is queer the atrocious manners people, even in so-called polite society, exhibit in public, especially at the public dining table.”
“Apropos of what are your remarks” we inquired timidly. “So far as my experience goes,” he went on, “I have seen a great deal of bad manners in waiting on public dining-tables in London, some through ignorance of table etiquette; others because they were careless of the laws governing table politeness. He lifted up his eyes in a somewhat critical way.
“For instance both asparagus and Indian corn should be eaten with the fingers. I have often seen such tackled with knife and fork. Of course, this is not a crime, but how embarrassing it made those thus misusing the knife to discover their fellow-diners using their fingers. What to do with the knife they knew not! They could not very well lay it back on the table and to leave it on the plate would cause them to be minus what they would need for the next course. In such cases, I have often mercifully removed the used tools and supplied clean ones in their place. Of course, I was usually tipped for my trouble.
“Again, olives are usually a puzzle to diners. These should be taken in the fingers from the dish, and eaten between courses. I have seen amateur diners-out place them on the plate with whatever dish they were eating, and frantically strive to cut them into pieces with a knife; and often the olive flies off into a neighbor’s lap. Tipping one’s soup plate toward one is a common error. It should be tipped away from the eater.
“Oysters are another puzzle in eating. I have often seen young ladies, who from their actions one might judge to be dining out for the first time, try to cut the bivalve in half; and sometimes the results would be very amusing. Oysters should, of course, be eaten whole, balanced on a fork. Then again, thoughtless people will often smother said food in cayenne pepper and nearly choke themselves when trying to digest it.
“Then there is the finger-bowl. One would think that this was such a common thing that people knew what it was for. But I saw one man at a hunt dinner in a country house in England actually pick up the bowl and drink the water therefrom, to the great astonishment of the other guests.”– Los Angeles Herald, 1908
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia