In 1909 they asked, “Where is a School of Table Etiquette?”
Everywhere, schools of domestic science are bring installed with promising success in the effort to lure the eye and tickle the palate in gustatory function. By the side of these commendable educational efforts in the art of keeping ourselves alive for a normal period, are other schools devoted to the scientific study of the value of baled hay, beardless barley, flaked rye, withered cornhusks, little-necked clams, Edam cheese, bread fruit, egg-plant, vegetarian turkey, desiccated jelly-fish, and other delightful comestibles, too numerous to catalogue in this article. It is certainly desirable for the sake of joyful longevity to know how and what to prepare as food. Not less necessary is it, perhaps, to refined tastes under reasonable and civilized cultivation, to know how to dispose of the food thus tastefully and tactfully prepared, in a manner inoffensive to the casual spectator. Pertinent is it, therefore, to inquire: “Where is our School of Table Etiquette?”
Presumably, etiquette of the table is to the manor born. But we find it necessary to have our schools of parlor etiquette. Why, therefore, is it not expedient to have a course in table manners which shall teach us the disadvantage of trying to imbibe soup with a fork—and some other, graver things? To realize the necessity for such an educational enterprise, we need only partake of a few meals in a public dining-room to perceive the porcine proclivities of some of our “best” people. Men, perhaps, are the chief offenders. Women, as a rule, pay some attention to the semi-natural and common decencies.
For instance, one seldom witnesses a lady, even of the most mediocre pretensions, sit at table picking her teeth, lolling over the board, licking the teaspoon and sticking it in the sugar, using the knife as a coal shovel, impaling morsels of meat and potato on the fork as if spearing fish in the Columbia River, straining the coffee through the mustache, bolting food by the bucket with a loud gurgling noise, lassoing dishes across the table which might easily be passed upon a simple neighborly request, and other delightful stunts in the gentle art of dining too unspeakable to be mentioned. Possibly a lady of high degree may be observed removing an unchewable morsel from the mouth on the tines of a fork or on the point of a spoon in full view, so that all assembled may enjoy the unappetizing spectacle. Possibly also, if she has attended a school of table etiquette, she will remove the offending bit of food under cover and in a way not to attract undue attention.
Indeed, the possibility is that she will behave at table with a commendable degree of rectitude, even to the extent of refraining from proper chewing of her food lest the masticatory exercise will distort her cherubic mouth to such an extent, that the services of a beauty doctor must be summoned. But the men! Oh, horrors! Let us forthwith have a “Department of Table Etiquette” attached to every Grammar and High School to whose sessions women may and men must attend or suffer the penalties of starvation and ostracism from ordinarily polite society. The sooner man learns the use of the knife, fork and spoon, as well as modest quietude at table, the better for the reputation of our vaunted civilization. — San Jose Mercury News, 1909
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia©️ Etiquette Encyclopedia