Friday, August 9, 2013

"The Etiquette of the Napkin": What Every Child Should Know

As you may have guessed from the tone of my previous post, that business about not allowing children in restaurants parents unable to control the behavior of their children in public really ticked me off. But as I am in a good mood today, and as I got that little rant out of my system, and as it is raining (!) I thought I'd share napkin etiquette with you, Dear Readers (and yes, you, too, Mr.-Low-Man-On-The-Totem-Pole-Who's-Tasked-With-Reading-My-Little-Blog). I'm certainly not implying that you are unaware of napkin etiquette! I merely thought you'd enjoy reading about it. From a crappy old book:
There is only one way of unfolding a napkin. Taking it from your plate by the corner, with your right hand, you should deftly unfold it with a single movement whose continuation brings it to rest across your knees with only the first folds shaken out: the middle fold is never disturbed.
From The Book of Good Manners: A Guide to Polite Usage for All Social Functions by Frederick H. Martens (Social Culture Publications, New York, 1923). This is a great book, by the way. It follows good manners, which the author takes to be "fundamental of a civilized life," from birth through death.

Addressing the older child (presumably 8 years of age and older), Martens says,
It is taken for granted that you have put away the dropping and spilling of food with other childish things. In fact, as soon as you have graduated to napkin use the idea of protection associated only with the bib has disappeared. This explains why the napkin is not tucked under the chin of spread across the knees like a blanket. Its proper use is limited: to wiping the lips after drinking or to remove the suspicion of grease; to drying the fingertips-- but not as a towel is used-- after using the finger-bowl; and as an excuse for one of those natural gestures which help bridge an awkward conversational moment.
 There you have it.

You should see what Mr. Big Food's finger-bowl looks like when we have BBQed chicken!

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