Recently, I have had several requests from readers to address the topic of table manners, or the extreme lack thereof in our culture. Because this is an extensive topic, I will address it in a series of posts. I should also preface this post by stating that I do not care what you do in the privacy of your own home. Whether you want to eat in your bed with your dog, or while lounging on the sofa, that is your prerogative. Yet,what you do in public is everyone’s business, for the simple fact that we have to sit there and watch you behave the way you do.
Let’s start with one of the basic rules of etiquette: No elbows on the table while eating. Many of you may remember the rhyme:
Mabel, Mabel, strong and able
Get your elbows off the table!
This is not a horse’s stable,
But a formal dining table!
To many people this rule doesn't make any sense. Many of you will even ask, “Who cares if I have my elbows on the table at dinner?!” There are several possibilities of what is happening when someone is eating with their elbow on the table. They either have their head rested on their hand indicative of boredom, or they are positioned over their plate of food like a trough, shoveling the food in their mouth, or they are swinging their fork around as they talk with their hand. Who cares? Well, the person sitting next to you cares when you have almost planted your elbow in their mashed potatoes, or knocked their silverware off the table. The person across from you cares as they watch your fork being aimlessly swung around, hoping the food on the fork, or the fork itself doesn't come flying their way while you talk. The host and other guests care when your head is rested on your hands in an obvious state of boredom and disrespect. Last but not least, your body cares! Sitting with your elbows on the table while you are eating causes you to slouch, while eating without your elbows on the table will most likely lead you to sit up straight. Proper posture during meals contributes to better digestion of your food, less heartburn and indigestion, and better circulation.
Aside from the fact that it's just bad manners, in the end, removing your elbows from the table during meals promotes better health, better company, and a much more enjoyable dining experience for everyone.