Turning Shit into Gold since 2006
Check your manners at the door and set aside your silverware because it is time to start eating salad with your fingers. This is of course if you are dinning with my mom who happens to find the tedious task of stabbing lettuce with a fork to be a major annoyance that has easily been eradicated with the substitution of her hands in the place of cutlery. What makes this all so entertaining to me is that this is the same woman who sent my sister and I to manners school after a tabletop tussle over a chicken leg at a family barbeque. One too many burps over the line and it was time to whip our rude asses into well-mannered shape, so we were shipped to Mrs. Ninny’s manners school once a week.It was actually less of a sanctioned school and more of a home school situation since Mrs. Ninny used her antique cluttered, kitty littered abode as the teaching grounds for her ruthless lessons in grammatical and physical elegance. Tuesday evenings became the most dreadful night of the week, greatly surpassing the anxiety ridden tap dance class on Wednesdays.
Staged phone calls emphasizing etiquette coaxed uncomfortable conversation from the children who sat in starched clothes made for country club cotillions, knowing embarrassment was simply a simulated phone call away.
Mrs. Ninny: “Ring, ring.”
Mortified fifth grader: “Hello, Hasselot residence. This is Marcus speaking.”
Mrs. Ninny: (in a smokey tone) “Yes, Mr. Hasselot, this is Nin. Is your mother home?”
Mortified fifth grader: “No madam. Seems he will be out for the duration of the evening. May I take a message?
Mrs. Ninny: (annoyingly appalled) “Matthew, shame on you Matthew. Never tell an unfamiliar caller that you are actually home alone. (Fake finger phone to ear) Again. Ring, ring, ring.”
And the torment continued until every answer given in return was to her strict southern standards. Table manners were exercised following what felt like four hours of proper phone practice. Everything from the set up of the table to the clearing of the table were covered in a meal session that usually culminated in a small scoop of soupy orange sorbet. Meat fork down, peas are not to be poked at like a nose, and food is to be chewed not chomped.
What more was one to expect from a woman who was a former backup dancer for Will Rogers? She was in no way to be compared to a tyrant, but receiving a verbal lashing from the boss on the block was a regrettable interaction that seemed far out of character for someone with the frame of a comforting grandmother. Her sass stung as sharp as a stab from a scorpion’s stinger.
At this point I am getting well off course. The root of this story is buried beneath a tomato top-heavy pile of lettuce that begs to be picked at by fingers instead of forks. The jaw dropping ease with which Mrs. Kel Kel rolled her lettuce to resemble tiny iceberg tacos, dipping each roll delicately in the small cup of Hidden Valley, was enough to drive any manners master into a tasteless tizzy.
The most unpleasant moment of the meal came when I realized that there was some truth to my Mom’s theory of salad finger feasting. As I pointlessly struck at my dressing-on-the-side Cesar there was a moment of clarity. Her method on ingesting baby spinach was in many ways superior to the painstaking technique that I was forced to learn following numerous public displays of terrible table habits.
It soon became clear as a noodleless broth that table manners remind us all of pointless dinner rituals that we wished had completely died out with the invention of the television. Honestly, who wants to sit for hours on end chatting with strangers, friends, or relatives when all one really wants to do is get through their salad stress free? Looking around at the rest of the restaurant was enough to confirm that what Mom had touched on could be viewed as a drastic step backwards in the case made for a fork and knife society, but it is ultimately, in my opinion, a leap forward towards equality on the eating field. No more napkins mean no more nonsense.