Reason for Not Eating Out #7: What Manners?

I have never been a very delicate eater, I’ll just put that on the table. Along with my elbow, lots of crumbs, and all the salt and pepper that missed the plate. I wish I could blame this completely on a “cultural clash” of sorts, as if to say that when one is raised in a half Chinese, half American household, I’m as confused about rules concerning handling bones at the table or holding a bowl to one’s mouth as I am about my identity. Nah…

But eating out recently with my family was a trip; I was reminded of all these things and more as I dove for the best communal pickings, helped peel the spiny bone off the whole fish once the first half was eaten and handed the waiter my messy plate full of bones and other discarded pieces for a fresh one. And then seeing Ben, at another point, cut a dumpling in half with a fork and knife before dipping it in soy sauce was a trip as well.

There’s a certain extent of being put on presentation when dining out, depending on how nice the restaurant is. You’d never want to disrespect the establishment or your fellow diners by being in any way unappetizing. This is of course part of the appeal of eating out — to go out in public and put on your best appearance. I do have a fair grasp of Miss Manners’ wisdom, perhaps to the same extent of the average American. But then there are those slightly more clandestine rules, like how much you should leave uneaten on your plate. I hate those.

This can’t be a very good reason for not eating out in New York, you say. She must be running out of reasons! Mais non! For a future reason, I am preparing for the biggest and best long-term cost calculator ever unscientifically produced. It’s tax season, and I have a feeling I have a hefty return coming my way through not eating out. Now if only there were CPAs who knew how to calculate this for me.

4 Responses

  1. Meryl

    Actually, if you ARE looking for a CPA who might know how to deduct stuff and get you a good refund, shoot me an e-mail… Mine got me a fatty refund check that I am using to buy more spatulas and mixing bowls (because you can never have enough mixing bowls, especially the nifty OXO ones with the grippy outsides!)

  2. Tea

    I’ll go with the clash of cultures rationalization. I spent five years living in Asia and when I came back I was completely confused about what was acceptable table behavior. Can I drink out of my soup bowl? Slurp my noodles? It took awhile to relearn what was kosher in the homeland.

    Here from Serious Eats; love the pickles.

  3. cathy

    Ha, thanks for the tip, Meryl — I’ve got one that does the trick as well already. Sounds like we’ll be comparing spatulas soon.
    Thanks, Tea — and great blog!

  4. Yvo

    Depends on where your Chinese half grew up/came from… I’ve seen some Chinese people eating chicken in (Chinese) restaurants and throwing the bones on the floor. I know for a fact my parents (from Hong Kong) would never have been allowed to do that… I don’t know. It’s true though; Chinese manners seem to be a tad bit more relaxed. Although I never understood the “You can’t pick up a piece of food from the big serving dish and put it straight into your mouth” (ok, fine, writing it out I understand it, but doing it seems much more normal) thing- my parents would make me pick up a piece of food and touch it to my rice before putting it in my mouth.

    PS There are plenty of people at restaurants I wish would stay home. I doubt you’re anywhere as bad as these people. I don’t care what people do when it doesn’t affect me, but seeing someone’s dinner in their mouth as it’s masticated is really just gross.

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