Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Another Story From That Dinner: Manners?

It's been mentioned the previous two days, and once again the "dinner" from Sunday night will once again get some air time.

Sunday, after the USAC .25 race in California, we went for food. A family also joined us so there was a total of 13 people spread out amongst three tables. I talked about my "positional warfare" in yesterday's blog, but another instance of note happened when the food was served.

The three people across from me got their food first and almost a minute passed. The conversation continued on as if the food had not been served and the three acted as if there was nothing on the table in front of them. After another thirty seconds passed I couldn't take it anymore so I asked, "Um, is there something wrong with your food?"

The answer given was that they were waiting for others to get their food before proceeding. This made zero sense to me and I recall a long time ago hearing that the mannerly thing to do is to wait for everyone to get their food before eating. But I have to ask why? I don't understand this at all. Is it noble to let one's food go cold while waiting?

I have never been good at understanding manners like this. Does this make me rude? Perhaps, but simply put, I don't understand the logic behind it. Logically speaking, does this mean that when the first person is finished that all others must stop? If I like my food hot do I request that my meal be brought out last? Where does the madness end?

Once my pizza was brought out I, out of habit, dug in right away. Granted, I had not had anything to eat since the morning donuts at Yum Yum, but I didn't think twice until I started to eat. Then I wondered if I should have waited.

I see multiple aspects to this insanity. If a person throughout their life didn't wait to eat, odds are it would be about a 50/50 ration of eating first and waiting to eat. Since this is the case, and since people at the table have no say as to the order of when people get their food, shouldn't the right thing to do be to eat the food while it is still fresh from the kitchen?

Before I started writing this I did a Google search about the mannerly thing to do in regards to this topic and it read like an illogical mess. Truly, the official manner playbook says that it is wrong to eat if A, B, or C happens, but if D, E, and F happen it is okay. If it is a business meeting then D and E falls under A, B, or C and if it is a weekend A falls under F. Say what?

I'm sure people not on the spectrum struggle with manner protocol and this document read as if one would need a doctorate to understand it. Isn't my way easier? If food is served eat it. Shouldn't the burden of manners be on the eating establishment? If I should have wait don't tease me by serving my food. The manner website said that it is mannerly for the person who is waiting their food to encourage others to eat, and it is even more mannerly for those who have their food to politely protest, and then to continue, the person who is waiting should doubly encourage others to eat and then, and only then, should others start to eat. No wonder I am clueless!

Again, isn't my way easier? If the mannerly thing is to have this long drawn out encouragement followed by protest followed by further encouragement to start eating could we not forgo the whole scripted drama and just get to the food? Both ways get to the same destination, but we bypass the construction and unscenic part of the road.

It is no wonder I am clueless about this. Much like The Handshake that I wrote about last year, there are some things I simply don't understand. I don't think I am an overly rude person, but if my food is served and I am hungry I will start to eat. If you get your food please don't wait for me because I won't wait for you. Is that rude?


  1. I can understand it for big meals (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc), but not at a regular restaurant. Though, the majority of times I've been to a restaurant all the food is brought out at once...

    But, I say not rude.

  2. Where I live in Japan - a country of utter politeness - food is served when it is ready and the diner digs right in without fear of being thought rude. But in the U.S. the restaurant should serve everyone at once to help curtail our angst.

  3. I have to tell you this :O) I'm sharing this post with my husband right now and you really got us thinking here... I don't know the solution, but I like your logic!

  4. Oh wow, finally someone who agrees with me! This has ALWAYS eluded me! I do understand the idea behind it. You're trying to enjoy the food together and not have the person sadly watching you eat while waiting. At the same time, the person watching to eat is trying to be polite by stepping aside and still let you enjoy it.
    But I also find it a lot of hassle to just end up at the same place. If you're eating together with friends, just eat whenever you can in my opinion.
    Only when the person cooking is also supposed to be part of the party (like on big family dinners... think Christmas or something like that...) I'm willing to wait, because else that person won't only be excluded from eating, but also from the whole party, since he/she is in the kitchen and not at the table.
    Other times when I wait, is when others do it, but then I can't help but feeling very frustrated, looking at my dinner getting cold.
    It also works the other way around. If I see people getting dinner and then waiting for me, I STRONGLY urge them to just go and eat, since they're actually NOT doing me a favor, but they're making me feel bad that I'm the one making them wait, which gets their dinner cold.
    Seriously, if you ever have dinner with me? Just go ahead and eat. (Except for when the cook is part of the party, then wait for the cook to sit down at least)

    While we're on the topic: What about the rule that your elbows are not allowed on the table? Where did this rule come from? I'm also chronicly fatigued, so I'm very likely to lean on my elbow out of fatigue, especially in the evening (dinner!). This gets me a lot of evil eyes from my parents when we're at a restaurant.
    I can understand that you shouldn't be leaning all the way, like you're listening to a boring speech from your maths teacher, but I even get evil eyes for casually laying down one arm in front of my plate. Even when next to that I'm trying to sit upright and look interested and stuff.
    Anyone any thoughts/clarifications on this?

  5. If you are with someone you know, ASK a question. The person(s) will either give you the go ahead or tell you that you have to wait. Of course, there are times you don't have to- as the other person(s) will give you the go ahead as soon as food is served. There are also other times that when you and the other person are in a hurry, where this may be ignored.

    Because I was raised in a family that prays before we eat, I naturally don't jump the gun even when I am super hungry. You can say this is a "safe than to be sorry" policy.

  6. I was trained to wait at an early age, and I guess I have trained my kids to wait as well. But we don't usually eat with strangers, and our family members will tell everyone else to eat so it's not really an issue. Cutlery, on the other hand...12 years (EVERY night!) to train my youngest! Now she's 17 and I remind her, "Don't forget you're not at home now Kara!"