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Table Etiquette


Table Etiquette


There are those among us who seem to think that if one has enough food to satisfy the cravings of his appetite, it matters little how it is served; and they are inclined to treat all suggestions in regard to table etiquette, and other dietetic refinements, as mere frivolous affectations, by which those who are rich and stylish endeavor to place themselves above those who are poor and lowly.


They are not always costly, and they do not require much expenditure of time. A table can be set with grace and elegance as expeditiously, and with no more expense, than if the dishes are thrown on, as it were, without any regard to symmetry or form. The chief dish can be placed in front of the head of the house, and the side dishes well arranged at the right and left; the butter dish ornamented with parsley, placed at the right hand, with small plates to hold the butter, and flanked by the wooden bread-platter with its light, wheaten loaf.


Moreover, it is no more expensive to have a dish served at the left hand of your guest, so that he can help himself with his right hand, than to have it brought most awkwardly to his right side. there may be, however, an immediate gain of time in hurrying through your daily repasts; but the haste will surely be repaid to you by dyspepsia and its hundred attendant ills.


A great deal of information can be given and received at the table; and each dish should be prolonged with cheerful interludes of pleasant and social talk and conversation. "Chatted food is half digested," is an old proverb which contains much good advice.


Our business men, as a general thing, bolt their food as though it were a duty rather than a pleasure for them to eat. The city man swallows his breakfast in the greatest haste, often, however, reading the newspaper as he eats, and allowing his brain no rest. At noon he drops his pen and rushes out to a restaurant and appeases his appetite in the shortest time possible, with a confused mass of soup, meat, vegetables, and the inevitable pies of such places. Then hastens back to his counting-room, and finishes the business he has on hand. Never thinking that such a manner of eating is slowly digging his grave.


At five or six he closes his desk, and leaves his office or counting-room, and betakes himself home; and it is to be hoped that then at least he enjoys his dinner in quietness and peace.


The dweller in the country takes his food in a similar style, thinking that he requires only time enough to satisfy his hunger at every meal; and often finishes his enormous plateful of meat, etc., pie or pudding, before his wife and daughters who have been engaged in supplying his wants have half finished their repast.


We believe that sociability is an essential element of both a pleasant and a digestible meal; and we protest emphatically against the habits which we, as a nation, have contracted.


These habits are also one cause of the great increase of sudden deaths which startle us so sadly, and which are far more prevalent among men than among women, who usually indulge in more time and more conversation while eating.


The sudden announcement of bad news, or the occurrence of anything to annoy or distress the mind, will take away one's appetite entirely.


Now this fact shows us that the mind should be in a quiet, gentle, and cheerful condition when one is satisfying the cravings of nature, and also that enjoyment is highly conducive to a good appetite and digestion.


"A man's body and his mind are like a jerkin, and a jerkin's lining; rumple the one, you rumple the other." So both the brain and the stomach must be at ease to enable the latter to perform is functions perfectly.


Therefore let us beg of you, never to swallow your food in silence, nor to brood over your business affairs while eating; but lead the conversation to genial, kind and cheering topics.


Don't find fault with this, that and the other dish; don't bring disagreeable subjects into your conversation; but make these daily meetings of the family a delight and pleasure to all, and let each one take a part in the conversation.


Ill nature is the parent of ill manners, and nowhere does it exhibit its repulsiveness more hideously than at the table. We should encourage conversation among our children; and it is a good plan to let each child relate at the dinner-table something which he has done or seen since breakfast.


And this is a pastime which could be made of advantage to the whole family; yet all scandalous remarks and observations concerning the neighbors' affairs should be forbidden.


The demeanor at the table betokens the lady or gentleman; and the conduct of children also exemplifies with unerring certainty the character of their home training.


There should always be perfect neatness and cleanliness in the persons and attire of those sitting at table, and waiting upon the table, as well as in the arrangements.


There is, however, a great dissimilarity of the behavior and of the tables of families who frequent the same social circle.


At one house you will meet with a faultlessly laid table, surrounded with all the courtesy and elegance that education and refinement can bestow; while at another, the table has no decent appointments, as if the viands are good and well served, the spirit of evil will turn them to bitterness; fully proving Solomon's proverb, that "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith." The more good company you invite to your table, the better it is for your children; for every intelligent conversation held there is an educator for them; and one can often judge of the hospitality of a family by the refinement, intelligence, and appropriate demeanor of the children to whom well-bred guests and their conversation have imparted much information.


"The stomach," Sir Astley Cooper informs us, "is not a wedgewood mortar, but a living organism which can withstand a great deal of use, but does not willingly endure abuse."



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