Watch What (and How) You Eat

     In the “Manners and Misdemeanors” section of the June Town & Country Dwight Garner bemoans the woeful lack of manners in restaurants as demonstrated by boorish diners and presumptuous servers. At the conclusion of the article Garner recommends parents teach their children well by giving them a copy of Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers.

Unseemly behavior at the table is nothing new nor is it restricted to the United States. For instance, in the May 2012 Travel + Leisure the feature article “The Traveler’s Guide to Tea” was highlighted by a section titled “Global Tea Etiquette” which described six local rules tourists should observe such as tasting the beverage in Japan before adding milk and sugar, placing the spoon in the same direction as the handle while in England, not talking prices in Moroccan shops while the glasses are empty, and expressing thanks in China by tapping the index and middle fingers on the table.

Worthy advice, but it only covers one beverage in a few selected locales. What about the other mannerly miscues that those on the go need to know when out and about?

While attending a fish boil held in Wisconsin’s Door County, it is considered gauche to bring along a fryer in order to turn the boiled potatoes and whitefish into fish and chips.

In Scotland one is expected to taste the porridge immediately after being served, regardless of whether it is icy cold or scalding hot, and proclaim, whether through frozen or burnt lips, “Just r-r-r-right.”

At Tony Orlando’s favorite restaurant in his native Manhattan, knock three times on the table to get service and twice on the waiter’s windpipe when ready to order.

Guests at any B&B in the Manhattan located in the Sunflower State are expected to greet the arrival of their breakfast flakes with a chorus of “I’m as corny as Kansas in August.”

Youngsters of all ages who dine at the Nab-a-Bite in Hanover, New Jersey receive acclaim and not disdain when they pull apart the sandwich cookies served as dessert and either lick or scrape off the filling with their teeth.

It is considered impolite for guests at the Very Sleepy Hollow Inn near Washington Irving’s resting place to refuse the copious amount of Ovaltine served with every meal. Under no circumstances should anyone ask for a wake-up call at the front desk; only “let me snore till noon” requests are honored.

In Honduras smokers do not bite off the end of a cigar when talking prices with a tobacconist. Instead, they are to roll it about with the tongue, savoring its flavor, before pouring out these words out the side of the mouth a la W.C. Fields, “Yes, Yes. Fit for man or beast.”

Caviar in Turkmenistan is to be eaten on toast or crackers provided by wait staff, not spread on granola bars removed from back packs.

In Latvia one should never ask the chef if the pig that produced the pulled pork sandwich is still pulling back in the kitchen.

While on the island of Nihoa on the Tropic of Cancer, it is considered impolite to ask for “the same hot tripe that Henry Miller dished out.”

While ordering eggs in Cameroon, one should place the fork with the tines to the left to indicate sunny side up, to the right for over easy, toward the diner for scrambled, and facing the cocktail glass for shaken, not stirred.

While it is not considered offensive to poke through a stir fry in Thailand, one should not imply that the snap in the snap peas is inferior to that of one’s bubble gum.

The best advice to give to any traveler is to use common sense when eating or drinking in public. Apples and celery are to be eaten without loud crunching, pits in cherries can be removed discretely from the mouth, and corn on the cob can be chewed moderately without the head moving ravenously back and forth like a metronome. And, as always, the “when in Rome” adage applies because a safe course is to act as the natives do. Incidentally, when in Rome, asking for peanut butter and jelly to slather on your lasagna is considered a solecism devoutly to be avoided.

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