Ill-Bred and Lovin' It

I’ve talked about before about how when I was growing up, everyone I knew was raised to have a thorough understanding of etiquette and table manners. That our parents made sure that should we be invited to have dinner with the Queen, we could without embarrassing ourselves (and, by extension, save our entire family from nationwide infamy as the relatives of “that woman who slurped her coffee at the palace”).

In our house, that meant not only did we learn the standards – how to use a knife and fork appropriately (fork in left hand, knife in right) the minute we had sufficient motorskills, elbows off the table, don’t eat until everyone’s seated and have food on their plate, keep yer gob closed while chewing, etc. – but also that a meal is a social event, a time for the family to connect. Breakfast and lunch were more casual affairs, but dinner was sacred, with all family members present and expected to contribute to the conversation. Once we’d finished, my sister and I would at times ask to be excused and hare off and do something other than having deep, philosophical discussions. Well, deep, philosophical conversations with our parents, anyway – once they got started, they’d be at it for hours and we had friends to catch up with, homework to do and in general much, much more important things to do (hey, we’d already participated for 30-40 minutes, what more can be expected? Especially once they got started on the fishing policies of Portugal). In my case, this “better thing” often involved reading. As I may also have mentioned before, I never met a written word I didn't have to investigate immediately, if not sooner, which frequently drove my mother up the wall. Reading, naturally, was verboten at the table – we were taught that it was the pinnacle of rudeness to stick your nose in a book during a meal.

My father travelled a lot for his job and when he was gone, standards relaxed somewhat and mor, Janne and I would go a little feral. The dinner rule was still pretty much still in effect, although we might have eaten pizza more often, but every now and again, I'd push the envelope and ask if I could read while we ate and occasionally, my mother would agree. We had many great meals when I was living at home - sometimes it was the company, sometimes it was a special joke and the food was always excellent - but some of my favourites were those where I could read. It was a complete treat. And is one of top 10 reasons why I love being single. I eat breakfast and lunch more casually - sometimes on the fly, sometimes while checking e-mail and sometimes, I "have lunch" with a friend on the phone. But dinner is different. Dinner is sacred. The minute my attendant is finished with the dishes and is out the door, I pop on the headphones and listen to an audiobook while I enjoy my meal. I don't answer the phone or stress out about what I have to do next, instead disappearing into the multiple sensory pleasures of listening to a good story while eating a warm meal.

And this weekend, I got proof that this may very well be genetic. John sent me a picture of Morgan and I taken earlier this year and whereas I look a tad like a deer caught in the headlights, she looks as blissful as I feel with the combination of food and book.



photo by Janne/TinkMama

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