Fork Lifters: An Etiquette Primer
Feb 2 2014
Welcome back to our food column, Hot Links, where Dan Meyer explores the neglected culinary stars of YouTube. Dan presents a selection of videos highlighting specific food themes, from amateur cooking to local restaurant commercials, elderly drinking buddies, kitchen disasters, all culled from the infinite supply of odd YouTube wonders. We encourage you to fall into this culinary video K-hole and include your own comments and contributions below.
I have often been amused when stumbling across dusty old etiquette books from the 40s, and am incredibly amazed to find that this school of thought is still alive and well. Table manners are a grey area of expertise, depending on the country and culture where you were raised. This week’s selection of etiquette videos is an investigation into what I consider to be a potentially clinical mental disorder that is common amongst a certain group of well-mannered Americans. That or most Americans are complete slobs. Luckily, there exists a small cadre of internet dining etiquette coaches on YouTube to help us all out.
When I came across this genre, I assumed that there would be an endless supply of etiquette personalities. I was amazed to find out that there are actually just a handful of these people—all women—and all quite prolific. The greatest thing about these self-appointed etiquette experts is that while they tend to speak at length about the proper way to behave at a dining room table, you can't help but hope that you will never have to actually share a meal with any of them.
Business Dining Etiquette
Our business etiquette host is a woman named Lisa. She’s the kind of woman who has a lot of no-no's surrounding business meals. Lisa believes that it’s unacceptable to find a hair or an insect on your dish, but doesn’t deal with the topic of what to do if the chef has spit on the food. It’s also insanely rude to sneeze at the table and suck on your knife, according to our teacher. She hates booze hounds—so don’t even think about getting lit off of more than two drinks if you’re in the presence of a money-related dining companion. After watching her video, you will have all of the information on how to “eat properly,” but the strange dude in the tail end of this segment who shows us all how to “give a good handshake” makes me wonder if this is some sort of subliminal gang message being promoted by a woman who has coined the phrase known as “ew-yuck.”
Dining Etiquette with Sybil Davis
I think that Sybil D, our etiquette coach, suffers from a slight case of germophobia, but that is completely unrelated. One thing is clear: all of the bacteria that’s located on the bottom of one’s purse is completely unappetizing. This video lesson suggests that if you tend to carry one of those things around, you’re supposed to place it on your chair. And then I guess that you are supposed to sit on your purse? I bet she sits on her purse all the time, and that's why there is so much bacteria on it. When teaching video etiquette guides, Sybil prefers to sit in a huge room at a tiny table, with heaps upon heaps of empty plates in front of her. I have to wonder, Does anyone anywhere in the world still use this much fucking dinnerware? Raise a giant glass of whiskey (like the crystal goblet of booze featured on her tablescape) and toast to dear Sybil. Just remember not to “rub and scrub your mouth with a napkin, just BLOT, BLOT, as needed,” when you do.
Dining Etiquette with Kristine Stewart
Our host, Kristine Stewart, is not the one that involves herself with onscreen teen vampire romances and tabloid scandals (that's Kristen), but is the one that immerses herself within the global etiquette landscape—more specifically, Hong Kong’s cutthroat dining scene. According to Kristine, an American, English dining is the most acceptable form of dining etiquette anywhere in the world. Her napkin routine seems extremely tedious, one that requires you to unfold it and refold it before placing it on your lap. If someone did this at the dinner table, I would probably wonder what the fuck is wrong with them. She also refuses to look at the camera, which I assume is proper etiquette.
Here we have Jill, surrounded by disgustingly gaudy china and silverware. I get the impression that her obsession with etiquette seems to stem from her obsession with dining equipment. This video is very high-definition, which is great, because I love staring at Jill's blue turtleneck and striped, padded suit jacket. “Slouching, slurping coffee, answering the phone…” I love when these ladies go on rants about bad manners.
If Someone Has Food Stuck in Their Teeth: Dining Etiquette
Gloria Starr's short and sweet video about letting someone know that they have spinach stuck in their teeth is a piece of performance art good enough to screen at the MoMA. I didn't know that you were supposed to excuse yourself from the table if you have food stuck in your teeth, so thank you for letting me know, Gloria. Stay tuned for her rant about “a top executive” and his olive pit scandal.
Top Dinner Etiquette, Table Manners Course, Proper Table Setting
If you’re not a Christian, don’t even think about watching this video. These manners are not for you to learn. This “Christian-based character etiquette program” is hosted by Jeanne, a woman who is standing in front of another collection of QVC-network-style china, in an echoey room without a microphone. This video doesn't actually share any etiquette tips—it’s a video pitch hustle for Jeanne’s six-week program on teaching your kids “important life skills,” because she believes that kids need a “firm foundation for the world that they are about to face.” Damn, Jeanne, it’s not that bad out here.