DEAR MISS MANNERS: Well, I thought that I knew everything, but I am flummoxed. How does one properly eat Camembert, Brie, or other soft cheese in rind when they are served in public?
Are you supposed to cut a slice and eat it rind and all (yuck)? Or leave the rind for the next unlucky guest while sneaking off with only the lovely, gooey part?
Do you drag your cracker or bread in the soft part and risk leaving messy crumbs and broken crackers in your wake? I generally just run up to it, hack off a piece, then find a way to dump the rind when no one is watching, but this method requires too much privacy and obsessive behavior for most public events.
I am sure there is a better and more polished method of enjoying this gooey mess in public, but what is it?
GENTLE READER: Why does Miss Manners picture you at an art gallery opening, having skipped dinner, balancing a wine glass and trying to wield a plastic knife, while behind you press hordes of others trying to get at the cheese plate?
Not the best way to eat. In an ideal world, you would be served the cheese already portioned onto crackers, or as a cheese course complete with small knife, fork, plate and, most essentially, table space and chair.
Dragging the cracker is not a good idea, nor is hand-peeling away the part you don't like. The technique you need consists of inserting the knife at an angle, and cutting yourself a wedge under the rind (which is edible, but never mind).
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A distant relative and her husband recently sent a card announcing the birth of their first offspring, a baby girl. In addition to the child's given and, I assume, legal name (Elizabeth Anne), the announcement also specified a nickname -- "Betsy."
My wife thinks that announcing a nickname was cute and helpful, but I feel offended by it, and don't know why. Aren't nicknames supposed to be spontaneous appellations?
Of course, my wife and I will call the child by whatever name the parents prefer, but it all seems very artificial to me. Is it common practice nowadays for parents to designate nicknames for their children? Am I justified in thinking that it is not proper for them to do so?
GENTLE READER: You would have to supply Miss Manners with a better reason than that it seems artificial. The natural method of conferring nicknames is not something she wishes to preserve for its charm.
With the increased liberties people take with one another's names, it is common for adults to assume that they are entitled to use whatever nickname they presume should be derived from a given name. That is a step above the nicknames children give one another, most popularly those associated with some undesirable physical characteristic.
These parents are valiantly trying to head this off by telling you how they plan to address the child. Unfortunately, this will probably not prevent their friends from inquiring about Lizzie or Beth, nor the child's future playmates from calling her Fatso or Skinnybones.