DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I went to dinner with my parents at a fine-dining restaurant serving Japanese cuisine, we ate our appetizers and entrees with chopsticks. For dessert we ordered a warm chocolate cake with ice cream, for which we were given small spoons and forks by our server.
Nonetheless, my mother attempted to eat the cake with chopsticks. I mentioned that I thought that to be poor table manners.
She stated that since we were in a Japanese restaurant, we were allowed to use Japanese utensils. I believed that since we were in an American restaurant serving Japanese cuisine, we remained bound by the conventions of American table manners, which say that, as enjoyable as it might be for oneself, one does not eat cake with chopsticks anymore than one would eat peas with a knife. Please help settle our dispute.
GENTLE READER: You mean from here? And not get to watch your mother trying to eat her ice cream with chopsticks?
The issue is not which country's table manners you should use; either would be fine. Practicing foreign customs can be part of the adventure of eating in a restaurant that offers a foreign cuisine, and the Japanese are quite used to the amusement of seeing Westerners earnestly making a mess.
But whatever your mother was practicing, it was not Japanese manners. She should know that they also use spoons. They do not eat ice cream and cake with chopsticks, for reasons she may have discovered the hard way.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Can you bear one more not-so-charming innovation in showers?
I recently received an invitation to a baby shower. The honoree, who is carrying twins, is a good friend of mine, but I'm only slightly acquainted with one of the three hostesses.
Accompanying the invitation was a small slip of paper that informed me I had the opportunity to win a gift basket at the party. All I had to do to be considered for the drawing was to bring a package of diapers. The more packages of diapers I contributed, it said, the better my chances of winning.
I'm presuming this is in addition to the traditional shower gift.
Where does it end? I feel like I'm being invited to a fund-raiser, not a shower. Should I boycott under the guise of a previous commitment or attend and ignore the wonderful "opportunity" the hostesses have presented? I'm half-afraid I'll be refused admission if I show up with only my customary charming and appropriate gift for the new mother and her babies.
GENTLE READER: The answer to your first question -- can Miss Manners bear it? -- is no. Just when she thinks she has suffered through enough, someone comes up with a new scheme for raising funds or demanding dry goods from those who are supposed to be friends.
Skipping such so-called parties is the simple option that few of those dunned seem to consider. However, as this is a good friend of yours, you may want to overlook the greed, or attribute it to her having less-refined friends than yourself.
Miss Manners hopes you are mistaken about the appalling possibility of your being turned away at the door. But as a precaution, she suggests answering the invitation by saying, "I'd love to come, but I won't be participating in the lottery -- is that all right?"