DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it ever proper to stir one's food with an implement at the table? My husband criticizes me whenever I do it.
Most commonly, I will use my fork to lightly toss salad in my personal bowl after applying dressing. It does not bother him to eat some bites globbed with dressing and others entirely dry, but I prefer mine more evenly distributed.
More recently, and I fear I may be incorrect here, I used my spoon to stir the soup once or twice in the bowl to aid in its cooling. He insists that one must not stir at all, and only blow on the soup collected from a single dip into the bowl by the spoon.
I would be willing to abide by this, except I have difficulty predicting how much blowing is necessary when the soup's temperature varies widely from surface to deep, such as for a thick soup that has been sitting out a bit after heating.
If I stir it, the temperature equalizes, and I can at least use a consistent amount of blowing for each bite. What are the allowed methods of eating (too) hot foods?
GENTLE READER: If you and your husband would kindly stop churning up your dinners, Miss Manners would like to give you both a small etiquette lesson. It will give everything a chance to cool off.
Blowing on the soup is, if anything, worse than stirring it. Even if he is skilled enough to do it without, ah, increasing the volume of the soup.
But if you move your food around so blatantly as to annoy your husband, you have an etiquette problem, in addition to the problem of annoying your husband. It is not proper to stir your individual portion of soup or salad -- and anyway, salad is not stirred, but tossed, although you shouldn't do that, either.
However, Miss Manners does not want to be responsible for your burned mouth or ruined dinner, so she will teach you how to cool or mix your food dexterously.
With soup, you take a spoonful and then hold it absent-mindedly while you tell your husband about your day. Nature will do the cooling job in time. As for the salad, you spear a dry leaf with your fork and then rest it in the dressing, which is on top. When you lift it to your mouth, the job will have been done. And all without anyone's annoying anyone else.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am delighted that at age 39 I am expecting twins and plan to inform family and my work team in a couple of weeks after another checkup with my doctor.
Could you please help me find a way to politely avoid answering the inevitable inquiries as to whether these are fertility twins? (They are.)
GENTLE READER: "I'm so happy that you are taking an interest in our babies. We will of course proclaim their birth. But we are not proclaiming their conception."
(And you needn't have told Miss Manners; she would not have dreamed of asking.)