DEAR MISS MANNERS: I find myself stunned at most people’s table manners. For example: breaking bread/rolls and buttering each bite, using a thumb to push food onto a fork, correct utensil usage (using a place spoon for soup), cutting up an entire entree salad at once, serving coffee after dessert, leaving napkins on the table at end of a meal, passing salt and pepper together, etc.
I never say anything, but just wonder if the etiquette rules I was taught, and followed in a very upper-level hospitality position, have been canceled.
GENTLE READER: It is never a good idea to monitor other people’s table manners, and not only because you are apt to spill something all over yourself while you do so.
Miss Manners notices that you are already agitated, because you have mixed up what should and what should not be done, and thrown in some general rules.
Just to clarify:
Bread and rolls should be broken into small pieces and buttered individually; thumbs should not be used as pushers; the so-called place spoon is a medium-sized oval spoon that can be used (as the teaspoon should not be) for soup or dessert; napkins should be put to the left of the plate at the end of the meal, and salt and pepper should be passed together.
That people violate these and other basic rules does not mean that they have been canceled, any more than a rising burglary rate demonstrates that the law now permits it. So no, the Etiquette Council did not say, “Oh, go ahead, plough in with your hands, who cares?”
But it did resolve to refrain from watching.