Table manners aren’t rocket science. The rules are arbitrary, snobbish, and impractical? Or the one thing that distinguishes Man from Ape? Start using the grey goo between your ears, it’s not meant as a delicacy for certain remote tribesmen only. Who probably wouldn’t use the proper spoon to get going, either. Them sauvages!
What cutlery to use in what order or how to hold a glass of wine might seem overly codified. But there’s good practical reasons to adhere to what pragmatic minds thought of centuries ago. Take the wine glass thing, for example. In Survivor, Chuck Palahniuk used his protagonist’s obsessive-compulsive disorder for laughs. Remember the bit where the narrator threatens to shoot anybody who holds the white wine by the bowl and the red wine by the stem? Funny, ennit? Well, yes. But there’s a sound reason for the narrator’s insistence:
White wines are usually served cold, red ones at warmer temperatures. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that the beverage probably stays colder if you hold it by the stem and gets a tad warmer if not.
That wasn’t too difficult, now, was it?
What many seem to miss is that Chuck isn’t primarily poking fun at the narrator for being such an anal character. He’s criticising the Wannabes who need to hire said narrator to learn how to eat a lobster. And can’t distinguish nonsense from common sense. The book splendidly fucks with them idiots who use a Code (here: table manners) for heightening their status and being able to look down at others. There were critics dismantling Survivor for this alone; it was “unrealistic” and “over-the-top” to hinge the moral on table manners, they said.
I think it’s brilliant. And very much part of our real life. Dinner rules, okay, but for chrissakes stop using them where they don’t belong. You don’t eat a sandwich with knife and fork. You don’t sniff the rubber cork of your $ 5 bottle. (Or any rubber cork to begin with.) But also stop holding your glass of brandy by the stem, little finger extended. Or somebody might shoot you, especially if you’re on a hijacked plane.
Misusing a code, especially table manners, makes you look like an idiot first. Afterwards, it raises questions about your self-esteem and your compulsory need to appear greater than your fellow human beings. In short:
Stop being a sodding ass, for fuck’s sake.