Friday, March 06, 2009

dining continental

Last night, at workshop, I brought in a piece where my characters were assembled at the grand family dining table, and I offered a tidbit on dining "Continental Style." Here's the passage I had:
Ursula and I drank goblets of Hawaiian Punch, careful to wipe any telltale stain from our top lips. Now, after a few bites of carefully cut, fussily delivered meat—Grandmother eschewed the trend toward American dining, so we had to put down the knife and transfer the fork to the knife hand after every painstaking Continental bite—it was time to begin the ritual Ursula and I longed for—the supper gossip.

Chuck told me that I had it wrong. That "Continental Style" necessitated keeping the fork and knife in hand at all times, and eating with the "tines down."

My information was incorrect? How could that be!? So I checked it out with the "expert," Ms. Brouwer, and found out that, et voila, Chuck's right and I'm wrong.

Check out this "expert" video below (you'll have to sit through a 15 second commercial on Swifter or something equally stimulating--but it's worth it just to watch Brouwer's etiquette lesson).

Ms. Brouwer is the expert, I suppose, but I found this "comment" on the "expert village" website even more helpful to my story, as I believe it embodies my matriarch character's feeling on the matter:

The problem is that the Continental style of eating is rather barbaric, so talking about its "etiquette" is silly. The Continental style suggests that you have to gobble your food down so quickly that you cannot take a split-second to change hands. This lack of pause for switching hands also results in the tendency of the diner to bend over more and more until his head is nearly to the plate and he is just shoveling food into his mouth. In the United States, it's also an affectation --in essence announcing, "I've been to Europe." Therefore, although, as Ms. Brouwer says, it "is what you will find all over the world" (I guess like spitting or flatulence), it is generally not appropriate in the United States and it is offensive for her (from her accent, apparently a European ) to come here to advise us that we are eating improperly and that her way is what is done "all over" the world. In addition, it looks silly to hold the fork upside-down, especially when one must mash peas onto the fork to be able to pick them up, looking like a slob and destroying the fun of eating peas, which is to pop them between the teeth.

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