Miss Manners' Basic Training: Eating

by Judith Martin

Wicked wit and proper behavior

September 2000

If common sense and courtesy overnight became the overwhelming condition of modern humanity, Miss Manners might seem in danger of losing her job. Of course, such a mental and social revolution is unlikely to occur; even so, she would hold onto her job due to the fitting, cutting remarks sent to those who are not operating under those two principles alone. There would still be enough stupid, petty people to fuel her column.

If one hasn't read a Miss Manners column or book before, this slim volume is the perfect introduction -- it's all about eating, something most people get a chance to deal with every day. She answers questions regarding how to eat specific food items properly, who should be paying for a meal at a restaurant (clue: it's the one who said "I'll be taking you out to dinner"), and even touching upon the dreaded fork issue. I'll give that one away, too: you work from the outside in.

Even if you know all the proper behavior for mealtimes, Miss Manners holds one's interest by bringing up intriguing etiquette history facts - such as the handbook of etiquette rules that a teenaged George Washington wrote containing such tidbits as the fact one should not use silverware or table linens to clean one's teeth at table. And, of course, those who fight on the side of etiquette in all realms (such as family meals) find themselves bolstered by Miss Manners unanswerable arguments.

Even if you have read many of her books before, I would still get it, for it is the perfect size for reading on the subway or the occaisional lunch alone (never read while eating with someone else... except at breakfast time). It reads quickly, and one can skip around topic by topic.

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Mary Pat Campbell, last updated 11 June 2001