Table manners are a thing of the past

PUBLISHED: 12:06 12 October 2006 | UPDATED: 11:00 06 May 2010

IN the days when kids looked forward to having an orange in their Christmas stockings and chicken was a real Sunday treat – I m casting my mind back quite a few years here – there was a fairly rigid regime when it came to dinner time. The most important u

IN the days when kids looked forward to having an orange in their Christmas stockings and chicken was a real Sunday treat - I'm casting my mind back quite a few years here - there was a fairly rigid regime when it came to dinner time.

The most important unwritten rule was that families ate together round the dining table.

And members of said family were expected to have good manners while they were there.

How things have changed.

So much so, in fact, that Britain has become a nation of dinner slobs, according to a new survey.

Us Brits cannot stop ourselves from talking with our mouths full or picking our teeth at table.

Some go even further, apparently, like the man who loves licking his plate clean when eating out, and another who got drunk on a first date and fell into the piano at a posh restaurant.

Researchers discovered that a lazy seven in 10 people eat with just a fork in their right hand and no knife.

Over half of diners pick up chicken drumsticks to eat rather than using a knife and fork - I must admit to being one of them, I find it so much easier - and more than a third scoop up crumbs on a plate with their fingers.

One in four of the people questioned owned up to burping loudly at the dinner table (I'm glad they didn't ask me).

All of these things are not that surprising, I guess, and not all that different from yesteryear.

But what has changed drastically over the last few decades is where people eat their domestic meals.

Dinner times used to be occasions at home, when people could catch up on the day's gossip or just enjoy each other's company.

They are nothing like that now. The research shows that only 37 per cent of families eat most of their meals at the dinner table.

The rest can usually be found munching in front of the TV - 20 per cent eat every meal while watching the box.

Closely coupled with this is the revelation that two-thirds of people are happy to eat meals straight out of a container which is not good news for the Jamie Olivers of this world who squirm at the thought of us stuffing our mouths with processed junk food.

I find it difficult to argue with Jean Broke-Smith, etiquette expert of ITV show Ladette to Lady, when she says: "It's shocking that in the space of a few decades, society has degenerated into caveman-standard eating habits, with people now talking with their mouths full, blowing their noses on their napkins, pointing cutlery, and shovelling food into their mouths with their fork in their right hands."

She advises: "People need to think about the impression they are creating - bad table manners can make a person appear rude, lazy and lacking in respect and consideration for others."

Somehow, I think her wisdom has come too late for most.


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