Monday 23 December 2019

Essential Snobbery 101: The majestic art of conversation with a fork and knife

The distraction of gadgetry
There are times I tend to check my old-fashioned view of things just to determine if I have been left behind by the times or I am being too judgemental. Yet, there are some things that should never become old-fashioned, like respect, courtesy, consideration, the art of conversation and basic table manners.
On our trip to Cape Town, there was a family sat in the front row, the young man of about 10 years old was wearing his mega headphones connected to some device on which he was playing dexterity games that had him hooked on the stroboscopic effects of the lights and colours as if hypnotised as he pressed buttons incessantly without being able to get to the next level. I saw that much.
In that time, getting his attention was literally impossible, for each announcement, the air steward had to come round to have his mother prod him to take off his headphones. The same for when the food and drinks trolley came down the aisle, he was completely disengaged from our reality. He had left the responsibility for everything, his comfort, his safety and maybe his welfare to others.
No human skill gained
It would be easy to blame this on technology, but we have been doing technology since before it became commonplace, the benefit in human interaction cannot be underestimated. It is the responsibility of guardians to ensure that this aspect of growth, education and development is nurtured and fostered because it would always matter above the version of the game being played.
From my perspective of grandparenthood, I could see no particular development beyond gaining the skills to be a forklift operator, maybe even by providence the operator of an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), also known as combat drones, I just fear for the victims of decisions made without human or humane insight, which cannot be gained by just playing games, for life and lives are not a game.
Fork and knife 101
In another setting, we were in a restaurant where another family on a night out were tucking into cuisine that called for the basics in table manners. The use of cutlery for which the abuse I witnessed began to look like entertainment. Now, how people choose to their food is up to them, you can have your soup through a straw for all I care, though, that is why a spoon is provided.
I have occasional issues with chopsticks, they are quite different in Chinese restaurants where they are wooden, roundish and long, suited for eating from shared dishes, compared to Japanese restaurants where they are short as the communal sharing of food is not traditional and the for the Koreans, they are metal, as a test for whether the food offered to royals was poisoned. If my handling fails me, I switch to the customary cutlery.
I would guess the spoon, knife and fork are the somewhat universal standard of cutlery and any education should include the basic use of the knife and fork. Yet, from what I observed, my tendency to disgust quickly became one of sympathy, as I could not have been the only one to have watched the swordplay and farmhand’s use of a garden fork without the urging of a heel, all on a plate of pasta or a pizza.
Opening doors with skill
If anything, just as it is important to give our kids swimming lessons, it is critical to impart the appropriate use of a fork and knife, whether at home or as part of a primary school curriculum. I hate to say, these rather fundamental skills have decided whether one has access or not to certain circles. How conversation, social skill, emotional intelligence has been the determining factor to fitting in or being an outcast. We can’t all be anarchists in the service of some obscure counterculture raging against the establishment. It is not a bad education to ensure this done early, adults devoid of this skill are not a sight to behold if one were to suggest it a situation to be pitied.
On another table, everyone was on their phones, to prefer the virtual to the company of those you are attending dinner with, I can only wonder what to say. It is bad manners at first and where do you cultivate the art of conversation if you cannot do it at the dinner table? Except for emergencies, the phone can wait, respect the company you have or decline the invitation for your virtual world. We can be better behaved; we only have to put some effort into it.

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