Many a Thanksgiving dinner has been ruined by manners and I don’t mean bad manners. I’m not talking about Uncle Charlie who has the disgusting habit of picking his teeth at the table with the remnants of the turkey wishbone. Yes, the whole caveman dental procedure can turn you right off your sweet potato casserole which is a tragedy because who wants to say no to a vegetable dish that features, maple syrup, a box of gingersnap cookies, corn flakes and mini marshmallows? Not me that’s for sure.
Trust me, dining with a Neanderthal D.D.S. is nothing when compared to breaking bread or a turkey leg with someone who has just graduated from “protocol” school. Basically, it’s a place where you go to get all mannered up and then, if you happen to be vaguely related to me, show off what you’ve learned at Thanksgiving. Can you say best meal of the year ruined?
I knew I was in trouble when the Thanksgiving table was set with enough silverware, goblets and plates that it looked like a Crate and Barrel and Williams Sonoma had mated. No, correction not just mated, but had a wild, passionate, Vegas fling. There were seven forks per place setting! Seven. Who needs seven forks?
When I verbalized this question I got a side eye and then some shade thrown at me by little Miss Protocol. She explained, oh so concededly I might add, that the forks were meat, salad (duh, I’m not a total rube I get that) dessert, shrimp, snail, fruit and pastry. And then there were spoons for days. Did you know there was something called a bouillon spoon?
If you’re right now patting yourself on the back thinking, “Why of course I knew there was a soup spoon, that’s what a bouillon spoon is you backwoods heathen.” Just stop, right now and wipe off that self-congratulatory smile. Apparently a bouillon spoon is different from a soup spoon. The B.S. (that’s my little name for it) is meant for clear broths only.
My first thought is who wants a clear broth as part of their Thanksgiving dinner? I don’t need my palate cleansed. If you do that you’re missing out of the delightful taste of mashed potatoes still hanging out on a back molar and at least one bicuspid mingling with a soupcon (see I’m classy, I just used a French word) of canned cream of mushroom soup and a curly fried onion from the green bean dish. That’s the essential Thanksgiving flavor profile right there. No one should mess that up. It’s, it’s . . . un American! So, if you ask me that bouillon spoon can take a hike right back to whatever freedom hating drawer it crawled out of. U.S.A, U.S.A.!
As for Miss Protocol, by the end of dinner that night I was glad I had a bounty of forks because I wanted to use all of them to go on a stabbing rampage. Primarily, because out of the seven forks taking up space at each place setting only two were used. Yep, the good old meat and salad fork got quite a workout while the other five forks just laid there on the place mat like lonely brides that had gotten stood up at the altar.
I must admit I felt smug that Miss Protocol and her silverware fetish couldn’t rattle me. Yes, yes, I wanted to stab her, but that was for her attitude not because I was in anyway intimidated by the mystery that is the chocolate spoon. (Spoiler alert it’s not made of chocolate. It’s a scoopy looking spoon that you use to eat chocolate. Go figure.) The truth is, and I’m not bragging here just stating fact, that I’m extremely proficient in all things etiquette related.
How could I not be? My mother hailed from the deep south. I was not only a registered member of Cotillion where I learned very important things like a gentleman always carries three handkerchiefs. One for your nose, one for show and one to give away to a lady in need. I was also a Brazos Belle, a Symphony Belle (both requiring you to walk/sway in very large hoop skirts, thank you very much) and while not a debutante would consider myself debutante adjacent. (It’s like you’re a deb, but you’re saving your parents a boatload of cash by not actually making your debut. Okay, I just made the debutante adjacent term up. Hmm, maybe it needs to go on my resume. Yeah, you’re right, probably not.) If all that doesn’t say “I know a shrimp fork from an oyster thingamabob than nothing does. Oh and I almost forgot to add that I have had a subscription to Southern Living magazine since the day I got married. That, right there, maybe the most important.
So based on this list of non accomplishments, but reeking of Scarlett O’Hara, I feel very confident in my etiquette knowledge. Make that I did feel very confident until I recently took an etiquette quiz and FAILED. It was a napkin question that took me into deep F territory. I’m so embarrassed that for years I’ve been doing the whole napkin in the lap thing wrong. Did you know that you’re supposed to wait to put your napkin in your lap until your hosts have been seated and they have placed their napkins on their upper thighs? I thought as soon as your hosts sat their backsides in a chair it was go time for the napkin. But no it’s like a napkin waltz and I’ve been messing up the choreography.
Worse, I, being a little braggy, challenged my kids to take the etiquette quiz with me. I thought I had it in the bag because despite my best efforts my children can be remedial in the manners department. (I can’t be the only one who gets a case of the vapors when a child pulls out a cell phone at the dinner table.) Here’s the tragic news. They both bested me! I was stunned and in immediate need of a gentleman to surrender his handkerchief so I could dab away my tears.
When I asked them how in the world they scored better than I did my son answered, “We both guessed that the stupidest answer must be the right one.”
“And the napkin question. Is that how you answered that one? You just looked for the most ridiculous answer?”
“No, I knew that one.”
Flabbergasted I asked, “Are you telling me you knew to wait for your hosts to put their napkins in their lap before you do?”
My son smiled and confessed, “Nah, I just wanted to mess with you.”
“That right there mister is bad manners. It’s not polite to mess with your mother.”
“Polite no. Fun yes.” He muttered as he sauntered off leaving me in an etiquette shame spiral.
I rolled my eyes and forced myself to let my napkin humiliation go. Taking a page from the Scarlett O’Hara playbook I told myself, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
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