WTF – What The Fork?

69946600432112727_pxggnkvi_cAre table manners the product of a bygone era like eight track tapes and full coverage underwear?

I know most parents have or are raising their kids to embrace the basics like don’t talk with your mouth full, elbows off the table and please and thank you. But how many of us are still kicking it old school and teaching our children the ins and outs of what fork to use when?

I was the product of protocol classes (It was so ghastly that during the dinner manners portion of the course I wrote out in baby green leseur peas, “I hate my mother for making me do this.” Yep, I flunked.), cotillion dances and debutante bows and even I’m stumped when I see five forks at one place setting.

Quick, can you guess what each fork is for? Yeah, me neither. I had to look it up to refresh my memory. If you’re keeping score at home here’s the list: salad, fish, dinner, seafood and dessert. When I attempted to share this knowledge with my daughter she give me the side eye and asked, “Isn’t a seafood and fish fork redundant?

That question lead me to explain that I think the fish fork is for ocean creatures that swim and the seafood fork could be for the bottom dwellers like shrimp. To check my logic I went to Google where I got no clear answer, just more confusion because hello, there’s more freaking forks! Luncheon, pastry, lobster, snail, oyster, fruit, strawberry and even ice cream. WTF – What The Fork? As in who eats ice cream with a fork and I sense an intervention quality fork fetish going on.

If you already have a seafood and fish fork then why all the additional Little Mermaid collection of forks? The same logic can be used on the fruit and strawberry fork. Help me out here. A strawberry is still a fruit – right? (It’s not like the tomato that we all know and love and grew up with thinking it’s a vegetable and then – ta da – it’s now a fruit.) It’s too much. All this cutlery is enough to kill your appetite if it doesn’t bring on a migraine first.

Furthermore let’s be real – who’s eating that much bounty from the ocean in one meal (fish, seafood, oyster, shrimp, lobster) and not dying from mercury poisoning? What needs to happen is some fancy pants etiquette person and Kohl’s (or even Walmart, but I’m thinking I’d like to use my Kohl’s cash) should join forces and design a new cutlery collection for the holidays geared towards the way we live today.

As a way to get that party started here are my suggestions. Ditch all those fish forks and introduce one fork that does it all – the “big boy.” This fork will have tines so new and improved it can spear a puffed Cheeto with nary a fleck of cheese dust falling off. And if you’re thinking who eats Cheetos with fork to that I say – you do. This is 2016 and if you want to be classy (or maybe klassy) it’s all about fingers free.

The spoon will also get a makeover and resemble more of shovel with enhanced, curved sides because eating cereal for dinner isn’t just a lifestyle choice it’s a survival skill. With the spoon 2.0 you can ensure that you get the perfect amount of cereal to milk ratio with each bite.

Now, you might be thinking that the knife can’t be improved upon and you would be wrong. The knife’s girth would be increased so, in a pinch, it can also function as a spatula because if you’ve ever tried to cut a Chipotle chicken burrito with everything on it and attempted to eat it with some sense of decorum than you know that’s almost impossible. Now, all you have to do is use the “knife-tula” for precision cutting and scooping.

If you’re doubting my brilliance do me a favor. Tomorrow, as you’re eating Thanksgiving dinner and attempting to cut and pile some turkey atop your mashed potatoes ask yourself, “Wow, wouldn’t a knife-tula sure be helpful right now?”



Tabled Manners

0f41ba2c52be0afcfb0d953850545a84Many 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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