My friend Beth Gehring wrote a post a while ago about eating at a properly set table. I know these days that we tend to (and I include myself in this) just sort of scarf down whatever we can defrost, in front of the TV or the computer. My dinner tonight indeed was three ounces of to-go tuna salad eaten with a plastic fork and three Carr's Table water crackers eaten on the sofa while simultaneously chatting on the phone with my BFF Bitsy and writing a review of the latest Le Labo scent. Which would account for the sentence fragment starting the third paragraph.
But really, I kind of miss the idea of formal meals. Not formal in the idea that one dresses, just formal in the idea that A) there was a time and B) appearance wasn't optional. I admit that my parents didn't go whole hog; the formal dining room was Sundays and holidays and the odd day that my Mother decided we should eat there, which was more about the fact that she's gotten all Julia Child and felt that it needed a separate room to celebrate. Otherwise it was at the table in our kitchen that we ate breakfast and lunch (if we were home) at, which my father hewed out of some wood he had brought from Africa or Arizona or Alpha Centauri, because both of them were nuts who should have created both the Food Network and HGTV.
But I digress..
Beth points out that this sort of dining is the ultimate in recycling: linen napkins care re-used until they're used to wash the car (and to the novice: napkin rings are never used at a formal table. They connote that you're not getting a fresh napkin), and plates can be used for generations.
But the main point is that people forever have looked upon the ideas of knowing what fork to use as being exclusionary and classist. It's not; it's the most democratic system imaginable. It's logical, as easy to follow as a DMV test, and as inclusive. As Beth points out, it also forces you to actually savor your meal. You might even savor your company. Your china, the heft and design of your silver, you stemware, your surroundings and the fact that you're lucky enough to have this in your life (or like me aspire to it). Or silently judge the vulgarity of it and the quality of the conversation and the Claret.
There are a lot of things in our collective past that we need to jettison: bigotry, hatred and nastiness come to mind. Good manners and dinner I think aren't on that list.