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Old 08-26-2005, 06:35 AM   #11
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Old Coot you are right on! In the last few years, we have made a concerted effort to spend more quality time dining as a family, whether at home (preferred) or in a nice restaurant. We thought our childrten would resist these efforts as thay had become accustomed to the eating on the fly lifestyle that we, as a busy family with goofy schedules, had all become resigned to. Instead...they shocked us by LOVING it! Our daughter has since moved out on her own and she and her fiance are doing the same thing. Because of their schedules, they sometimes have to eat as late as 9:00 pm (I know this isn't late for many people...but it is quite late for us!) but she believes it is important to share that time and use it to catch up on events in each others day.
My son (almost 17) told me that he looks forward to it as well and we have been known to linger at the dinner table for a while after dinner is finished just talking, joking...whatever. It IS an art and one we should make sure we don't lose!
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Old 08-26-2005, 06:57 AM   #12
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Old Coot, you have won my heart!!! We've battled this through thick and thin. We're seldom obvious in our ways of trying to deal with bad table manners. Luckily it doesn't happen often to us any more. When we lived in Florida, we often ran into it ... by the way, from both young and old (say, an older uncle who would show up at the table in a sleeveless t-shirt with body hair all over the place). It is much easier for hubby to ask a kid to take off the had when eating or go eat in another room (guess it says something that the kids always chose sitting at the table to keeping his hat on) to telling someone 70-something to please put a shirt on. The older uncle in mind would be thrilled to be banned to the living room, wher they could watch sports rather than socialize and eat great food. Younger generation always chose the food & conversation, even when they were quite young.
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Old 08-26-2005, 07:58 AM   #13
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I suppose I'm lucky in that because of both my work and my husband's profession, we get invited to dinner in posh restaurants quite often.

I love it - not just for the food, although that is an obvious plus - but for the ambience, heavy linen tablecloths and napkins, good waiting staff and people who have obviously bothered to 'dress up' for the experience.

Even though it is only the two of us at home nowadays (most of the time, anyway!) I insist that we eat dinner, formally, in the dining room every evening that we are both at home. It gives us time to talk and more importantly to listen to one another.

Long may it continue!
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Old 08-26-2005, 09:04 AM   #14
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Not enought people realize that eating a meal is not just a refueling stop. It's a social event.

A while ago, we were at a B&B in New Hampshire where I saw a book that presented the menus, recipes and the dining experience on the Titanic. Those folks knew how to eat and enjoy the dining experience. Dinner lasted all night (you'd better enjoy the folks seated at your table) and was 10 courses.
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Old 08-26-2005, 12:58 PM   #15
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Wow! Amd I was hesitant to broach this subject, thinking few would be interested. Wrong again!!

My Beautiful Wife of these past 52 years and I dine every night. Like some of you, fine china, crystal, silver, linen, etc., and wonderfully fine cuisine she prepares regularly. To the point that I much prefer dining at home - both the food and the ambience is better than in all but the finest restaurants [which are few now] in the Los Angeles area.

Even our dog, who waits patiently in the living room until summoned for a tidbit of meat, never begs or drools, and takes offerings in a gentle, ladylike manner, befitting her name, "Lady". (100 lbs of Belgian Groenendahl Shepherd)

We raised 4 little brats. Except at the dining table or when in public or visiting: exemplary behavior! When first learning to feed themselves, they were given a fork, not a spoon, and immediately taught how to properly hold it. Table manners instruction followed. A result was an experience I think you may enjoy my relating.

It was our 3rd anniversary. We didn't have much money, so B/W sewed a little suit and tie for #1 kid, at not quite 2. We, too, dressed for dinner, and were late arriving at the best restauant in the town. It wasn't exactly posh. Becuase of the hour, we were the only patrons in the dining room. Three waitresses were "on duty". One seated us and offered a booster chair for the youngster. That raised him to our level. The menus were those immense things. For fun, she handed the boy one, which he carefully opened and perused in serious detail - upside down.

I ordered for B/W and myself, (steak, baked potato, salad with bleu cheese dressing) then turned to our son and asked what he'd like. He quietly folded the big menu, handed it to the waitress, and stated, "I'll have what Dad's having, please." The waitress looked at me, questioning. (Steak for that little tyke??) I nodded my assent, almost choking to keep from laughing.

When served, I offered to cut his meat for him, but otherwise left him to his own devises. His mother and I chatted. The waitresses were accross the room watching the lad in amazement. His manners were, frankly, impeccable. Then I received a litle tug on my sleeve.

I turned to the boy. Out of the side of his mouth, barely opened, "Dad, what do I do with the olive seed?" "Do what you think you should, Micjael.", I responded. Whereupon he considered for a moment, then put his fork to his lips and pushed the seed through closed lips onto it, then placed the offending pit on the side of his salad plate.

The waitresses broke into applause! And wife and I almost fainted, then almost burst with pride.

Took that same brat to lunch at a fine Italian restaurant yesterday - sorry to say that, at 49, his manners have deteriorated a little.


Long live fine dining.
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Old 08-26-2005, 01:02 PM   #16
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Amen. Don't do it as much as I should or would like to.
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Old 08-26-2005, 01:25 PM   #17
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Great Story, OC!
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Old 08-26-2005, 02:03 PM   #18
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Hiya,

Great topic, and as a spring chicken (33), I feel compelled to tell you of my idea of dining. I see it as a state of mind, not a physical environment. If the people are there to enjoy great food then they, in my estimation, are dining. Personally, being well groomed and well mannered is not that important to me. I am very uncomfortable in that particular state, as are many of my friends. We are there to enjoy fine food and our time with each other.

We sit around my dining room table that costs less than my stockpot. We listen to music, have a few drinks and laugh loud, very loud. That is where we are comfortable. I am not cutting on the “white napkin experience”, where you find your comfort is your gig. On the rare occasion that I want that atmosphere, I hit a good restaurant. Unfortunately, I am the unshaven, hippy in the four star restaurant who is only there for the food. I will defensively mention that I do dress to the minimum requirements and my conversation is low, no matter how much wine I have. It goes without saying that my manners are impeccable. The final word on level of casualness accepted is decided by the restaurant, they reserve the right to refuse service. If they are too lenient for your taste, don’t go there, there are plenty of restaurants that still have a “no jeans” or “jacket required policy”.

Last time I cooked, the first course was puff pastry w/ caramelized onions and leeks in cream. Next was Trout almandine with fried baby red potatoes. Finally we had chocolate mouse with cognac and walnuts. Everyone enjoyed the 2 hour meal. Later one diner was telling everyone at the bar that he ate “fine dining tonight”. It certainly wasn’t just a “home cooked” meal? I didn’t just fill their bellies. I feel I provided a “dining” experience in without the pomp and circumstance.

I definitely understand where you are coming from, but I feel that dining is more state of mind and an expectation for the experience of eating. Less reliant on the atmosphere created around you by others. For the record, about wolfing down food, I have a simple and inflexible rule. Anyone who does it at my table is warned, and then smacked. That’s not why I cook.

As for how to deal with younger diners that are not meeting expectations at your table, be sure to make those expectations clear. If they are not well groomed or don’t display the appropriate manners then tell them to eat elsewhere, it is your table and your meal. As for me, I am sure that the food is excellent and the table set to perfection, but I will pass on the “classic version” of dining. It turns out that it is not who I am or where I am comfortable.

Thanks for reading.
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Old 08-26-2005, 06:12 PM   #19
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Interesting response, Background - and not unexpected. I appreciate you candid expression.

However:

I trust you are familiar with the concept implied by the "lowest common denominator". That is what is happening to our civiliztion's culture. Ever more leniency is tolerated, resulting in the rather rapid decline of the skills and mores upon which society must be based. Else anarchy ultimately results when no rules are left to test or ignore.

What music do you enjoy? Classical? Semi-classical? Jazz? Dixie? Swing? Rock? Acid rock? Or the cacophony termed music today wherein tune, harmony, lyrics, and voice quality all are generally missing - just a primitive beat, a lot of shouting off key, and inane jumping about.

Do you drive with consideration for others, or do you bull your selfish way through traffic, oblivious to the "rules of the road"?

Fine dining is not about pomp and circumstance. It is about creating and maintaining a pleasant atmosphere wherein diners can be comfortable and devote their attention to the wonderful flavors and textures of the food as well as to the camaraderie of others dining with them. Overdone, it becomes stilted and unpleasant. Underdone, it is a riot of piggishness, slobbering, spilling and swilling. Appropriate, perhaps, in the orgies of ancient Rome, but hardly enjoyable to us today,.

My point is that a successful society must have at least minimal rules by which all should abide. While you prefer less "stringent" dining rules than some of us, you have minimal rules too, exemplified by your refusal to allow "wolfing" down of food. If that level of decorum satisfies you, so be it. But beware of ever increasing degradation. It can destroy us.

[I sincerely hope you do not interpret this as any kind of personal attack - such is neither my desire nor intent!]
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Old 08-26-2005, 10:38 PM   #20
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Background Noise and Old Coot:

You seem to be in agreement on most counts. Earlier posts made it clear that the focus of an enjoyable dining experience is the social aspect of it rather than the trappings. Three meals a day together as a family, dinner in the dining room rather than standing at the kitchen counter, etc.

When SO and I are home alone, we eat at the dining room table but it's come as you are. When we eat out, we don't wear jeans unless they're appropriate (not just allowed) at a restaurant. e.g. a rib joint or other such restaurant.
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