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Old 08-25-2005, 09:22 PM   #1
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Dining

As opposed to eating, that is.

While well prepared foods are certainly enjoyable and healthful, I believe the "ambience" of the meal is equally important for both pleasure and health.

Anyone can grab a burger - and some of them a darned good, too. Devoured at a sporting event, the beach, or at a picnic, etc., such fast foods can be a pleasure in themselves.


But nothing beats - in this Old Coot's opinion - proper dining.

That's where the folks around a table (one person or a dozen) are both well groomed and well mannered. And the table is set as tastefully as circumstances permit. Then comes the food - hopefully tasty and nutritious - served attractively and courteously.

Diners holding their tableware somewhat daintily, rather than with the base-ball bat grip too often seen in even fine restaurants today. And taking small bites, chewing with mouths closed, and refraining from talking until after swallowing. But maintaining pleasant conversation between bites.

There is a wealth of scientific evidence indicating that enjoying food without stress is beneficial to digestion, and thereby to overall physical and mental health.

And so on... It seems the art of fine dining has become endangered.

What do you think?

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Old 08-25-2005, 09:26 PM   #2
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Has become endagered? That happened in about 1966, I think.
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Old 08-25-2005, 09:28 PM   #3
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But seriously, it's up to those of us who still care to bring it back.
p.s. in 1966 my dad bought our first TV
& later, I remember him Pronouncing (yes, with a capital "P", that was my dad) that colored TV .....just a fad.
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Old 08-25-2005, 09:32 PM   #4
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Old Coot:

I think you're right on.

We still enjoy the type of dining experience you describe. A nice leisurely dinner and wine and the opportunity to talk with the person(s) you're with is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon or evening.

It's endangered more by my current unemployed condition than by a lack of interest.
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Old 08-25-2005, 10:00 PM   #5
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That it has..I sometimes just sit back and wonder why people even bother to go to a nice restaurant and then either drink their dinner so that the food they ordered sits and gets cold, or they inhale it without tasing it..What really gets me though is the one who has a phone slapped to his ear and talks so loud you cannot help but overhear and then they complain, this is cold, that is wilted yatta yatta..Makes me want to dump the whole meal in their laps!!! As a kid, my parents and my aunt, saw to it that my sister and I were given the chance to enjoy good food at lovely restaurants and we were expected to: sit like ladies, chew with mouths closed, never talk with mouth full, we also had to learn which piece of silver ware was used for what, always place napkin in lap and use it When we spoke it was in a soft voice so not to bother other diners..This was never ever a had to or else it was made into a fun thing that made us feel all grown up! Why at 5 I was allowed to go into my aunt favortie restaurant with her, you were seated, then you went to a fancy counter and chose your steak, chop, or piece of fish, and then you told the waiter how it was to be cooked. I remember the man's eyes getting all big as he looked at this little kid, he didn't know what to do, so he looked at my aunt, who quietly said, You may take the order from the young lady..Wow was I all puffed up I love noisey family sunday dinners, but my kids also know when it's time to settle down and just enjoy the food and each other..To bad people don't realize what they are missing..Oh for the old days of gentle people..good food, a table set with china, crystal, silver and flowers, pleasant company and eating slowly and savoring every bite
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Old 08-25-2005, 10:51 PM   #6
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We have a quiet and very nice dining room. This is what we want....and I'm not sorry we did it....but those who know how to "really" enjoy it all seem to be 6o and over. I'm 53....no young chicken....but everyone younger than I am seems to be in a hurry....thinks good food should be on their table in 15 minutes.....and don't seem to know the first thing about a leisurely, relaxed meal. I think it is sad.
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Old 08-25-2005, 11:45 PM   #7
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I'm 21 and I enjoy immensely going to a fine restaurant (Sydney-siders, check out a little restaurant called Paua in Surry Hills, it is awesome) eating delightful food in great surroundings where the staff attend to your needs before you even realise them, its fantastic (when this poor uni student can scrimp together enough money together that isn't for alcohol :P).

I also immensely enjoy taking my girlfriend and going to a local favourite thai/vietnamese eatery of mine where it is noisy, fast paced, dirt cheap and the food is fantastic.

But my overall favourite dining experience? Eating on a rug, on some grass in a park/beside the beach etc, eating anything from a homemade selection of dishes to a big batch of fish and chips from a takeaway.

To me the only thing that matters is the company (well...that is unless the food is rubbish and the service bad :P).
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Old 08-26-2005, 02:14 AM   #8
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You mean I've got to wash my face and hands - and wear my shoes to the table to eat?

I know what your mean ... FINE dining is something you only read about these days (probably the hayday was the railroad expansion era and Diamond Jim Brady). It's not just the food presented, or how it was served, it's also how it is received and eaten.

I remember when I was young and there were such places around ... I not only took a bath but also wore a suit and tie (with real shoes - not Reeboks). Did the same for taking a young lady out to a play or the local symphony. These days - I can go to a concert in a tux and find myself sitting next to somone in a sweatshirt, jeans, and tennis shoes!

What ever happened to "manners" and "decorum"?

I miss those old days of getting dressed up for dinner ... these days - you pay $100 for a meal at a Bobby Flay or Emeril place - it's not fine dining - it's a theme park meal with maybe above average service!

Darn it ... I'm starting to be an old coot ....
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Old 08-26-2005, 03:33 AM   #9
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I am tempted to think that lesiurely dining is far more of a sure thing at home, or at a friend's home.

Of course, it takes effort. There of plenty of people who like good food, but not preparing it, and others who like preparing it, but maybe they've had a long, tiring day at the office...

In any event, how often have you felt relaxed enough to talk for hours at a restaurant table without the staff hovering or being otherwise annoying?

Dining is best done at home, in a controlled environment!

Best regards,
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Old 08-26-2005, 05:35 AM   #10
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I'm sorry but this is everyday dining at our house. We do not have good china that is brought out on ocassion, we have the china which is eaten on daily. The table is set for 3 meals a day with cloth napkins, tableclothes, water glasses, wine glasses, salad forks, etc. Dessert is served as a seperate part of the meal, not sliced, diced or scooped into a bowl and plopped onto the table.

Coffee or brandy or both are offered daily, although not always chosen.

And yes we do eat casseroles, hamburger helper and other convenience foods, even take out. But it is enjoyed as a meal just the same. We also have bread on the table, plated, every meal and lots of pickles, relishes, butter, jams, honey's, eggs 2 or 3 different ways are always offered and served in a warming dish not slopped onto a paper plate, condiments are a way of greeting your food with full intent on enjoying it.

Some have told us we take this too far and should relax, well it is not a difficult thing for us to slowly enjoy not only the meal but each others company. We have the same issues with paper plates, TV trays and sitting on living room furniture to eat a meal as people do with us eating like the human race was intended to, civlily.
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Old 08-26-2005, 05:35 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, 05:57 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, 06:58 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, 08:04 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, 11:58 AM   #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, 12:02 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, 12:25 PM   #17
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Great Story, OC!
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Old 08-26-2005, 01:03 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, 05:12 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, 09:38 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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