I really love watching a show called “Come dine with me” which airs on the BBC lifestyle channel. I know a lot of people who like this show will probably agree and say the most fun part about the show is the comments that the sarcastic narrator Dave Lamb often makes.
In this one episode of the UK version, I couldn’t help but be annoyed by this one guy who was a bit of a slob according to me, but he kept on complaining a lot about how the other people had bad table manners and bad fine dining etiquette.
I really think his statement stuck with me because, I have had someone who commented about what I didn’t do right at the dinner table. I am sure most of us have heard people share their unasked opinions of how the fork, the knife, the glass, the spoon, the plate etc should be set in order to comply with fine dining etiquette.
And I must tell you, I have been to a lot of dinners and when the food is set before me and I am in the company of great people, I hardly remember most of these dinner table manners. I’ve asked myself why I can’t remember them, and well the answer I’ve come up with so far is that these things don’t come naturally to me because in my upbringing, I was not taught about fine dining etiquette.
I grew up like so many South Africans and many people around the world, our evening meals were had in the lounge whilst watching television. The only time we sat at a table together to enjoy a meal was when we were at a restaurant or a function. The focus was more on enjoying a good meal together and watching something we all loved. I would be lying if I said that I felt there was something missing in our dinner experience. But then again, I had never been exposed to the strict regiments of fine dining. Until I was in my late teens and entering my twenties, I got exposed to the whole concept of fine dining etiquette. There was a moment where I felt the overwhelming shame of not knowing certain things which my compatriots would indicate where table manners 101. In a few instances I was made to feel not “civilized”…but I beg to ask the question, according to whose standards?
I hear the phrase “beware of ethnocentricity” in mind. What is it? Well, when someone says you are ethnocentric they simply saying, you evaluate other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of your own culture. It started to dawn on me that we must be careful of not lording our ideas, convictions and way of being when making decisions in a culturally inclusive world.
There are many things I grew up having great convictions about and would even argue that was the only way. Until I got exposed to a different side, and I must say it’s really true when they say new information gives you a different perspective. In some decisions I have made, I have been faulty because I chose to lord only what I thought was best and didn’t engage with other convictions around me.
My enjoy life tip is this: If we are going to thrive in the global village and be exposed to different people, we should consider certain key basic principles. Firstly, we must get the facts before rushing to give an opinion about people and situations around us. Secondly, we must be open to new ideas and revelations and lastly we must make sure we hear both sides of every story before judging. These principles center on seeking additional information which can be difficult work sometimes, but the only alternative if we don’t choose to be open-minded is ignorance. We must be involved in a continuous process of caution against ignorance because if we don’t we may fall into prejudice which is judging before getting the facts.
I am trying to apply these principles in my own life so that when I write, speak and make decisions, I do so with a deeply rooted confidence.
Back to the fine dining narrative, as I have mentioned I want to be cautious of my own ignorance, can I ask the fine dining etiquette activists to please teach me? I am open to learn and understand what makes having great table manners so life changing.