Minding your manners while chowing down

Editor’s note: Cole just spent a relaxing vacation with his 4-year-old grandson, meaning the old guy is still gasping for breath, let alone trying to write anything. So while he naps, we offer up this Thanksgiving Cole Classic from Nov. 21, 2004.


Hey! Clamp it for a sec, will ya? I gotta talk at you about manners and stuff.

Now then, Thanksgiving is right around the corner and some of yous ain’t got no ideas about good manners. And we WILL have good manners this year, you understand?

To help us in our futile quest for refinement, let us turn to etiquette queen Mary Morris Hutchinson. Here she is now, wiping her feet on the welcome mat and carrying flowers. Somebody knock that stack of newspapers off the stool so ol’ Mary can take a load off.

Mary, here, is the founder of Etiquette Essentials in Columbus, a business training program for professionals who want to polish their images.

“Using good table manners is just one way we can show the ones that we love special care and courtesy,” Hutchinson says. “When we take time to act appropriately, it shows others the respect that we have for them.”

I don’t know what it’s like in your family, but if I started getting all courteous at our holiday gatherings, my mom would pack me off to the emergency room. And she doesn’t drive. Mom figures we sure as tootin’ better be sick because the only other reason we’d act all hoity-toity on her is that we were up to no good. Smile and the world wonders what you’ve been up to, you know.

But in case getting all proper is acceptable in your asylum, here are Hutchinson’s tips to improve table manners:

* “Take a bite out of everything. Not eating something may insult the host.”

Outside of cranberry sauce, this is completely unnecessary encouragement. My doctor figures if I don’t start insulting a lot more people, I’ll be moving up a couple bed sizes real soon.

* “Never speak with food in your mouth.”

Well, we didn’t all gang up on the turkey and stuffing like that just to waste time talking. So say what you’re gonna say before grace is said because according to this rule, ain’t nobody talking afterward.

* Don’t reach for things across the table. If it is not in arm’s reach, ask someone close to the item to pass it to you.”

You’ve never been stuck at a table with my brother-in-law Randy, have you? Ask to have something passed! Ha! But I’m a lot more careful about reaching since the time nephew Jordan slapped me with stuffing and gravy. I’m thankful he was in such a hurry to get to the eating that he forgot to use his fork to shovel it in.

* “If you need to remove food from your mouth, remove it in the manner in which it was put into your mouth.”

I know I’m not an etiquette guru, but I think this one is a very bad idea. If it’s coming out of your mouth, I don’t want to see it. So unless you had the green bean casserole concealed in a dish towel for stealthy seconds, do NOT follow this rule. Please.

* “Do not use a toothpick at the table. Do not apply lipstick at the table.”

And don’t park your chewing gum on the rim of your plate. Hide that in the dish towel with the stealthy seconds of green bean casserole.

* “If you leave a table and plan to return, leave your napkin on the seat of your chair.”

OK, but I hate to ruin a perfectly good shirt by tearing off the sleeves like that. Or worse, my pant legs.

Oh dear, the Etiquette Queen just ran screaming from the house. Chalk up another one and dig in. Happy Thanksgiving, all!

—- Hurl insults at burtseyeview@

tribtoday.com or Burton W. Cole on Facbeook – but have a healthy serving of pumpkin pie first.