I was recently asked to dinner by an acquaintance. Having nothing against this particular acquaintance and always being in the market for some free grub I accepted. I was then asked if I had any dietary requirements. I said that I didn’t. This is always the polite policy in these circumstances. Unless you have a serious allergy or something. If your whole body swells up like a jumping castle at the mere mention of the word ‘prawn’, then you’re probably excused from this piece of etiquette.
I’m not a fussy eater at all, I’ll eat just about anything set before me and often ask for seconds. Having said that, I do have a couple of rules of thumb that I try to observe as whenever I can, my own customised kosher, if you will. For the benefit of those ever thinking of having me over for tea, or for those thinking of devising their own dietary requirements or etiquette guidelines, I thought I’d list mine in full:
- Eggs and cheese can’t touch.
- Melted cheese has to be properly melted and golden brown.
- Tomato has to be very well hidden (preferaby wrapped in a lettuce leaf under a bucket in a locked shed on another continent).
- Yellow foods cannot be served on a Wednesday.
- Seafood needs to be moulded into the shape of Walt Disney (or Friz Freleng if it is a Wednesday).
- Potatoes must always be inscribed with an amusing limerick*.
- The knife must always be perpendicular to the fork, while the fork must at all times be parallel to itself.
- Peas are never to be eaten but must be pegged at the hostess when her back is turned.
- Formaldahyde must never be labelled vinegar and left on the table during mealtimes (except on Wednesdays).
- String beans must always be served standing on end.
- Never place elbows on the table, they should be left at the door with the umbrellas.
- Broccoli must be eaten stalk-end first. Caulifower must be eaten in reverse.
- Creamed corn must be served re-constituted into corn kernels and grafted back onto a cob.
- Pizza must always be accompanied by a square food.
- Never belch the alphabet at mealtimes, unless you can do so in Greek (or Hebrew if it is a Wednesday).
- Happy Meals should never be purchased when one is melancholy. Similarly, melons must never be purchased when one is feeling jovial.
- Although sausages are inherently funny, one must conceal one’s amusement until the hostess has made a humourous remark on the subject.
- Fish must be partially digested and later regurgitated into the beak of one’s young, if one is a penguin.
- Where one’s location is also the name of a food, that food should be eaten sparingly (e.g. eating a frankfurt in Frankfurt or eating Bega in Bega). The opposite is true for locations that merely resemble the names of foods (e.g. eating perch in Perth or eating haddock in a hammock).
- It is acceptable to throw grapes, pop-corn, nuts, and so forth up into the air and catch them in one’s mouth. This should not be attempted with anything larger than a watermelon.
- Except in very casual settings, one should never place spaghetti in one’s nostrils.
- When eating meat it is considered ‘of questionable taste’ to elude to the animal from which the meat originates. Exceptions include: humming the theme to “Skippy” when eating kangaroo, eluding to having “found Nemo” when eating fish and singing “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” when eating venison (it is customary to perform the latter with the aid of a cherry tomato).
- On Wednesdays it is acceptable to arrange items of food on one’s plate to resemble a clown’s face. It is not acceptable to reproduce any other clown body parts.
- It is not acceptable to pretend that tomato sauce is actually blood in some gruesome prank. Similarly it is not acceptable to put actual blood on a sausage sandwich.
- Squeezable bottles containing tomato sauce or mayonnaise should be replaced before they begin making a ‘farting’ noise. If a diner has the misfortune of using such a bottle, he (or she) must give the impression that the noise came from some other origin.
- It is generally unnecessary to ask permission to be excused at the end of a meal, quite the opposite, in fact. During the meal, one should frequently ask permission to remain at the table.
- When one is finished eating, one should place one’s knife and fork together in the centre of the plate, then turn one’s cup upside-down, hide the bread plate under the tablecloth and throw one’s napkin to the floor and say, “I’ve had quite enough of this company” and storm out in a huff.
- Two-minute noodles must be consumed in exactly two-minutes.
- Sneeze-guards at all-you-can-eat buffets should be tested regularly.
- Soup must never be consumed through a straw, except on Wednesdays when beverages must be consumed with a spoon, a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chives.
Observing these simple rules can make mealtimes more enjoyable. If you are aware of any useful rules, please let me know.
* Potato-related limericks are so commonplace and prevalent throughout the poetry world that I hardly feel it necessary provide any here. Nevertheless, for the convenience of those who might have forgotten some of the classic rhymes of their youth, or who may have misplaced their well-thumbed copy of “Mother Goose’s Standard Book of Limericks Relating to the Common or Garden Variety Potato and Other Tubers”, I have listed some of my favourites below.
There once was a garden potater
Who decided to make himself greater
He was salted a sprinkle
and cut with a crinkle
Although he preferred himself straighter