Culinary no-no #729


Good manners. They’re not taught in schools. Maybe they should be.

Once a week she visited our 7th grade class. A sweet, charming, bubbly lady, she hailed originally from Cincinnati, but had an accent thicker than Scarlett O’Hara’s. Her mission: to groom a bunch of 13-year old kids.

Because after all, as she often drawled, “You wanna be nice, good lookin’ and clean all over, dontcha, huhhhhhhhh?????!!!!”

Manners. We had to learn and practice good manners.

As hysterical as this may sound to some of you, I was an extremely good boy. To this day, I always try to be a perfect gentleman. I owe it all to that woman.

She hammered proper etiquette into us like a drill sergeant with a perpetual smile. Over and over and over and over and over again. Want another analogy? It was Vince Lombardi-like. Then came the real test, the time to execute Lombardi-style.

Maybe she could sense that I was not an insensitive kid. Whatever the reason, when she issued an assignment pairing up a boy with a girl to put the grooming lessons into practice, I got matched with Sharon Clock.

Everyone in the 7th grade knew that I had a mad crush on Debbie Huck and vice versa since the 1st grade. Debbie was pretty, very smart and sweet, and built beyond her 7th grade status. Sharon Clock was short, dumpy, overweight, and had a silver front tooth. Kids didn’t dislike her. They just pretty much ignored her.

Instead of Debbie Huck, for the next several weeks I would shadow Sharon. I pulled out her chair. I held the door for her. I hung up her coat. I held her coat when she put it on. I carried her books. I talked nice to her.

“Is there anything else I can do for you, Sharon?

Is there anything I can get you, Sharon?

Do you have any other request before I kill myself, Sharon?”

When you’re in the 7th grade, you possess Superman-like peripheral vision and hearing. You can see and hear the smirks and laughter as you help Little Miss Fatty into her seat.

At a Friday afternoon in-classroom party, the occasion escapes me, other kids were spinning records and dancing and laughing and joking.

“Would you like to go hang out with other kids, Sharon?”

No, not really, Kevin.”

“Well, what do you wanna do?”

“Are you serious, Kevin?”

Her words echoed through my brain: “You wanna be nice, good lookin’ and clean all over, dontcha, huhhhhhhhh?????!!!!”

“Sure, Sharon. What do you wanna do?”

“I’d like to play chess.”

“Excuse me?”

“Chess. I want to play chess.”

It’s amazing how a 7th grader’s thoughts can quickly turn from good grooming to homicide in a matter of seconds. So we played chess, and I tried to ignore the 45s blaring in the background, and the laughing, and the snickering.

I don’t know whatever happened to Sharon Clock. Or the lovely Debbie Huck. But I thought of them when I read a pair of articles about etiquette in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

First from 2010:

On the way to their new elective class, the seventh- and eighth-graders walked under the fluorescent cafeteria lights and past bagged lunches on tables, awaiting the first lunch shift.

What they saw on the other side of the wall at Concordia University School made many whisper and cast surprised looks at their friends: candles amid a 15-piece table setting, white tablecloth, silver platters and fine china, soup bowls and a centerpiece.

Presentation is everything in Camille Monk’s etiquette class. The 29-year-old has started a business bringing classic social training to urban schools, in the hopes that teaching tolerance and respect will help the students successfully navigate future social situations.

“A lot of the children I’m working with are around a lot of negative energy and negative vibes all the time,” said Monk, who leads an elective course at Concordia University School and Young Leaders Academy, a charter school. “The bottom line is respecting others and being tolerant. But it’s hard to retrain someone when they’re planted in a negative environment.”

In their first class at Concordia, 8242 N. Granville Road, the children practiced standing up and introducing each other, and adults, to their peers in front of the room. They practiced shaking hands and correctly scooping soup away from the front of the bowl. They practiced tearing off chunks of bread and buttering each one, rather than buttering the entire loaf at once.

And from 2013:

“From left to right: Bread and butter; meat and main; wine or water.”

That might not seem like college-level work, but with students getting ready to head off to interviews, internships and jobs, schools are setting aside some time – and some courses – to prepare them in ways beyond technical and management skills.

Margery Sinclair, etiquette coach and author  sees lunch or dinner as a way for prospective employers to wean candidates out.

“A lot can be determined by the way you conduct yourself,” Sinclair said, explaining that if candidates have good manners while eating, it most likely means they conduct themselves appropriately in other aspects of their life.

Great ideas, instructing these young folk civility. But I also had mixed feelings.

You mean these whippersnappers need long training to figure out how where their forks go? Seriously?

Those articles were ages ago. Manners and how to display them, I suspect, have disappeared even more, leaving them in dire need of instruction.

When it comes to areas that millennials have killed Marketwatch reports:

Dinner dates

With the ceaseless mix of Tinder swipes and OkCupid matches they are subjected to, millennials have essentially given up on the dinner date. Experts say they are dating more often and more casually, making the idea of sitting across from someone at a pricey dinner for a potentially long amount of time less desirable. “Online dating creates an enormous number of first dates in a short period of time,” said relationship and etiquette expert April Masini.

Still, some millennials don’t think they are missing out on anything: “Sure, getting asked to dinner might seem more exciting, but if you really like the person, isn’t it just as good to hang out and watch Netflix? Does it matter what you’re doing if you enjoy one another’s company?” wrote college student Amanda Spina.

So, how might today’s flock fare under these 150-year old guidelines? I shudder to think.


Catholics: Stop eating fancy fish on Fridays during Lent.

ICYMI, Culinary no-no #728: Lent sucks

One thought on “Culinary no-no #729

  1. Pingback: Culinary no-no FLASHBACK: Potato pancakes | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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