Sunday, April 21, 2024

Our table manners!

There are things I don’t miss about my younger days.
For instance, I don’t miss sharing a plate of food with my siblings. The kids of today have it good. They just cannot believe people can eat from one plate.

I suppose if they were served their meal in one plate and told to share they would kick, scream and report their parents to the child abuse society.

In our days, only the kids from well off families could eat alone. Those kids also had a fridge in their house. They were spoilt brats because everyone sucked up to them in the hope that they would be invited to crunch on ice cubes after school.

I did not like them and so could never crack an invitation. These were kids whose parents were the first to own a black and white television set, which would be switched on only after their dads arrived from work. Less privileged kids worshipped them if only to be allowed to watch television from the doorway or the window. I did not like them, and so watched their black and white television set from the street with my fellow rebels.

The privileged kids did not have to share their plate of food. Their mothers were organized. If someone from their fan club came over to play thinking they could hang around for lunch, the mothers would call their already plump kids into the house to eat. Happy, filled and contented they would emerge from the house with food traces around their mouth and resume play.

As for the rest of us, we had to share. If there were two siblings they would eat from one plate. If there were four siblings, two plates would be organized and they would tuck in.

He only people who did not share was the parents. But even then the mum would end up sharing her plate with one of the kids because they did not eat quickly enough during the sharing session. There was no time to savour the taste of food. Meal times were fast and furious affairs.
The idea was to grab as many handfuls as possible and swallow. The slow eater would go off crying to mum, and mum would have to share her food with them.

Today’s kids would consider it weird that people would eat from one plate. And, by the way, it was not because there were not enough plates. It’s just that there was not enough food to go round. To create the impression of enough food, a serving which was barely enough for one person would be shared by two or more kids. It was a rough time. People who grew up in that era are easy to recognize.
Just go to a wedding or any function where there is plenty of food and you will know what I mean. I am a victim.

The evidence is there. You see, back during the era of plate sharing, the first thing we did when the food was dished would be to grab our piece of meat. In this part of the world, every meal must be accompanied by meat. If things are really rough, the relish can be green leaf paste or cabbage. This type of relish is served when things are really bad.
For the most part, however, the relish of choice is meat and gravy. And what we did, my friend, was to dive for our piece of meat as soon as the food was placed before us. If it was two kids sharing a plate, then it was one piece for each. If it was three kids then it was a piece apiece.

Because people in this part of the world tend to use their right hand for eating, the left hand played the important role of holding the piece of meat as we were busy eating. Everyone had to hold onto their piece of meat, lest it be grabbed by someone else.

The other reason why we dived for the meat at the onset of the meal was to ensure that we got the biggest piece.
By today’s standards, the pieces were so small. But they were never the same size so the quickest kid would always grab the largest piece. It really was horrible. I was very slow. So I tended to end up with the smallest piece.

Even if you did not have any siblings, chances were that some cousins would be staying with you. They did not give a damn that they were staying in your parents’ home. When meal time came they went for the kill. No amount of grumbling about how it was your parents who bought the food would help. Sometimes out of pity, they would tear off a piece from their meat and give it to you.

For us slow kids, sharing plates left us with post traumatic stress disorder. I have realized there are so many of us suffering from this condition. Like I said the evidence is there.

Next time you go to a wedding just look at all the people whose plates are piled high with food. Surely, some of those portions cannot be finished by one person. But we still pile our plates. This we do despite not having to share with anyone. It is a throwback to the times of sharing meals.

Now that we can eat alone we try and compensate for the deprivation of our childhood by piling our plates. Most often, the people who pile up their plate never finish the food. But we get gratification from the quantity in front of us. But the real giveaway is our table manners. Even when eating alone, the people who used to share are conspicuous. Just like in their younger days, they grab a piece of meat or chicken with their left hand, and proceed to use a fork with the right hand.

It is all choreographed. When the fork has finished depositing some rice in their mouths, the left hand moves up for a bite of chicken or meat. I am not kidding you.

Next time you are at a function or wedding just look out for these signs. You will be shocked. Many of us still do it unconsciously.

It is a habit from a time when every man had to survive by grabbing and holding onto their piece of meat!


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