Microwaving tea and eating pizza with a fork: the new table manners

Mary Berry confessed to eating pizza with a fork
Mary Berry confessed to eating pizza with a fork Credit: BBC/BBC IMAGES

The menace of working from home is that my life is not so much measured out in coffee spoons, but in half-drunk cups of cold tea scattered around the house in an erratic trail of distraction to my desk.

Viewers were outraged at the 'Teamageddon' scene in Broadchurch Credit: BBC/BBC Pictures

So you would think I might be sympathetic to David Tennant’s character in this week’s episode of Broadchurch, whose microwaving of a long-stewed cuppa quickly took on the doomsday moniker of “tea-mageddon” on social media by viewers scandalised by this terrible treatment of the nation’s favourite drink.

I’d never dream of microwaving my tea - in part because I don’t own a microwave, but that’s another snobbery for another day - but mostly because making tea represents the perfect displacement “looking busy while doing nothing” activity.

But while to some, microwaving tea is the perfect representation of the debasement of the human spirit in the modern world, I find it less tiresome than the damp priggishness of those who will bore you forever about the correct temperature of water for the brewing of green tea and will snigger into their teacups if your refreshment skills are found wanting.

Mary Berry Everyday making pizza Credit: BBC/BBC Prictures

The internet equally went into melt-down after Mary Berry admitted in her show that not only had she never ordered a takeaway pizza, but that she ate hers with a knife and fork. No Mary, no. Grab a slice and save the washing up. The same goes for chicken wings and there’s nothing wrong with a gnawing on a lamb chop either.

An obsession with the correct form or the deadly affectation of ostentatiously “good manners” is so wearisome. In fact, there are none more common than those who strive to be smart by sneering at people who fail to observe some arcane rule of etiquette.

Today, there are few rules for eating at home other than to avoid doing that which is actively revolting (slurping and eating with your mouth open) and that which causes discomfort to others (snatching of the last roast potato or hogging the gravy). But apart from that, tuck in and relax because it’s now fine to...

Elbows on tables are no longer a no no Credit: BBC/BBC Pictures

Lean in 

We’re a long way from, “All joints on the table will be carved”. By all means, have your elbows on the table. So long as you’re not slumped over like a troll, or elbows out like a chicken, it’s fine. And to be honest, we’d rather have your hands where we can see them. Just remember to bring your food to your mouth, not the other way round - we want to see your pretty face.

Mop up the last of the sauce with a piece of bread. 

Leaving something for Mr Manners is so prissily Hyacinth Bucket and quite against the No Waste ethos of our times. In fact, in selected company, in the privacy of your own home, feel free to lick the plate.

Eating a dirty burger with a fork wouldn't be on Credit: Bacchus/Dirty Burger

Eat with your hands 

It has always been acceptable, chic even, to eat asparagus with your fingers, so why not less refined foods? There are few sights more ludicrous than someone eating a burger with a knife and fork. No elaborate licking of your fingers though. We are not barbarians.

Eat soup the 'wrong way' 

No one cares if you eat (or, more correctly, drink) your soup by scooping the spoon away from you and then tipping it delicately into your mouth. That rule exists to prevent you greedily shovelling your soup and spilling it down your shirt, but so long as you’re not slurping or, please God no, bashing your spoon against your teeth, crack on.

An instagram of someone's plate of blueberries Credit: Instagram/Instagram

Take pictures of your food 

 It’s fine to photograph your food so long as you’re swift and discreet. No elaborate adjusting of lights, making people move stuff, holding up anyone else or standing on chairs. Don’t be that tragic leftover from 2010.

But please still don’t….

Double dip

You think no one’s watching as you plunge that piece of bread or crudité into the dip for a second time, but everyone was and they’re very disappointed in you, even the ones who’d happily kiss you on the mouth.

Dinner tables should be a tech free zone Credit: Wavebreak Media ltd/Alamy 

Put your phones on the table 

Most of us have done this from time to time, but unless you’re expecting a call from the hospital to say they have a potentially viable organ, no, it’s really not on.

Wait for everyone before starting 

If the host says start, start. There are few things less jolly for the cook than seeing their delicious, hot food go cold as guests hold back from digging in. Home manners aren’t the same as restaurant manners.

Seasoning food before tasting shouldn't be done Credit: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy

Season without tasting 

Why not throw on a gallon of ketchup on there while you’re at it? While many restaurants persist with the cheffy affectation of leaving salt and pepper off the table, when eating at someone’s home - unless your host is some kind of low-sodium maniac - they’re usually readily available. Even so, do the home cook the courtesy of tasting before reaching for the condiments.

Clear the table until everyone’s finished 

Astonishingly, sometimes clueless hosts - and over-eager guests under the misguided apprehension that they’re “helping” - start clearing plates before everyone is finished eating. Fine if the atmos you’re going for is works canteen, but there’s nothing more certain to kill the mood.     

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