Miss Manners: He slices English muffins? Fetch the smelling salts
DEAR MISS MANNERS: For the past 25 years, my loving but stubborn significant other and I have engaged in an ongoing argument over slicing, not fork-splitting, English muffins. Unfortunately, the first time I saw him slice apart a muffin, I reacted in horror, having never seen anyone do this before (especially as the package was labeled “fork split”).
He, in turn, had never heard of fork-splitting muffins. When he asked why this was done, I could only, and perhaps incorrectly, tell him that this was both traditional and that it created a round surface that allowed butter to adhere properly.
To this day, he delights in holding up sliced, buttered English muffins to demonstrate that the butter does not, in fact, slide off.
Except for this no-longer-hilarious quirk, he is a delightful person, but I would like to resolve the issue, once and for all, with a ruling from you.
GENTLE READER: The gentleman is fortunate that he has redeeming qualities to compensate for his shocking behavior. The muffin slicing doesn’t bother Miss Manners nearly as much as the endless repetition of a joke that has worn out its humor.
You would only encourage this if you argue about the practicality — for example, testing whether jam slides off because of the slicing. Besides, your kitchen floor would be a mess.
It is enough that using a fork is traditional. It doesn’t have to be utilitarian.
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DEAR MISS MANNERS: Shouldn’t manners make sense instead of being a stupid formality?
For example: When the table is set with a salad plate, why is that plate placed on the left of the main plate? Reaching over the main plate may cause your sleeve to be soiled, although it is true that left-handed people would have no difficulty.
GENTLE READER: No, manners don’t always have to make sense. A culture will become used to — and attached to — a certain way of doing things, which is enough justification for following its harmless traditions.
But in this case, Miss Manners can supply a reason. Your water and other glasses are on your right. If your salad plate were there, too, you would probably knock them over. And surely left-handed people, who manage to cross their plates without dipping their sleeves in their food, deserve an occasional break.
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DEAR MISS MANNERS: Often, when my husband and I are at a restaurant, I can’t finish my meal and I request to have it boxed up.
We were at a rather nice private club one evening, and I mentioned to him I’d like to take home half my meal, which was untouched. He told me that that was not at all appropriate, so I didn’t. What are your thoughts?
GENTLE READER: Doggie bags are not quite as despised by Miss Manners as you may think, as the concept dates back to Roman times. (Not that that is a rule that should be generally applied.)
Yet she is appalled by guests at dinner parties who seek to take home their hosts’ leftovers. A private club is considered to be the same as the home of its members. So if you are a member, go ahead. If you are the guest of a member, do not.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.