DEAR MISS MANNERS: It seems that the chefs of the nicer restaurants these days are attempting to outdo themselves (and us) when it comes to the presentation of our food.
While beautiful to admire, it is often impossible to eat. Salads in particular pose a great challenge. I was served a salad wherein entire leaves of bibb lettuce were arranged on a plate to form a bowl of sorts. In the center, three or four cherry tomatoes were diced, along with perhaps one slice of bacon, and then drizzled with blue cheese dressing.
Should I just eat the tomatoes? Cut the lettuce leaves individually in order to eat them also? Take my knife and cut everything into bite-size pieces all at once after an appropriate moment of admiration?
Other foods artfully arranged — both entrees and side vegetables — provide similar conundrums. I don’t go to restaurants to merely gaze at the food; I would like to eat it and to do so properly.
GENTLE READER: No one — particularly not a chef — could fault you for eating the food that is served to you. A moment of admiration is polite, but then Miss Manners permits you to get to work putting the edible artwork into your mouth where it rightfully belongs.
If no salad knife has been provided — and alas, one never is — you must use the tools at hand. Cut each piece of food as necessary before eating it and consume whatever appeals to you. Then, if you like, you may artfully arrange your utensils on the plate when you are done.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been in a good relationship with a man for nine years. He has been divorced for 12 years and has three adult children. I get along with his kids for the most part.
His youngest daughter is having a baby soon. I have not been invited to her baby shower for whatever reason, and that’s okay with me. I was just wondering what the etiquette is on inviting the father’s girlfriend to the daughter’s baby shower?
GENTLE READER: Etiquette demands that guests at a social occasion act civilly toward one another. If your gentleman friend’s daughter (or more likely ex-wife) felt that this might be unattainable with your presence, then it was probably best not to invite you.
All things being equal, it is gracious — but not mandatory — to include the father’s longtime partner at a family gathering. However, all things might not be equal in your particular situation, and Miss Manners suspects that someone might well have been doing you a favor with the oversight.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it acceptable always to leave the tablecloth on the dining table? My sister says it is not correct and should be taken off right after we are finished eating.
GENTLE READER: Perhaps your sister is thinking of the old custom of removing the tablecloth before dessert. That was a tricky maneuver while everyone was sitting there hoping for sweets, which may account for its being abandoned.
Or perhaps she noticed some food stains that you missed.
If you were leaving your table set for a phantom meal, to display your china and silver, Miss Manners would object. But she has no trouble defining a clean cloth as a runner that overstepped its bounds.