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Miss Manners: What’s the proper way to eat croutons?

Dear Miss Manners: I don’t understand croutons.

I love salad and would like to enjoy croutons on my salad, but they are the size and shape of dice and the consistency of pumice. They are impossible to stab with a fork and nearly impossible to balance on one.

My attempts at gracefully rendering them into a more manageable size invariably go awry, sending chunks flying off my plate. I’ve taken to just picking them up with my fingers and crumbling them over my salad (which is also difficult!), but this feels a little uncouth.

What is the proper way to tackle a crouton? The whole thing reminds me of the ridiculous wedge salad. Salad should not be so difficult as to require more than one utensil, in my opinion.

By the way, I only have this problem at restaurants. At home, I simply enjoy my “croutons” in the form of seasoned breadcrumbs or crumbled seasoned stuffing mix.

What Miss Manners doesn’t understand is, what is going on in the kitchens where these salads are being prepared? Have the sous chefs not tried eating their own salads?

And it’s not just those croutons and the lettuce wedges, both of which could be used to play pickleball. What about the tomatoes, cut in quarters or fifths?

You are hereby authorized to ask the waiter quietly to return the salad to the kitchen to be cut into bite-size pieces.

Dear Miss Manners: My brother, who is 16 years younger than I am, was just accepted to the university he has dreamed of attending since he was 8 years old. I want to do all that I can to show my support and would love to invite other relatives to do the same.

My brother and I have different fathers, and there are very few relatives remaining on our mother’s side, so most of his family members are not related to me and don’t know me very well.

I have heard of a new trend called a “bed party,” the idea of which is to decorate the bed of a new college student and shower them with gifts, merchandise from their new college and, of course, money. Would it be polite for me to invite others to help me throw one of these parties for my brother, or is this too much like begging on his behalf? I am certain many would be happy to send him a small gift or some cash, but I don't want to obligate them.

If it would be appropriate, should I send announcements in the mail, or should I call or text? I feel that an announcement with an invitation to send a small gift for a surprise “bed party” might give people a way to decline gift-giving without embarrassment.

Hardly a day passes when Miss Manners does not hear of yet another party idea that involves presents. And yes, you do risk antagonizing people by soliciting presents and money from them — especially when they are your brother’s relatives who might have already been generous to him.

Just give your brother a congratulatory party, dropping the word “shower.” Some guests will bring presents anyway, either because they want to or because they have never heard of a social gathering without that toll. But no one will feel coerced.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

© 2023 Judith Martin

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