Q. Can you do some research for me about old-fashioned manners of customs that few of us do today? I'm thinking of men who used to always tip their hats in the presence of a lady, or when men used to always walk on the street side of the sidewalk.
It's interesting to think about the traditions of just a few years ago.
A. Gentlemen, to this very day, walk on the street side of the sidewalk, unless they are European gentlemen, and walk to the lady's left. Miss Manners, who can bear the idea that styles of clothing change, but not that the small courtesies of life do, firmly believes that the only reason men do not tip their hats is the same as the reason they no longer smack one another across the face with their gloves when they are angry: They don't have the sartorial equipment.
Q. I am extremely fond of baked potatoes, and the heck with the calories. I eat so many that the least I can do is to eat them correctly. but if you slice it through, you get a smoothe surface and the butter slides right off it. sEverbody knows that baked potato tastes best with the butter mashed right into it, but I can't find anyone who knows how to do this politely.
A. Well, now you have. Baked potato is properly broken up with the fingers, from which we get the expression "a hot potato." (Considerate cooks cut an X on the top before serving, so that the heat escapes somewhat, but how many considerate cooks are there?)
This gives an irregular surface. Then the butter is put on it -- not with the knife, as you might expect, but with the fork. A flick of the wrist mashes some of the butter in and no one will be the wiser. You may do this one half at a time, eating from the shell which you may steady with the left hand. Shell eaters may cut up the shell with fork and knife, but the proper implements for the inside of the potato are the fork and finger.