Rational eating

I encountered an article recently -- I am not going to bother even looking it up and linking to it, because similar sentiments are a dime a dozen -- arguing that the American way of using a fork while eating is "inefficient," and thus should be replaced by a more European style.

But... what does "efficiency" have to do with table manners? If our goal, when sitting down at the table, was to simply get food as "efficiently" as possible into our mouths, we would just plunge our face down into our dish, the same way our dogs eat.

Civilized eating is precisely about checking our tendency to eat like an animal, and constraining our appetite according to cultural rules as to how we may eat. To evaluate our table manners based on whether the American way of eating with a fork is more or less "efficient" than eating with chopsticks, or one's fingers, is to completely misconstrue what table manners are about: they exist to reduce our "efficiency" in gobbling down our food, to turn our eating experience from that of a hungry animal gulping down whatever it can as fast as it can, to that of a civilized being constraining its eating according to social rules.


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