One benefit of Landy's table shenanigans is that we can
see precisely why Oestreich's tidy and demure actions
are preferable - gross manners are fundamentally unsightly.
You may think cutting a lettuce leaf into
a bite-size piece is overly delicate, but it's indefinitely
preferable to the sight of a large piece being folded
into a gaping mouth.
The lesson sequence approximates the course
of a meal: bread and butter, soup, salad and entree, with
Landy leading the way as the buffoon. If there's a way
to do it wrong, he knows it - touching each roll in the
basket, spitting an olive pit into his plate, pushing
vegetables with his fingers.
"Table Manners" acknowledges
that there's room for disagreement on what constitutes
proper behavior. Oestreich, who introduces herself as
a native Australian who has spent 28 years in the Unitd
States, prefers the European custom of wielding one's
fork in the left hand. She lifts her vegetables, and other
foods on the back of the tines. The American custom of
transferring the fork from the left to right hand before
raising it to the mouth is "all right", she
says (without much conviction).
When it come to fast food such as burgers
and pizza, Oestreich is perhaps too exacting. For a soggy
burger she recommends knife and fork, and she thinks an
oily pizza slice should be tilted before eating to allow
the oil to run off.
Oestreich consistently frowns on handling
food without the benefit of utensils. Pick up a steak
bone? Never - although holding a smaller chop bone is
okay. If you think of bacon as a finger food, think again.
Oestreich says one must do the best one can with knife
and fork. Even the bite-size cherry tomato can be sliced
for a more dainty presentation.
If you've ever felt self-conscious about
yur table manners, "Table Manners" is a painless
cure. You'll learn to unfold your napkin in your lap,
not above the table; to distinguish a fish fork from the
others; to squeeze a lemon without squirting it in someone's
eye, and to twirl strands of spaghetti in a spoon. And Landy's
perpetual sight gags keep it all from being quite as severe
as Oestreich might otherwise intend.