Table Service

The ritual of eating together is full of symbolism. If an author wants to show what a relationship is like between two of his characters, he only needs to have them eat a meal together. They may sit down in stony silence. One might experience indigestion. They may gaze into each other’s eyes and linger over the coffee. The meal may begin agreeably and end with one throwing down his napkin and stomping off. By the end of the fictitious meal, you have a good idea how these two are getting along. The funny thing is that stories borrow from real life.

Real life happens at our own tables in our own kitchens. Here we are forced to examine, just a little, how our relationships are faring. We stop to say a prayer of thanks, or we rush into the meal helter-skelter. We show our impatience or tolerance in how we treat others at the table. We have opportunity to complain or praise, depending on our tendency at the moment. A meal can be a tiny sample of a life.

We cannot dismiss manners as old-fashioned, or just for girls, or say we don’t have time for it. Consider these examples in the Bible. Jesus noticed when someone didn’t offer water to wash his feet. This was only a case not following the rules of etiquette. We shouldn’t complain about the food but eat whatever is offered. (I Corinthians 10:27) We should take a chair in the corner, rather than the head of the table. (Luke14:8-10) If we are a guest at a meal, we should leave at a decent hour. (Proverbs 25:17) 1 Corinthians 14:40 simply tells us to do all things decently and in order. 1 Peter 3:8 says Be courteous. That verse is surrounded with ways to practice good manners: be of one mind, be merciful, have compassion, be a blessing, do not speak evil, seek peace.

Serving the world, in other words, begins with serving and being served in the home and developing a right attitude about how and when to give and receive acts of loving service. And nowhere… is the concept of service more relevant than at the table.

Sally Clarkson

The table is a place to feed body and soul. We eat together to share our joys and to divide our grief. It is also a place to learn valuable life skills. Three times a day for most of us, we get a chance to practice some gentle self-discipline in what and how we eat. Three times a day we get an opportunity to thank God for something and reset our focus on him. Three times a day we can pause and spend some time with the people we love best. It is a chance to practice being tolerant,  to express appreciation and consideration. A time to share and prefer others above ourselves. It’s a chance to practice conversation, as long as we leave our phones on the buffet. It’s a time to share laughter and maybe even learn to laugh at ourselves. Pleasant manners ease the way with all of this.

Moms often take the lead role in encouraging manners and all the other things we learn around the table. To set the stage, you set the table neatly. You occasionally use the good china or cloth napkins just for practice. You attempt to steer the conversation into proper areas. All this effort is not wasted. The meal may not have the meaning of the last supper, but enough meals like this, in pleasant succession, will build a collective memory of family communion. From here, we can begin to spread peace and brotherhood by sharing our food with friends, neighbors and strangers.

In this way, world peace begins at your kitchen table. Table manners train us and our children to be better members of society. Manners support all peaceful interactions between people, nationalities and countries. Manners go beyond saving face or making me (or my children) look good. Learning to eat properly is preparation for future relationships.

That boy is your company. And if he wants to eat up that tablecloth, you let him, you hear? And if you can’t act fit to eat like folks, you can just set here and eat in the kitchen.

Calpurnia, in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Manners are mostly invisible; you usually notice only when they are lacking. Cultures develop manners to help people feel comfortable with each other and to let us know what is expected of us. Most of it is learning how not to offend the other diners. You want to be a person with whom others actually want to dine.

Those with good manners do not point out others’ bad manners. Probably nobody will point out your delinquencies, so it is good to check from time to time. We aren’t born with manners and some of then don’t come naturally. You cannot expect your children to learn from their friends. And we cannot teach something we ourselves do not know. Google is very handy for a little education. Don’t expect to revamp your dinner time experience in one sitting and be aware of children’s capabilities. But don’t hesitate to nudge them in the right direction.

And slow down. We do eat to stay alive, but most meals are not life-or-death events. Wait so all begin eating at the same time. Pace yourself to finish eating at the same time as the host. Don’t blow on your food. Wait. Engage in conversation. This is easier and less messy if you remember to take small bites. The biggest difference can come from simply slowing down.

When you’ve been invited in and offered a seat at the table, good manners also include checking your ego.

Sabrina Newby

Two things I learned recently are: A used napkin belongs on your lap. If you must leave the table during the meal, put your napkin on your chair. If someone asks you to pass something, resist the urge to take some yourself before passing it on.

If someday your mother’s threat does come true and you get to eat with the Queen, follow her lead and do exactly as she does.

All great change in America begins at the dinner table.

Ronald Reagan

Table service is the various ways in which food can be served. We are most familiar with family style and buffet style. The items used to set the table and serve the meal are also called table service. The act of dishing out the items on our plates is called serving. Jesus said he came serve, not to be served. Where is this more obviously exemplified, than at the table? We do well to improve our serve.

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

Acts 2:46


4 responses to “Table Service”

  1. Enjoyed your writing on manners and examples of good manners!! We need to keep polishing on ours!!!:)

  2. Enjoyed this as well! Was a topic of discussion here recently. Society at large does not seem increasingly mannerly..

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