Apr 17, 2008

"Is there anything wrong with licking your plate?"

With no threat of being observed, she succumbed to the supreme pleasure of licking her bowl clean.

It's great fun to discover humorous vintage illustrations: especially when the images depict raw humanity during an era of emphatic social graces. Eyebrows were begging to be raised, and the above image would have evoked some meaty disapproval!

Victoria Mather, a social commentator, wrote an article in The Guardian entitled, "What's wrong with licking your plate?" A survey that same week revealed that British table manners are in a "parlous state" since many diners admitted to eating with elbows on the table and/or burping during meals. Emine Saner and Lucy Clouting then interviewed a number of esteemed etiquette experts by asking if table manners really do matter.

Peter York, a social commentator, spoke candidly...
There is a difference between class-based etiquette, which isn't so important - I don't mind if people don't know which knife to use in a restaurant - and courtesy, which is. I don't think people should blow their noses in their napkins, and talking with your mouth full is very unattractive, but common sense should tell you that. Don't leave the table until everyone else is finished - it's like saying: "I'm bored now." But getting upset about elbows on tables is a bit trainspotterish, a bit classist.

I use my fingers because, I'm afraid, I'm greedy. And I'll tell you a ghastly secret: when dining alone, I sometimes lick my plate - delicious gravy and juices! But I would never do it in front of someone else.

This was one temptation not worth overcoming.

Paul Burrell, a former royal butler, shared...
If you're faced with a regiment of cutlery and an army of glasses and you're unsure what to do, watch your host to see what they do. I was once on the Royal Yacht Britannia in the South Pacific and the Queen was hosting a dinner for a local prince. Dessert was served. The prince forgot to watch what the Queen did - instead, he popped the grapes into his finger bowl, then some cherries, then when the cream and sugar came out, he poured them in too, making a kind of fruit soup. I was standing behind the Queen looking horrified. He was about to raise the bowl to his lips to drink it when he looked at the Queen and realised he had made a terrible mistake. Not wanting to make him feel awkward, she picked up her finger bowl and took a sip. Now that's class.
In today's society, many people adhere to table manners as social courtesy or to maintain appearances, while others approach eating as a free for all. Much like Peter York, some of us have two systems of etiquette: public and private. Realistically, we're comfortable in our bodies and we will allow in private what we would never permit in public.

China's tradition of courteous belching has never become an acceptable part of Western refinement. However, I have observed an epidemic among young girls who treat belching as if it were a sparring match. Even a female friend of mine will casually punctuate a public meal with a belch, explaining that she doesn't choose to be uncomfortable.

As far as licking my own plate, yes, I have done this, err, I mean I do this—but not in public. My daughter and I have been known to lick or use fingers when the thought of discarding a delicious-something-or-other was more than we could bear.

Finally, Prue Leith, a cookery writer, stated...
I'm not concerned with table manners but I do think if you don't eat "knees under" meals with your children, you should not be surprised if they grow up alienated and uncivilised. Civilisation is about talking and eating together - not about whether you eat peas with your knife, or whatever.

All quotes and references are from The Guardian: Friday, October 13, 2006.


  1. Enjoyed the post. I am wishing you a super duper weekend....Mary

  2. I loved that story about the "Queen" and her sipping from her bowl. HA! I could just see that and "yes that is CLASS!" HA!
    Ugh...I still have problems keeping my elbows off the table.
    I sort of don't care anymore. HA!
    Let's just relax....but not be pigs of course. I still eat my soup the proper way with the spoon sweeping towards the back then towards my mouth like a proper lady....but what's with an elbow on the table every once in a while? HA!
    Great posting!

  3. Great post!!
    Have a lovely weekend,

  4. LOL KJ--I loved this post! My son, who is now 16, licks his plate after every meal. Always has, probably always will. I mentioned to him the other night that I thought he would've grown out of that by now and he gave me such a look and said "Mom--I don't do it in other places--only home!" If truth be told, I think I would actually feel a little hurt if he didn't, lol!
    Smiles, Karen

  5. I love this post Karen! I hope you don't mind if I borrow the illustration of the woman licking her plate. I adore it and have a photo of my dear niece doing exactly a restaurant. I would love to do a post about it using her photo and your illustration.

    Hope all is well with you. Have a wonderful day.

  6. I lick the plate too!!!! But only at home.
    Elbows isn't too hard, unless your 10 people squished around a table meant for 5 at your grandma's home. I was just randomly searching the internet about it, and I am glad I am not the only one who does it.
    Oh, and the queen thing was AWESOME!!!
    My parents get so mad when I lick it, so I have to do it in secret. Thanks for the reinforcement. =)


Thanks for stopping by!
♫ Karen