Sit up straight. Don’t put your elbows on the table. Don’t slurp your soup. The essentials of civilized behavior are hammered into diners are soon as they’re old enough to join the table, but are manners in the U.S. becoming extinct?
According to a recent study, 74 percent of Americans are worried that manners are on the decline. Eater talked with etiquette expert William Hanson and Eater’s own executive editor Helen Rosner to find out if minding your manners is essential to civilization, or is just antiquated fanfare that ostracizes the uninitiated.
Hanson came down firmly on the side of your grandmother, making a case that etiquette is essential to enjoyment during a meal: “If we didn’t have etiquette, people would not be experiencing the full flavor and taste and desired impact of whatever dish or menu they were sitting down to eat.” Rosner’s view was a little more flexible. To her, etiquette is about not disrupting the experience of fellow diners, but admitting, “I don’t think anybody, at least for a hundred years, has gotten in trouble for using the wrong fork.”