“Ralph Lauren comes here all the time and has the most impeccable manners. Manners, table manners – they’re the same thing. He’s always incredibly kind to my staff. That’s a gentleman.” ( Julian Niccolini, co-owner of the Four Seasons restaurant in NYC, as quoted in Details, page 50, December 2004)
Frankly, my friend, no one really gives a damn which fork you use. As for selecting the right wine to accompany your meal, ask the woman. If she cares about wine she’ll be flattered, and make a nice selection; if she doesn’t, and you don’t, then order a beer. (But champagne is always appropriate; especially if you’ve just suffered a crushing defeat, as gentleman revel in their resilience. See Jim Smith after his marriage proposal was rejected.)
But do keep your mouth shut while you eat. No one – not your family, your lover, your boss, or your best buddy from college, wants to see what your food looks like when its inside your mouth. And if you want to make absolutely sure that your date does not end in intimate bliss, just keep talking while you’re chewing. The only other important rule is to keep your head and mouth a safe distance from the plate. No matter how famished you are, there is no excuse for dipping one’s head towards the table to make the fork-to-mouth process faster. It’s amazing that after a couple thousand years since people started eating in groups, that we still haven’t quite grasped these basic social norms. And this failure crosses all social lines; I’ve eaten with lawyers, engineers, high ranking business executives, and entertainers that somehow along the way have never learned to keep their damn mouths shut as they chew.
Eating does not require noise. If one is asked a question while chewing, one simply waits until one has swallowed to answer. One final tip: no one can be a gentleman while eating spaghetti; do it alone, in your bathrobe, with cheap wine.
Meals are more than an occasion to consume food and replenish vital fluids. They are an opportunity to revel in civilized behavior. For lunch, eating at your desk is fine, if you’re trying to prove to someone that you’re an overworked corporate slave. Otherwise, it’s a chance to get out of the office, and enjoy a few minutes of peace, if you’re eating alone, or engage in some civil conversation with co-workers if you so choose.
A gentleman is not a pig. He eats moderately, taking the time to savor his food and the skill of the cook. He is more focused on quality than quantity; a gourmet rather than a gourmand, but he is not an insufferable elitest, turning his nose up at something which is not absolutely perfect. He knows that there are far too many people in the world without enough to eat, so he appreciates the fact that he has plenty. He eats slowly, even when very hungry.
Fortunately, you’ve already read the section pertaining to baseball caps, so we don’t have to tell you to take it off, already!