Tag Archives: manners

What’s for Dinner?

9 Apr

My friend  Beth hates this question.  I love it.  For me, it is the creative ending to my busy day.  A chance to express my artsy side.  Hanging out in the kitchen is a time for family to connect after a long day.  Sometimes I will stop at the grocery on the way home from work if I want to make something fresh, like fish.  But usually, I just head to my fridge, freezer and pantry.  Then I unleash the creative juices!

So last night, this is what I pulled out for dinner.

  • Fresh leftover veggies including tomatoes, mushrooms, and yellow squash.
  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Penne pasta (dried in the box)
  • Italian bread, 1/2 loaf pulled from the freezer
  • 1/2 cup leftover pesto
  • a hunk of parmesan cheese

And that, my friends, was dinner.  I started with the chicken.  I seasoned the meat simply, with salt, pepper, and herb de Provence.  After starting the grill and letting it get hot, I plopped the chicken on there to cook.  Meanwhile, I started a pot of water to boil, and then cut the veggies up.

When the chicken was done, I brought it back inside and tented it with some tin foil.  It is a perfect way for meat to stay hot and juicy, and meat should always “rest” for 10-20 minutes prior to serving.   Then I tossed the pasta into the water for its 10 minute boil time and sautéed the veggies in a bit of olive oil.  I seasoned the veggies with a bit of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and some basil.  Simple.

These are the veggies that I sauteed for dinner!

These are the veggies that I sautéed for dinner!

As the pasta finished cooking,  my son set the table.  It was, after all, Manners Monday, so we talked about table settings and appropriate dinner conversation topics.  In my home, while I cook the other family members (and even guests!) are helping to get the meal on the table.  Meals are, after all, a family affair, and all should be present and participating.  Setting the table, pouring water, placing napkins out…these are all necessary prior to the meal coming to the table.  Everyone pitches in.   And to keep the mood light and joyful, I always have music playing.

Okay, so next I drained the pasta, chopped up the chicken, finished sautéing the veggies and tossed it all together back in my big stock pot that the pasta cooked in.  Conserving dishes is important on most work nights!  We loaded up our plates and to the table we went.  Quick, nutritious, homemade, and voila!  A family meal, and moment, came together.  Try it.  What’s in your fridge?  What are you making for dinner?

Dinner!  Pasta and veggies with pesto, and crusty bread! Yummy and easy!

Dinner! Pasta and veggies with pesto, and crusty bread! Yummy and easy!


5 Feb

You are never too old to make a mistake.  Even on Manners Monday.  Well, it was actually on Saturday, but since we discuss and try to improve our manners on Manners Monday in my home, I brought up my recent faux pas.  Or at least I think it was a faux pas.

Here is the situation:  We have dinner reservations on Saturday for 3 diners.  We are running a bit early for our reservations, so we stop by a new wine bar to check it out and have a small glass of wine before dinner.  The wine bar, by the way, also serves tapas, or appetizers.   When we are seated at a table, there are small plates on the table, along with silverware rolled in a cloth napkin.

Out of habit, when seated, we all take our silverware out and place it appropriately on the table.  The 3 of us also placed the cloth napkin on our laps.  We had no intention of ordering food.  We just popped in for a quick glass of wine.  We were all engaged in pleasant conversation and simply performed our little napkin/silverware ritual without much thought.  Until the waiter corrected us.

The waiter took our drink order and brought it to the table.  Then:

Waiter:  Here is your appetizer menu.  Are you ready to order?

Us:  We just stopped by for a glass of wine.  We aren’t ordering appetizers.

Waiter:  Oh.  When you unwrapped your silverware and placed your napkin on your lap I assumed you were eating.

Us:  Oops, sorry.  (Blank awkward stare at one another).

He was very kind and gentle in his demeanor, but we couldn’t help but realize that perhaps we had made a mistake.  So I did what any self respecting person feeling guilty would do.  I tipped big.  Then I hit the internet to dig into etiquette and manners.  I wanted to know the correct table manners for simply stopping by a wine bar that only served appetizers, or “bites”.  But I couldn’t find a thing about that situation and appropriate manners.

So here is what I think.  Waiters spend a lot of time getting their stations set up and kept up.  I should know…I waitressed in college and completely understand the challenges of waiting tables.  In retrospect, it was not appropriate for us to unroll silverware and use a napkin. We added to the work load of our waiter.  Now he had to wash and reroll silverware that we had no intention of using.  We should have asked him to remove the plates and rolled silver from the table so he could use it at a later time.  I so rarely am in a situation of just having a drink and being at a table for less than an hour, so I just didn’t think.  But I sure feel like we treated the waiter unfairly, albeit unintentionally.

Here is my own rule of thumb.  Whatever situation presents itself, if I am at a table and not dining, I will use as few utensils as possible.  I appreciate the professional way our waiter handled this situation, and will certainly be more considerate moving forward.  I could not find any table manners covering this situation so I will simply put my own rules in place.  You are never too old to learn a new lesson, and I appreciate the opportunity this kind waiter presented for me to gain a new understanding.

Manners Monday

24 Aug

We have all been there.  Stuck.  Embarrassed.  Wanting to disappear.  Beam me up Scotty!  What am I talking about?  Children, of course.  They act up in public.  They scream.  They crumble.  They appeal to our inner insecurities by calling us a bad parent in public. Come on, it happens to everyone.  And when it does, what is a parent to do?

Well, even though I am past the “terrible two’s” with my three teenagers (I reserve the right to recant that statement!), kids, as much as we love them, embarrass us at times.  May I hear a resounding “Yes mother, payback is hell!” from the crowd?

This summer I wanted to address this with my children, and address it hard because they are slowly leaving the nest.  I want them prepared to be comfortable in new social situations and to make others comfortable as well.  My children have always been very social creatures, and in their defense,  have beautiful manners.  For the most part.

I came home from work one Monday, and announced to the children that we were having “Manners Monday”.  My children, using their best manners, scoffed at me, rolled their eyes, and stated that they “already knew everything” about manners.  I simply pointed out that their reaction to my offering was the height of poor manners and needed to stay put.  I now had a captive audience.  They knew they blew it and had to stick around for my “class”!

I will say that our Manners Monday was more of a review session than an all out instructional class.  But completely and totally necessary!  What did we review?  Here is a quick synopsis of what we touched on:

  • Greeting guests
  • The importance of thank you
  • How to set a table for a casual meal
  • A firm handshake
  • Table manners
  • Gracious language
  • Appropriate meal conversation and pleasantries
  • Acceptable cell phone usage

In the end, my children were happy for the review.  And truth be told, the review helped me as well.  Sometimes we can all get a little complacent.  Manners are incredibly important, and should always make others feel more at ease in social situations.  Hopefully my Manners Monday had an impact.  And will continue to do so for a lifetime.


Neutral Zone

22 Aug

Meal time has always been important in my home.  Even in childhood.  I grew up in the midwest, and supper was at 5:30.  Period.  My mom served up the evening family meal consistently every night at that time.  And all 5 of her children had to be present and accounted for.  Table cleared off.  Butts in seats.  Hands and face clean.  But don’t think for a minute we wanted to miss our supper.  The food was definitely a highlight, but more importantly, the laundry of the day was about to be aired.  Trust me…no one wanted to miss any juicy details!

Family meals were very spirited when I was growing up.  A big family, a tight knit neighborhood, and food worth fighting my brothers for meant a noisy happy meal.  Loud discussions, news of the day, and  perhaps some off beat gossip was worth showing up for.  But more importantly, it was the one time of day when the entire family gathered during busy family life.  It is when we connected.  Supper was lively, but it was always pleasant.  Fun.  Together.

When I became a mom, family meals became a mainstay for my children as well.  My children have come to expect this as normal.  And if friends are over, they join us as well.  I learned a long time ago that family does not equal relatives, so if you are in my home, you are family.  And our meals are very spirited.  Lots of great conversation.  Current events.  Daily happenings.  And occasionally, a little gossip!

Meal time should be neutral.  Family meals should be a fun experience, and a respite from the stress of daily living.  Topics should be non inflammatory, upbeat, and positive.  It can be a time to gently direct manners and etiquette, but quietly and in the context of the meal.  it is so important that home be a “safe zone” for family members.  Everyone should be allowed to totally be themselves at home.  Let it all hang out.  And that includes during meals.

Family meals are a highlight of my life.  Always have been, and probably always will be.  I love having folks gathered around my table.  The chatting, the food, but most importantly, the personal connection lifts my spirit.  I believe that it does this for everyone around the table.  Which is why I think it is crucial for all families to have daily meals together.  No matter how challenging it is to get everyone together, it is always worth it!