Sunday, September 08, 2013
From green apple to table manners
We had a gathering in hubby's grandmother's house. There was an apple lying down on the grass, not far from the apple tree. It was still green, so it would be left rotten on the grass.
My MIL saw it, pick it up for me as she knows that I like eating crunchy apple. This immediately put my grandmother unease, "that can't be eaten!' she screamed. Seeing how she reacted, I hesitated between eating it or throwing it. Later, I decided to eat it as I didn't want to waste it. While cutting it to check if there was worm inside, I heard my FIL explained to grandma that my family doesn't mind eating apple when it is crunchy and acidly. "They actually plucked the apples fresh from the trees when they were visiting us" said him. "What's wrong with it?", I wanted to ask but I just kept quiet.
This led me to think about another incident several years back when I was having lunch in grandma's place. She offered me some fruits as dessert so I took an apple. She quickly rushed to pick up a knife while I was already taking the first bite. When the knife was handed to me, I looked at it and didn't know how to react. Ok, this might sound odd, but I actually don't know how to cut an apple without a peeler and a cutting board. In my family, we either bite it directly or we cut it into pieces then present them in a plate. While my BIL peeled his apple and cut it into pieces in his hand, I put down the knife and decided to eat it the way I'm comfortable with. I sensed that she was quite disturbed by the way I ate my apple but she didn't say anything.
While thinking about how different we are in eating habits with all kind of flashback to several similar incidents, we started our lunch with champagne toasting. There I was confronted with a table manner, as I was crossing my glass to toast with someone. Hubby nicely reminded me that this is a no no in their culture, that I should not cross my glass over others' arms while toasting. I suddenly burst up and said I do not want to respect a tradition that doesn't come with a good explanation. In fact, nobody ever told me why we couldn't do this. I made the point that eating for me is a pleasure, I don't want to think about all kind of rules that restrict that pleasure. My French family didn't say anything. I felt guilty but on other hand I really have enough of all these rules including the "elbows off the table" rule that I have violated on purpose in many occasions.
When I finally calmed down, I thought about my daughter. I can ignore these manners as I can pretend that I'm still a foreigner, she on the other hand has to know these rules and respect them. But to convince myself I have to first know why these rules existed.
Strangely, I couldn't find much information on the no crossing rule, it seems that it is not a common rule in the western world. One article explains that it is actually a kind of superstition, that a cross could only be made by the priests, and other who makes crosses will bring bad luck to oneself. As a non-believer it is hard to accept this explanation. As for the elbows off the table rule, many articles said that by putting elbows on table it risks knocking off things or bumping into people sitting beside you. Once again I'm not convinced.
I have yet decided what to do. We will see.