“Lady Lupin’s Book of Etiquette” by Babette Cole

My friends were invited over to dinner by a couple with two preschool age kids. The hostess placed a delectable fruit platter on the table.  Of course, the children wanted a taste. To be more exact, they wanted a taste of each and every piece of fruit on the plate. What did the parents do? In fear of curbing their children’s creativity, nothing. Quite a manner of approaching table manners, isn’t it?

When I was little, my parents didn’t go out or entertain a lot and our family meals were no fuss events. Unless on major occasions, we ate in turns at the kitchen table or, as my brothers preferred, on the couch. As a result, I might have not learned how to set the table for the British Royals, but I did learn something else, equally important. For example, that grown-ups should be served before children, that one shouldn’t speak with a full mouth, or that you shouldn’t leave the table without permission. These were all relevant life lessons that I am certainly going to teach to our children, together with how to eat snails and open oysters. After all, table manners are primarily about respecting others at the table and not about the best location for your napkin. Besides, many rules are arbitrary and culture-related. In one country, burping at the table is offensive, in another,  it is a great compliment to the cook.  Some people eat rice with silverware, others with hands or chop-sticks. Secondly, table manners, should never take away from the enjoyment of having a meal. Eating should be a happy and sensual experience.  How else can a child develop a healthy relationship with food?

The other day, our son was smacking his lips with satisfaction, as he was eating soup. I found it endearing. The soup obviously tasted good. Then, my hyper-correct husband reprimanded our son for making loud noises. I just couldn’t believe it! First of all, how could he not find it endearing, and second of all, our son is only four.  Certain things come with age and giving up smacking is like growing up too fast. Children do smack their lips, just as they splash in puddles.

But ruining a fruit platter upon parents’ approval, that’s too much even for someone with as relaxed table manners as mine. Such behavior shouldn’t be justified by the age. It is simply disrespectful.

If you think that your children are ready to learn about table manners, do it with Lady Lupin, as she explains to her pups the rules of being polite at the table, the importance of not squabbling over the bones and the right way of eating spaghetti (with a fork only).

“Lady Lupin’s Book of Etiquette” by Babette Cole is written and illustrated with a lot of humor and originality. Table manners might be a serious matter, but this book makes it fun.