Thursday 29 December 2016

Dinner for one. The most famous English movie in Germany, Switzerland and Austria

which is hardly known in the UK.
It is shown every New Year Eve. It was in the Guinness book of records till 1995 as the most repeated TV show in the world. They don't have this category anymore though.

When my German colleagues talked to me for the first time about it they thought I was some sort of recluse in London. Or lunatic. But clearly without TV.

I had to get on YouTube to understand what they were talking about.
No, I've never seen it on any of the British TV channels. Not around New Year eve, not at any other time of the year.
I was happy to read this article by William Horsley. Made me feel sane again. I am not the only brit who missed it.

Germany feasts on Dinner for One - BBC News

The movie is very short. There are only two actors there and the festive table set for few more people. Worth watching.

Happy New Year!

Tanya Kosh and your "How to Eat" team 

Saturday 17 December 2016

The basic needs and basic manners

"If you look at the whole range of table manners you notice in different cultures, you should be able to see the similarities. It is not about food only. Table manners evolved together with the development of humanity and its needs.
The table manners across the world are clearly serving three common purposes:
·           mere survival of humanity in general and individuals in particular;
·           amplification of enjoyment of food consumption; and
·           social identification and self-esteem, and in some rather extreme cases like mine, self-actualisation." 

You can read more about classification of table manners

  • The classification is based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Hence the three major groups analysed in the book are
  • “Health and Safety,”
  • “The table of joy” and
  • “ID rules”, fake and real ones

It is not only table manners changing with time. Some people argue the needs change too. But whether you accept the newly emerging manners as they come or not, you could be sure that they still will serve the old purposes even if with a modern twist to it. Did your mother tell you that the table should be dry when you put your battery on it?

Image source:

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Knife holders - in or out?

Let us know what you think about table manners.

Dogs, pigs, horses, elaborated designs - those are holders for the knives (the photo was taken in Dorotheum, main auction house in Vienna). Do they make the table more beautiful? What do you think?

"If you go to Dorotheum in Austria, the main auction house of the country, you will find millions of embellishments to the table. Just a couple of examples. Knife stands, which have no function rather than decorative one. You can’t put the knife you used on it. The tiniest bit of gravy will immediately end up on the table clothes. Gravity is still in place on this planet. “Bone holders,” which are tiny trays with special hooks to be adjusted to the plate.
Either poultry was much smaller previously, or they never ever were used for any other purpose than to show that you are “in the know.” Gravy/sauce holders adjusted to the plates in a similar manner. While those are at least useful to prevent all of your food being soaked in sauce, especially if the latter has a rather strong taste, I was strongly advised against them and was told a couple of horror stories about sauce holders ending on the table and all the juices on the diners. While many of these things could be very beautiful in a way some figurines are, they are nothing else to the table than “decorations and cutesies” and superfluous accessories.
This is the function any other fashion has. If you can demonstrate you are fully conversant with what is in vogue, you move immediately couple of steps up the hierarchy ladder within your own social group. You are not only“in,” you might even become a trend-setter."

Sunday 11 December 2016

There will be no photos with this post.

Let us know what you think about table manners.
He slouches. Otherwise he wouldn't be able to get through the door. He is too tall. Taller than anyone I ever saw. He is handsome and very friendly. He works at this pub where we stopped for a pre-theatre drinks. He cleans the tables, chats to the regulars, smiles at customers he hasn't met yet. He asks us if we are OK and whether he can be of any help. We smile back. All is great, no, we are not eating. And not yet ready for another drink. But thank you. We get back to our conversation. There are couple of burning issues. Christmas presents is the main topic. What do you give to the lady who recently turned 93 and is very busy at the moment trying to get rid of all her worldly possessions? Actually, if you have any idea, give us a shout. We are still at a loss on this one.

Suddenly the background noise increases in volume. There is a big table in the corner with a dozen of men. Office party? Four of them are standing. The tall waiter in the middle. He doesn't look comfortable. He looks trapped. He tries to leave. But somehow he is blocked. The standing four want to have a picture. The picture would be f*** stunning, they shout - hardly anyone of them reaches the tall man's shoulder.  The flash goes on. The tall man stops smiling. He doesn't slouch anymore either. He doesn't look upset though. He is possibly used to this sort of table manners. Tall and handsome he walks in the direction of the kitchen. And firmly shuts the door behind himself.

Thursday 8 December 2016

One of the best table manners possible.

Let us know what you think about table manners.

One of the best table manners possible, in my recent experience: never ever comment on the name of the restaurant you are invited to, however tempting. Don't  even think of it. It could be much worse than the following:

"Very indirectly connected to table manners, clearly literally connected to language, and somehow a food-related joke to all the English colleagues of mine were the invitations to German and Austrian restaurants with rather interesting names. You don’t expect to be invited to “Lust Haus” (restaurant in Vienna) when on business trip. Not really, even if the idea had been crossing your head couple of times in some form or shape. You definitely don’t expect to find good food in LoosHaus(Austria). Service – definitely. But food? And the winner was the invitation from then CEO. We had the rather serious meeting, which ended with his joyful invitation to the unprepared public: “And now we all go to Wonka!” (restaurant in Germany) Turned out to be a rather fine place. “Shall we go to Wonka” became a synonym for the invitation to go out for a meal for a couple of years to follow." (Tanya Kosh, "Are You in or are you Out?)
It could be much, much worse. Sorry if you find the photo below disturbing. No offence meant. Just a snap of reality.

Sunday 4 December 2016

Your Tables and Their Manners

Let us know what you think about table manners.

Tables are not for food only. Some of them are for candles. Some for books. But all require appropriate manners.

And all table manners talk. They tell people who you are, what you are, what do you want to be and where do you go.

"Not only is a stacked coffee table visually arresting, it also speaks volumes about who you are and your sense of style." 
An interesting take on table manners from Vanity Fair UK.

Thursday 1 December 2016

Technology and Table Manners

Let us know what you think about table manners.

Technology has a very interesting impact not only on our table manners (mobile on the table during business lunch is more of a norm rather than exception today), but also on what and how we eat.

A rather interesting article on Instagram influence.

"Once these Instagram-friendly foods go viral, they can completely change the way we eat. Breakfast, for example, has shifted from a decidedly unphotogenic cereal or marmalade on toast to the bright hues of avocado toast (there are nearly 250,000 #avocadotoast hashtagged photos on Instagram) and smoothie bowls. Even the humble fry-up has been rebranded, in the hands of the Hemsley sisters, as an oven-baked, meticulously arranged, “healthier” big breakfast. It looks great and presumably tastes awful, the oven tray divided into neat strips of colour, from leathery lean oven bacon to overdone eggs.
Among the foods billed to gain traction in 2017, today’s Waitrose report points to Hawaiian poke and even, in an alarming twist, vegetable yoghurts. No doubt these will be helped along in the likeability stakes with their colourful, snappy Instagram vibe."

Monday 28 November 2016

Hill walking is much more pleasant if ...

Let us know what you think about table manners.

...if it starts like this.

Just another ordinary day in the Alps. A month ago.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

The really good table manners are...

... those, which make everyone feel good. You, people with whom you share food and everyone else involved.

Monday 14 November 2016

Londoners were revealed to have the foulest eating habits, followed closely by those in the North East and Yorkshire.

Let us know what you think about table manners.

Oh no, we are absolutely not... She said supporting her point with a fork in her hand.

Read more accusations/old news about dirty British table manners

"Are You in or Are You Out? Review by Dr. George Simons

Let us know what you think about table manners.

Kosh, Tanya, Are You in or Are You Out? Inclusivity andExclusivity of Table Manners: A light-hearted journey into a rather seriousmatter

Reviewed by Dr. George Simons at

Tanya Kosh has a both brilliant and entertaining writing style, easy to read, yet stimulating and surprising at the same time. When I took notice of her book, being an inveterate foodie as well as an interculturalist, I asked to review it immediately. Travel and food and foreign company are inevitable in my line of work, and table manners seem only to be lightly touched upon in most of the literature about business abroad and expatriation. When They are dealt with, advice is largely behavioral – one gets tips about do’s and don’ts, but very little insight about the logic behind local customs and the inner discourse which supports them as well as raises feelings about their observance or violation.

This book is much more a reflection on the philosophy behind what we do at table rather than an international tour guide. I don't think I would be far off to describe it as auto ethnography, in that the author largely speaks from her own experiences as an extremely well-traveled professional. In addition, there are anecdotal treasures found in the author’s interviews and discussions with others. For those of us who love stories, this approach adds to the pleasure of the read. The line from Crow and Weasel, a children’s book, always reminds me, “Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”

On the other hand, coming from a working-class immigrant family to the USA, I have had a lot of contradictory etiquette to sort out. I also have many sins to confess and repent of. Perhaps the most egregious and precocious of these was, as a four-year-old, gobbling all the maraschino cherries topping grapefruit halves on an elegantly set table, while my parents and their hosts chatted in the parlor.

The roots and variations of table manners (even if we eat sitting on the floor), like many sacred dogmas, are often rooted in practicality and survival. Whatever our kosher or halal, or our behavior consuming it, it is likely to find its roots buried in the safety, security, and community concerns of our cultural group ancestors, if not explicitly exposed, as in the present day abundance of contemporary “food religions”. These root considerations sprout into spiritual, ethnic, national, class, and myriad other distinctions, and may be critical in contexts of business and diplomacy. In interculturalist terms, it is important to recognize that table manners are part of one’s own identity discourse and an identity marker for others, while yet, in the age of globalization, the frontiers are increasingly porous.

Kosh’s book, though it cannot precise your behavior, helps you stay you alert and keep your head about you, a useful passport when crossing alimentary frontiers. In closing, one point that stuck out for me was the author’s clear emphasis on the fact that you can’t eat and digest well or at all when you are afraid. Knowing good manners reduces that fear, as does the kind whispered advice of a cultural informant sitting next to us in an unfamiliar dining context. It is not only important to act correctly in the situation, but also to quell the gastro-intestinal butterflies by knowing that we are doing it right and helping fellow diners to that same comfort. Bon apetit!

Friday 11 November 2016

The Loos(haus) - this way

Hill-walking in the Alps could be very confusing. Don't get hopeful thinking you know where you need to go. One shouldn't assume one understands the signs however clear they are to you when back home...

And back home...

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Bad Habits. The worst of it.

 Let us know what you think about table manners.


Bad manners differ in type and magnitude. The Telegraph came up with the list of the 20 most annoying. Some of them are directly connected to table manners, some are not. Interestingly enough, those which are not could be possibly even more annoying  if practised at the table. Just  imagine that... Oh, no. Better not. Don't.  Just read the article without visualising it.

Monday 7 November 2016

The influence of McDonald's

 Let us know what you think about table manners.

Etiquette is not fixed. It changes. It develops together with the society. You don't need a revolution for this. New technology, new business entering the country. They might pretend they follow your rules and accept your manners.. They even adapt their signs to fit your environment, like McDonald's in Salzburg (Austria)

Interestingly enough, the influence of McDonald's on etiquette is so big, that people even do their degrees studying it.

Friday 4 November 2016

French Habits

A little guide on French table manners we found today: Most of it could be applied to the majority of European countries, but one crucial thing is missing.

The universal rule to using your cutlery everywhere else is something along these lines: using utensils on the outside first and working your way inward (well, there is some less appropriate advice on that page,  nothing criminal, but be aware: they cannot decide which word to use - serviette or napkin...). What I came across in France during the rather formal dinners is that cutlery is arranged according to size creating really beautiful, beautiful butterfly wings. The only problem - you really need to be able to distinguish your pudding fork from your salad one. I talked to the French friend yesterday - he reckons this is the thing of the past.

The example below is a bit easier.
If only every meal were this complicated: The 12 courses include: Caviar, Escargot, Seafood Cocktail, Soup, Fish, Lobster, Entree, Palate Cleanser, Releve(main) Course, Salad, Dessert, Coffee/Tea

Try to find the fork for snails on this picture. And please let us know if you think that whoever laid the table in this picture really thinks that salad needs a knife? Otherwise what is that last one for?

And no comments here on the napkin ring. I have been told in England that it is a universal class divider. More on it later.

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Would YOU try it?

When I was young, together with a couple of friends I did a very cruel thing. I ordered THIS for my colleague. We were abroad, she didn't speak the language. It was easy. We just said those were the chicken bits. Special recipe. She liked the dish. But didn't like us when we confessed and left the table immediately with a rather wan face.

Cuisses-de-grenouille: frogs' legs. Well, not legs. Cuisses means thighs. It is a French attempt to make frogs seem sensual.

More on intricacies of French cuisine here:

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Quiz: American table manners

Not sure about asking for second helpings. I would rather refrain. What if your hosts doesn't have enough to serve you? And anyway, refraining is clearly beneficial for your waist.

Sunday 23 October 2016

Lemon gadgets

Many things have been invented around the table. Some of them stay, some of them go.
There are many ways to squeeze lemon.
This one I found in Zagreb, Croatia.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Cherishing food Let us know what you think about table manners - fill in our questionnaire.

Table manners are about the most important thing for humans. They are about food. Food has fascinated artists for centuries. Still life continues to be a subject of choice for many talented painters today. Let us introduce you to just one of them, 
Brett Humphries and his solo exhibition at Catto  Gallery in London
"...astonishing paintwork brings a hyper-real quality to the food items, vases and utensils that populate his world. His berries are just very very berry."

Thursday 6 October 2016

How to offend the locals (at the table and away from it...)

First of all, tell them they are locals. I did it in Macedonia. He was supposed to pick me up in the morning to bring me and my (big) suitcase to their office, so I could work for a couple of hours before taking off, back to London. He was born in Skopje, went to school there, still works in the same city 30+ years later.

So here I am. Waiting at the corner of the streets he mentioned yesterday. It is freezing cold. Little do I know that he is turning into a piece of ice at another corner of the same streets. You don't expect one of the streets to be a crescent and crossing the other one twice, do you? Good forty minutes later we manage to meet each other. I am confused, he is unhappy. And then I say:" But you are local..." I learn more than I ever wanted about the Balkan tempers in the next three minutes

I still don't know why. But he took it as an offence. He said "What? You called me local?"
Any advice on why you think this happened will be very much appreciated. Let us know in the comments what it meant to the guy if you think you understand what it was.

Below - more ways to offend the locals. And much more of rather useful information on etiquette abroad. Let us know if you are local (did I say it again?) and you think the advice in this article is not 100% correct.


Monday 3 October 2016

Table Manners by Alan Ayckbourn.

Table manners most of the time are not about how you eat. They are more about who you are. What you value. Where do you come from and where you are going.
And it could be very-very funny.

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Cultural competence

As in any social interaction, knowing  rules, norms and practices of a social group you are dealing with is of paramount importance. Table manners are not universal. They vary from country to country,  class to class, situation to situation. What is required at formal dinner is not necessarily a good practice to follow at your friend's barbecue party. Paper napkins are a much better choice for the latter.

An interesting article about the differences between the countries. Let us know if you agree.

Monday 26 September 2016

How to eat. About the project.

Everyone has table manners. We learn to eat before we learn to speak. Table manners tell a lot about us. Where and how we were brought up. What we value. What we aspire to. There are no universally bad or universally good table manners as long as we don't bring danger to the table: threats to health and safety, threats to mood and enjoyment. The only universally good table manner is to make everyone around the table happy and to amplify our enjoyment of sharing food. Table manners developed together with humanity and tell us a lot about society. It is a fascinating subject.

Far from being gurus in table manners teaching we are just curious researchers. The "How to eat" project" is about asking the questions and trying to find the answers to them.  How do we eat? Why this way and not another?  Why table manners are so important? Or are they not?

Read what we've learnt so far. Tell us what you think. We do have a questionnaire on our website Please share your views on table manners with us.
Enjoy the art. Join us on a lighthearted journey into a rather serious matter.