It was my nephew and niece who were the inspiration for my children’s Cooking, Manners and Etiquette class. I remember sitting and eating with them at a family gathering and thinking “Ughhhh!!” As with a lot of parents, my sister and her husband didn’t see the things that I, a person who didn’t have kids, saw and stared at. Like a lot of parents they were most often just thankful the kids were eating, and were oblivious as to how they were eating. Most parents really notice how their kids are eating only when they are all dining out at a nice restaurant or having a special dinner with others at a home, and there is very little they can do to change their child’s dining behavior at that time.
Through the years, I have taught the Cooking, Manners and Etiquette class at various cooking schools, country clubs, private schools, community centers and privately in Madison, WI, Washington, DC, Austin, TX and other places around the country. Wherever I have taught this class, the message has been the same: Learn how to eat when it is important to know how to eat. What I tell kids and teens about the benefits of this approach is that by learning how to do things the correct way, you won’t stand out because you are making mistakes; you will stand out because you will be one of the few people who are doing things properly. And that is a good thing.
One group that really has seemed to benefit is teenagers, especially those about to head off to college. Teen cooking classes and teen etiquette classes can really help individuals adjust to life away from home, and help prepare them for events with adults they might want to impress (e.g. professors, potential bosses, other VIPs). Unfortunately, for most people learning to cook and learning etiquette fall into the category of “Things I wished I had learned.” For me, piano lessons fall into that category, too. I know of more than one person who has felt the bitter bite of envy as they watched someone sit at a piano at a party and begin to play sing-along songs, becoming the life of the party. “I used to take piano lessons!” But it’s never too late to learn how to cook, or how to eat properly.
Another thing I tell the participants in my Etiquette classes is don’t go out and be a pill. Mind your manners and etiquette. Don’t worry about or critique other people’s dining behavior. Unless of course it is your parents; then do it just enough to make them feel they got their money’s worth for the class.