Who doesn't like unsolicited advice by a total stranger?

Being present: The importance of table manners

I couldn’t possibly do this series without talking about eating habits. I grew up following some table manners: setting the table, having two courses and a dessert and many more. However, as I grew older -and technology crept in – I forgot to follow some of them. It’s not that I ever felt obligated to, but I did miss some of them. I felt that we really weren’t enjoying the food and that we overate. I wanted to go back to basics. Don’t eat for eating. Don’t eat and Netflix. Really enjoying the privilege of having three meals a day.

Being present around the table really makes food better (and feel better too). I was eating quickly and anxiously, mostly because of short work lunches. You know what I mean, those lunches (sometimes at the desk) where you devour all the food on your Tupper in five minutes and get back to work in a comatose state. Evidently, this isn’t healthy.

So, we are back to what my parents taught me growing up (minus the two courses meal, which is just too much). I’m aware that you don’t always have 30 minutes or an hour for a lunch. However, there are a series of things that can be done almost everywhere to make the lunch time more enjoyable. Here are some of the things we have changed lately:

  1. Sit on the dining table

We had the bad habit of having all meals on the sofa. Now we try to almost always eat at the dinner table (and sit properly for that matter). We believe that this help us appreciate the food.

In an office setting, I encourage to don’t eat at the desk. Go to the kitchenette, diner or even outside. Let your mind disconnect from work.

  1. Set the table with tablecloth and cloth napkins …

Make a pretty table. By this I don’t mean fresh flowers and candles. It can simply be a tablecloth and cloth napkins. Set the dishes, the glasses, etc. We eat with the eyes; a beautiful environment can make food taste better.

At work, you can have a set of cloth napkins and cutlery. Don’t use paper napkins and plastic cutlery. You will be helping yourself, your pocket and the environment.

  1. And serve the food on the table…

This was how it was done growing up in my home, at school and at my friends’ homes. The pot or pan was in the centre, one person served the rest. If you fill in the plates in the kitchen, you will probably serve more than needed.

  1. Serve less and go for seconds

Serve sizes matter. Having a full plate makes you want to finish it (I believe that most of us grew up hearing our moms asking us to finish the plate). However, both my mum and grandma served us at the table and asked us how much we wanted.  We knew that we could always ask more or go for seconds. I think this makes a big difference, because not everyone has the same appetite or the same built. What a portion looks for my husband is very different to what a portion looks like to me or my son.

When it comes to a workspace, this one is trickier. Still, I had colleagues who had a set of plates on the office. It can be done.

  1. No smartphone, TV or radio

Well, there it is, the archenemies of being present, the smartphone. LEAVE THE SMARTPHONE OUT OF THE TABLE. It doesn’t matter where you are or if you are eating alone, the phone should not be at the table. Talk to your companions or to your thoughts. When we are on the phone or watching TV, we tend to eat faster. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to send the signal that it’s full. If you eat too fast, the brain doesn’t process this, you eat more and feel sluggish after.

  1. Follow a routine

Try to eat always at approximately the same time. Or, at least, with the same time in between meals.

  1. Avoid take out

Take out calls for fast-eating, sofa and TV. Cook at home and save up to go to your favourite restaurant.

  1. Give thanks for the food/ Acknowledge the effort

We are not religious. However, we are aware of the privilege that is a full belly. We don’t have to go to bed on an empty stomach or wonder when our next meal will be. The food at the table is a luxury to many. We should be thankful for it. We want to instil the idea of giving grace to our son.

  1. Enjoy the food

Sitting on a beautiful table, smelling the food, talking to a loved one or wandering our mind is easier to be present and fully taste our meal. We can appreciate the ingredients; the love put on cooking and enjoy it.

  1. Tidy up & clean after eating

Now that our belly is full, all that we have to do is do the dishes, shake the tablecloth and sweep the crumbs. It takes five to ten minutes. I understand that it can be an annoyance but postponing it doesn’t help. On the contrary, arriving from work to a messy kitchen might make you frustrated and prone to take-out.

I hope this blogpost was useful. Let me know if you try any of these or have an advice for us!

Best of luck!



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