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Super Bowl Party Oxymoron

Posted by Peter Post January 28, 2014 07:00 AM

I was with some friends last week and the topic of Super Bowl parties came up. For a long time now I’ve thought the concept of a Super Bowl Party was an oxymoron. But, as a regular Super Bowl Party invitee, I’ve been too timid to express my observation.

Every year thousands of people visit thousands of other peoples’ homes to eat, drink, and watch a football game. My issue with this concept is you can go to a party or you can watch the game, but watching the game at a party is decidedly difficult. You inevitably have the stalwart fans glued to the television. They tend to snag places up front near the screen and intently focus on the action. Then, you have the not-so-rabid fans who watch, but at the same time they converse about anything and everything. Then, you can throw in the commercial watchers who could care less about the game but want to rate the ads and the next day see how their opinions jive with America’s. Finally, you have the people who have absolutely no interest in the game or the commercials. They stand or sit in the back and converse oblivious to how their conversation may make watching or hearing the commercials, much less the game, impossible.

And back up front the people actually interested in the game try with limited success to hear the commentary over the cacophony of chatter from the other three groups.

“Do you think it’s okay if we bolt at half-time and go home to watch the game?” one friend asked. “Maybe we should just get together here and actually watch the game,” commented another.

I’m not sure what their final choice will be. I’ll find out on Sunday evening. I’ll be sitting up front and if they’re not there, I know just where they are.

Fork and Knife 101

Posted by Peter Post January 21, 2014 07:00 AM

My daughter, Lizzie, was a guest on Katie, Katie Couric’s talk show last week. While, naturally, I enjoyed all of Lizzie’s appearance, I was particularly struck by one of the etiquette dining tips Katie and Lizzie discussed: holding a fork when cutting food. While you might think it need not be mentioned, it’s something that people notice.

The important thing about manners, and table manners in particular, is that they help you project a positive image to the people around you. With table manners, the real goal is NOT to draw attention to yourself as you are eating. And, unfortunately, holding a fork incorrectly draws unwelcome attention to you. Katie makes this point when she said, “I go out to dinner with some adults and how they hold their fork and knife, that’s shocking to me.” What shocks her is to see a person holding a fork like this:


A better way, a way that lets you be in control of your fork (and knife for that fact because you hold it the same way) is to hold it like this:


It’s easy to do: With the tines of the fork facing down place the butt of the handle in the palm of your dominant hand. Then, grasp the handle with your middle finger, ring finger, and pinkie. Place your thumb on the handle so you hold the fork firmly with your thumb and fingers. Finally, place your forefinger on the back of the handle of the fork. Now you can easily press the tines of the fork into the food to hold it while you cut it with your knife. The easiest way to hold the knife is to do exactly the same with your other hand.

Typically, people who are right handed hold the fork in their left hand and the knife in the right hand. Left-handed people can do exactly the opposite.

A Tale of How Not to Eat Pizza in New York City

Posted by Peter Post January 14, 2014 07:00 AM

Every now and then a news story comes along that puts perspective on the 24-hour news cycle that simply doesn’t have enough “news” to fill it. Enter New York Mayor Bill de Blasio whose bow to tradition ended up in the news cycle for the wrong reason. Apparently there’s a tradition of sorts in New York politics to eat pizza at Goodfellas Pizza on Staten Island. Certainly, considering his Italian roots, eating pizza at Goodfellas should have been controversy free.

But it wasn’t.

Mayor de Blasio committed the cardinal sin of pizza eating, at least the cardinal sin of pizza eating in New York City. While the ten or so other people with him manhandled their slices into their mouths, de Blasio picked up his fork and knife and proceeded to cut bite-size pieces and raise them to his mouth on the fork.

The shame of it.

Reading the good-natured ribbing de Blasio took from such culinarily refined institutions as the New York Daily News, one might wonder if de Blasio will ever live down this dining etiquette slap at pizza eating New York-style.

So what is the etiquette of eating pizza?

The answer lies in why we have dining etiquette at all. Basically, dining etiquette helps us limit the grossness of the act of eating. Think about it. You cut, scoop, or pick up food on a utensil (or in your fingers in the case of New York pizza), put it in your mouth, chew it into a mushy pulp, swallow it and then repeat the process twenty or thirty times—all while trying not to gross out the people you are eating with. That’s dining etiquette in a nutshell.

The de Blasio supposed infraction of New York City pizza eating rules smells very similar to the great dining etiquette debate of whether using your utensils to cut food American or Continental style is more appropriate. In American style you cut a piece of food with fork and knife, then put the knife down and switch the fork to the hand that held the knife and lift the food to your mouth. When eating using the Continental style, after cutting a piece of food you immediately lift the food on your fork to your mouth without switching. The Emily Post take on this etiquette issue: It doesn’t matter which method you use; use the one that you are most coordinated eating with, the one that allows you to get the food to your mouth without grossing out your dinner companions.

So, Mayor deBlasio, here's my advice to you: Eat your pizza your way, even at Goodfellas. Whatever way is most comfortable to you, do it. You’re less likely to walk out with pizza splatter all over your shirt. And I suspect if you did mess up your shirt, that would be a whole new story for another slow news day.

Questionable Email: Trust Your Instinct

Posted by Peter Post January 7, 2014 07:00 AM

I received an email today from an old colleague. The message read:

I stumbled unto (a misspelling in the message) this very interesting and educative article on wealth management and decided to share it with you. I hope you enjoy it

Click Here


FYI: The “Click Here” was a URL link that I have deleted from this blog post.

The email really seemed like it came from the colleague. I even noticed that the signature was her complete signature block.

Although it seemed legitimate, I thought it strange that she was writing to me, as I hadn’t communicated with her for a couple of years.

So, I read it and reread it and began to get more suspicious. I was bcc’d (blind carbon copied). Perhaps she had sent it to a number of people and wanted to avoid sharing everyone’s email addresses with each other—normally a considerate thing to do when emailing a group of people who may not know each other. Still, the bcc gave me pause to look more closely.

Then I noticed that the email not only came from her, but the TO address appeared to be a second email address of hers. Why would she send an email to herself? While I realize people who send a bcc email will often fill the TO field with their own address, I still got more suspicious.

And then I began to wonder about the content of the message: “unto this very interesting and educative article on wealth management” that she wanted to share with me. That didn’t make sense. Our relationship was based on etiquette work.

Trust your instinct. Don’t open email attachments unless you are sure they come from someone you know and that it is logical that the person really sent the email to you. Not sure? Send the email back to the person and ask him if he really sent it to you. I did.

I heard back from her very quickly: ‘Thanks for your caution and you were correct, I didn't send it. We think it was a hacker.”

About the author

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. The column is distributed by The New York Times More »

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