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Friday, April 22, 2016

Edible Etiquette

Dad at College.
My Dad (hereinafter called 'Mark') attended college in Guelph, Ontario, training to be a veterinarian. Class of 1948.
His schooling there was fascinating.
His life in the off-school hours, even more so . . .
I should mention, here, that dad, the last child in a very large ranching family, had been raised with order.
And a degree of meticulousness.
Something he didn’t realize until he moved ‘out into the world’.
Back to my story . . .
Mark had secured a room at one of the local homes for the duration of his stay.
He and another Vet student happily carted in their belongings.
Met the family. Mom. Dad. Kids.
Settled in.
Appeared for their first breakfast.
And were immediately introduced to the differences in accepted family table practices.
At first, all went well.
Good food. Plenty of it.
Then, the son of the family grabbed a piece of toast and reached for the large jar of jam.
Taking the spoon that had been provided, he scooped out a large dollop and dropped it onto his toast.
Then licked off the spoon.
And shoved it back into the jar.
Others in the family proceeded to do the same.
Mark blinked.
And decided he’d have his toast without jam that morning.
Then that same young man poured himself a large glass of milk.
Drank some.
And poured the rest back into the jug.
Something that also turned out to be a common family practice as the boy's father cautioned him, "Pour it carefully, Son!"
Mark, wincing slightly, avoided the milk.
And anything else on the table that became ‘communal’.
I don’t want to say that Mark was fastidious but . . .
Okay, Mark was fastidious.
I think I would have been the same.
Two weeks in, he and his roommate decided they simply couldn’t take it any longer.
And said roommate decided that Mark should be the one to tell their landlady.
In what was one of the most uncomfortable moments of his life to that date, he gave notice to the thoroughly-dismayed woman.
“But the semester’s started!” she moaned. “I’ll never fill my rooms now!” She looked at Mark. “Why?!” she asked.
Ugh, the question he had most been dreading.
Haltingly, he explained.
She stared at him.
Then let him go.
Happily, Mark and his roommate settled into other housing.
The food wasn't as good, but it was a little less . . . shared.
And in case you’re wondering if that poor woman managed to secure new boarders, the answer is yes.
A few weeks later, Mark was talking to some fellow classmates and discovered that one of them was actually living in his old digs.
Mark asked--a trifle hesitantly--about the table manners there.
Fine. Perfect, even.
So either, that young man was accustomed to the common trough, or the landlady had taken Dad’s concerns to heart.
The result was the same.
Everyone was happy.
And well fed.
And that’s really all that counts.
Dad learned lots of things at college.
But the first was: ‘Share the sustenance. Not the Saliva!’


  1. What a good credo!! I think your dad deserved a huge amount of credit for being honest with the landlady. Hopefully she changed things around the table!

  2. That reminds me of a story my brother told me about a hunting trip he went on years ago. They were staying in the home of a husband and wife. They had come back in from hunting and the woman was cooking dinner. She was trying to stir her mashed potatoes and couldn't find a spoon so she grabbed the attachment off of the vacuum cleaner and whipped them right up. He said he didn't eat a bite of food the entire weekend


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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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