People eat the way they live: passionately, biting at food in hunks and chewing it, shifting the bites inside the mouth, or cautiously; picking at it, pushing it around the plate, eventually putting just a third of the food in the mouth.
Eating is a fabulous life-o-meter. I love to eat (it is the cooking part that I have issues with). Growing up, we kind of had assigned seats at the dinner table: the two left-handed children at the curves in the table, the youngest (me) at our father’s right, and the child who needed the most, um, guidance, sat at our father’s left (you know who you are). I chafed at being seated to the right, and when my second brother left the house, I took over his seat across the table from our father. It was a big table and I was a long way away from his guiding eye. My table manners probably were, or are, not what they should be.
Because I love eating, I love eating with my in-laws. Besides being the best cooks in Spain, they have beautiful manners. At first, I thought my mother-in-law was an over-cautious eater. Then I realized that she was modeling good behavior for her two sons, tamping down her passion for food so that her sons would learn to control theirs.
I was fascinated by her precise way of eating fruit. She could eat almost any fruit with a knife and fork, her long, strong fingers holding her fork with a firm daintiness as she carved with her knife: surgical precision.
My own mother didn’t trust fruit all that much, especially grapes, “They are FULL of sugar! They will go right to your hips!” Yet she had a candy drawer in our house: Mr. Goodbar, Hershey, Twix, KitKats…thank goodness none of them had sugar or calories. That said, when Mom did eat fruit, it was usually in big bites.
My daughter has her Spanish grandmother’s hands, long and lovely, I hope she can learn to eat elegantly but I also hope she can learn to eat with unbridled joy. I can always hope.