Friday, October 27, 2006

Really, what are good manners?

This is my first non-food post and I now realise how hard those are to write! Particularly when you dont know who reads your blog! But anyway, I have an issue that I would like to share. Or rather get all of your opinions.

What are manners anyway? Is it really a big deal if your guests start eating before you come to the table? If you wont do it to other people....does that mean that you cant be (a teensy-meensy little bit) mad when some one does it to you? And most importantly, if your guests were waiting for you, you would SURELY pop your head into the dining room and tell them to dig in! Then why feel wierd when they do it without you telling them? Is it cos your mom would probably box your ears (over the phone, that too!) if she knew you had started eating without the host there?

Anyway, it happened to me. And it was wierd since it was the first time. I dont know if it was a cultural thing. I assumed that in almost all cultures ( and age groups) there was this thing of waiting for the host. Not in mad, grad-student pot luck parties maybe.............but even then usually the appetizers that had been kept out disappeared....the actual food was eaten in a more civilized manner. The funny part is also that I have a friend who is exactly the other extreme and that is also disconcerting! She just wont start eating until you are eating too. Well, sometimes as a host you have to not eat, get up to serve, to get fresh bread etc etc. So the other extreme is quite uncomfortable too.

Which brings me to smthg else- is it the nature of serving Indian food that makes it difficult for the host to join in? I mean, if you ferrying hot bread (parantha, roti, puri or dosai) from the kitchen to the dining room, doesnt that automatically exclude you from the gathering? I realise that in western cuisines there are courses and the host needs to get up to bring in the salad, soup and entree. But they can eat with their guests within a course.

Which brings me to the issue of Indian cooks (all women, mostly) have managed over the ages. But if you think about the way food would be served in a traditional Indian house (say grandmom's generation) there are ways in which the person cooking and serving can feel part of the process. In the north indian households that I know, either the kitchen was large enough for everyone to sit or food was served in a area very close to the kitchen. Most old houses have courtyards and almost all rooms of the house open into the courtyard. Because its really hot in the summer, part of the courtyard maybe be shaded and that is where the family would sit to eat. So could it be that the architecture of old houses was partly designed to make sure that everyone (including women who were cooking and serving) could see and hear everything during the meal and hence felt part of it? If you have any stories about how food is/was served in your house/part of the country/country then I would love to hear those.

So.........I am unreasonable to feel a little cheesed-off? Or maybe its just unreasonable to think that there are some universal elements to manners? Or maybe I just need suggestions about how to serve Indian breads (hot and fresh) without making them right there and then. I have tried aluminuim foil+ oven, damp towel+oven, damp towel+microwave...............they dont work that well, do they?

7 comments:

sanjay jha said...

nameste'g'ji.
can only remember of mom making roti at the last moment and keep serving then and there...
in my village we had big kitchen,and being a rice eating culture,food were served together.
'teen kos me paani badle chaar kos me vaani'[pani and culture i guess so]
cheers.
jhaji.

Foodie's Hope said...

I always make everything and arrange on the table, join the guests and we pass each dish around and enjoy the meal. So what it's not fresh and puffed. I hate 'Indian style mom thing' to serve fresh when everyone else is eating,having fun.That's really why we invite people in the first place,to enjoy their company.I think it's not right when guests start eating without the hostess.

May be I am little westernized but I remember when we invited some Indian couple for dinner, they came an hour later ( Indian style?) and said they had to do shopping and absoutely no apology!!
We almost went out that day to leave them to fend for themselves!It's just rude!If we donot know the etiquette, we can always learn by reading and/or watching others.

It's my opinion and I am sticking to it!:D:D Happy Halloween, G!!

g said...

thanks both of you for your comments. i do think that timeliness and table etiquette are important. otherwise as a host you are left feeling what i am feeling---not sure if u enjoyed the event that u worked hard for. Foodie's Hope, I think u are right-I might just need to outgrow the "indian style mom thing". I may have got it from my upbringing (Mom is a little finnicky abt these things but can afford to be when u have help, I guess!) but so did your friends who came late! they may have seen their parents/friends get away with coming so late and not even apologising. maybe my friends also are doing what they saw growing up.

indosungod said...

Vyanjanaa, came here through Kalyn's blog. Like your blog and the format of sharing mom's recipes.

This is a situation where I absolutely don't know what is best. If I like to serve guests warm dosais or chappathis, this is usually the case when the guests are not that many, I wait till I finish cooking and then join in. If it is a large crowd or an occasion like daughters' birthday when I want to join I have them prepared ahead of time (usually avoid dosais) chappathis can be warmed easily enough.

Like Asha mentioned 'Indian style mom thing' is what we grew up with and difficult to give up. Maybe compromise according to the situation.

Reeta Skeeter said...

hey g!!! lovely blog!! well my ma makes half paranthas/rotis and cooks them fully just when the dinner/lunch is being served...will write more later yawn! gn!

Anonymous said...
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sushmita said...

I mostly make the rotis/puris just before serving. There is no other way to keep them just as fresh. Ive seen that heating it up only makes it more soggy or crispy.
And when i have more than 4-5 guests, I stick to rice recipes!
It was nice reading ur blog. There are some lovely recipes and photos :)