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High-Tech, Low-Tech Pleasures of the Table

By Anna Dantoni –

In ways that are both good and less than optimal, personal technology devices are defining the way we sit at a table to enjoy a meal with friends and family in personal and public settings.

I love the new method of ordering off an iPad menu in restaurants that are experimenting with this versatile device. You scan, press and your order goes right to the kitchen. It works really well with take-out too. A bank of iPads is at the entrance of the restaurant. You tap in your order and move to the pay/pick-up station. Menus in iPad form are a good thing. But, lately the “less than optimal” experiences are in the majority of my dining scenarios. Recently, I was a guest at a six-course meal with seven wines at a chi-chi place filled with oenophiles and foodies eager to talk about what they were experiencing.

A woman at our table, an esteemed teacher at our local art college, brought her iPhone, put it on the table and for the entire evening whenever anyone brought up a topic she scanned the universe until she found “an app for that” and then bored us to tears reading information off the tiny screen. She compounded her rudeness by tweeting and texting through all six courses. It’s a wonder she had time to sip or chew with us. She certainly didn’t have time to make conversation with her table mates. She barely made eye contact with anyone. She just sat in her bubble, dispensed information and communicated with her mass audience somewhere out there in cyberspace. This woman pretty much ruined the dinner for the rest of us. And the most dispiriting part is that this educated person didn’t have a clue how rudely she behaved.

I see the same thing in a lot in restaurants all over town – people communicating with everyone except the person sitting across the table. The pleasures of the table involve an active, if fleeting, relationship with food, drink and other people. It’s all about living in the moment and connecting with others in a meaningful way. Attention should be focused on what is going on, not documenting it for some waiting public out there caring about what you just swallowed.

If you want to reform and reclaim status as a civilized person or if you want to pass the following along to someone who needs a refresher course in modern manners, here are the Flavors And More guidelines for eating with friends and family at home or in a restaurant.

  • Turn your cell phone off. Put it in your handbag or pocket. Vibrating, not acceptable. You really can turn the thing off for an hour or two.
  • No texting or tweeting during the meal.
  • Make eye contact with the person across from you.
  • Lean into the table every once in a while because you’re interested in what that person is saying.
  • Look around the room, get comfortable with the space. Notice the lighting, the tablesetting, the plates and glasses.
  • Really, really taste your food and drink. Think about what you are experiencing and savor the experience.
  • Breathe, relax, disconnect from everything except the moment, the meal, the people who are sharing this special time with you. You can’t make memories by tweeting, but you can by eating.

 

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