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Some of the assumptions in the piece seem very tied to peculiarly British ideas of class and culture.

This bit for example: "You have to dress the part too. Pyjamas look as out of place as a milk carton at a dining room table."

Growing up, we always had a dining room and my parents always enforced sitting down to family meals (they still do, as a matter of fact). And yet our dining room was where we had breakfast in our pajamas with milk cartons and cereal boxes on the table and the newspaper too for good measure. The dining room was a formal room for Christmas dinners with table cloths, candles and the best china; but it was also an informal space for the family to congregate.

My parents' dining room table was where we did our homework and ate our snacks and in recent years is where the flock of laptops congregates during the day when all the children are home for a visit. Only to get cleared off in time for everyone to sit down to dinner.

Maybe that's partly because we didn't have a dine-in kitchen. But in our current home Dom and I have both a kitchen table and a dining room. We tend to eat breakfast and lunch in the kitchen but sit down to dinner in the dining room. Sure it doubles as an office with the desk on one wall and, yes, as a sewing room too; but I do like to have a place where we can sit down to a more formal meal. I do sometimes serve the carrots out of the saucepan in the dining room, though. For me it's a comfortable mixture of the formal and informal. I cherry pick which etiquette rules to follow. Her description seems strangely absolutist as if a dining room must be all or nothing.


You're right, Melanie. One of my pet themes has been etiquette. It should always be based on charity. Unfortunately, the rules of etiquette became so labarynthian that they were intimidating and harsh. (I.e. which fork to use, how to use a finger bowl, and the minutiae about how to pass things properly.) When they lost their essence (making guests welcome and the meal civilised) they became first a burden, and then a parody of themselves.

Our feminine genius should be applied to the question of how to maintain a certain dignity combined with an atmosphere of love and inclusion. Of course, it will vary from family to family -- that's the fun. But we have to remember that it's a piece of civilisation as well as a foundational piece of theology. Sharing meals is an intimate thing, and should be recognised for the truth it carries within it. (Btw, we slouched for breakfast with the rest, but the milk cartons had to remain on the floor besides our chairs. They blocked the view.)


About polishing the chandelier, make that thirty years. Growing up, I spent time polishing the dining room sconces and the chandelier. They were beautifully etched German silver and I loved the chore. Admittedly, I was less enthusiastic about polishing the silverware...

ps. I like your blog

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    • From Benedict XVI
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