Cape Argus

Genteel rituals of eating and drinking are lost

- By David Biggs

IN THIS fast-moving age, mealtimes are becoming increasing­ly informal and rushed. When last did you see somebody warming a teapot and setting out the strainer? I wonder how many non-pensioner Tavern readers would even recognise a cake fork if they saw one. How many of our readers regularly set a butter knife on the dinner table?

Several of my friends no longer own saucers or, if they do, they have long forgotten where they stored them.

Teatime has become a hurried matter of tossing a poultice into a mug and giving it a stir. Do you know anybody who still owns a tea cosy?

Whether we happen to be humans or dogs, cats or pigs, monkeys or cows, the one thing we all have in common is that we all have to eat.

There used to be a big difference in the way we did it. Animals simply opened their mouths and slurped in anything edible within reach.

People, on the other hand, usually set aside special times dedicated to eating together in a formal and structured way.

For this, humans invented table manners (remember them?). I imagine thousands of pairs of eyes being rolled in mock amusement and a thousand voices muttering: “Table manners? Who has tables any more?”

Probably not many people do, but we should remember that all those rules of table manners were designed to make eating a more pleasant experience: to make people feel comfortabl­e together. Right down to the use of the tea cosy, which allowed your guests to enjoy a second cup of tea without having to rush to finish the first before the pot became cold.

The tea cosy principle has been rediscover­ed in recent years for a different reason. We now use pot cosies under various names to save electricit­y. Some call them hot boxes or straw boxes, but the principle is to wrap the pot up warmly to prevent heat escaping, and allow the residual heat to do the cooking.

I’m currently using a little pot duvet called a Kiphot. It works well for dishes like rice and potatoes.

Bring the pot to the boil, place the Kiphot on top of the lid and turn off the heat. Some time later, when you’re ready for supper, you simply remove the little duvet and, voila!

The rice is cooked. You can learn more about the Kiphot from the internet.

We may think this is new technology, but Granny would probably not be impressed.

“Like a second cup, dear? It’s under the tea cosy, still piping hot.”

Last Laugh

Joe bought a new shirt, and when he put it on he was surprised to find a hand-written note in the pocket. It said: “Hi, my name is Sally. I made this shirt, would you like to get in touch. My phone number is…”

Intrigued, he called the number and a sweet voice answered. “Why did you suggest I got in touch with you?” Joe asked.

“I was curious to know what sort of idiot would buy such a funny-looking shirt,” she replied.

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