Etiquette & superstition: bananas

Don’t give me tomatoes, can’t stand ice cream cones. I like bananas because they have no bones.

ETIQUETTE: Usually I respect my etiquette elders, but I recently came across a “rule” on Etiquette Scholar that I cannot agree with – namely, that at a formal meal you should eat a banana with a fork. No. No, and let’s just take this apart right now. Primarily, this supposed rule breaks one of the basic tenets of modern etiquette: don’t be overly precious or fussy. Putting on airs is the opposite of etiquette.

Secondarily, you are not going to be served a whole, uncut raw banana at a formal meal. (I know ES is talking about a whole, uncut raw banana because they also recommend that you place the peel on the side of your plate.) For the sake of argument, however, let’s suppose that someone is hatching up a new cuisine right now that involves very fancy raw banana eating. How do you handle it? I say you partially peel the fruit starting from the stem end (don’t tell me I’m doing it wrong; there’s a reason for this), keeping the banana in your hand, and break a piece off for eating with your other hand. Don’t just peel the fruit and take a bite from the entire banana as a monkey would. That’s just asking to be snickered at.

SUPERSTITION: If you bring a banana on a boat, it’s bad luck and at the very least nobody on the boat will catch any fish. Some fishing boat captains will go so far as to ban Banana Boat sunscreen, Banana Republic clothing and even Fruit of the Loom underwear (the label of which doesn’t happen to have a banana, but whatever). If you happen to find yourself on a fishing boat with any of the aforementioned banana items, and you want to actually catch a fish, toss them overboard and try praying to the Hindu crocodile god Kompira/Konpira:

Oh great Konpira
please, hear my plea
I am sorry for my mistake
A banana I brought to sea

it was an honest gesture
a noble means of nutrition
I had no ill intent
I brought fruit of my own volition

Please forgive my idiocy
I meant my friends no harm
We just want to go fishing
and go home with a sore arm

We beg of you to release the curse
upon which I have brought
In your honor I consume these bananas
a sacrifice all for nought

Photo by Julian Burgess on Flickr

Etiquette & superstition: onions

Benny and I have a funny story about the time I made potato and leek soup out of some things I found in the garden that I was sure were leeks. They turned out to be ornamental onions, not leeks, and the story is really much better the way Benny tells it, but suffice it to say you should not make soup out of ornamental onions.

ETIQUETTE: Onions are not mentioned in a lot of early 20th century etiquette books. Vogue’s Book of Etiquette does broach the subject, but only to note that “A rule of formal dinners is that onions cannot be served, even in a garniture. There are some elaborately concealed exceptions to this, but it is a rule.”

As for non-formal dining of onions, I was able to find one source online regarding the placement of onions on a burger served in a “sit-down” (not fast food, not formal) restaurant, but the recommendation seemed incongruous to the eating of a burger – lots of business about not picking up the bun with one’s hands, eating the burger with knife and fork, and so on. I can’t endorse this course of action, however; it seems to break an important rule of etiquette, that of being overly precious and unnatural.

I’m going to go out on a limb and provide my own advice here: a burger is by nature a casual food. If you wish to garnish it with the lettuce and onion provided, add those items to the burger with your fork, but don’t worry about removing the bun with some complicated fork-and-knife action, and feel free to eat the burger with your hands if it is not unreasonably messy to do so. A burger served open-face or with no bun at all should, of course, be eaten with a knife and fork.

SUPERSTITION: A girl who wishes to know the identity of her true love should take a bunch of onions and name each one after a young man she knows. Gary Onion, Billy Onion, Emmett Onion, etc. She should then put the onions in a safe, dark place. The onion named after her future suitor will be the one that sprouts first. If she only has one onion, she should put it under her pillow and pray to St. Thomas, and in the night she will dream of her true love.

Onions are not only good for love predictions, but they cure dog bite, headache, toothache and fever. If you are going to be beaten with a cane, try to rub an onion over the cane first (or if you can’t do this, rub the part of your body that is to be beaten with the onion). You will not feel any pain, and the cane will break.

Etiquette & superstition: candy

I’m finding it hard to believe that I’ve been posting on etiquette for nearly two years now and have not yet shared the anecdote about Andy Warhol at a fancy dinner party.

The story goes that when Warhol was starting to be recognized as a “serious” artist, he was suddenly invited to a lot of formal dinners. Not knowing which fork to use when the turtle was served, and not wanting to admit his lack of knowledge, he would simply refuse to take part in any of the meal, politely demurring, “Oh, I only eat candy.” Andy Warhol was a genius. Also a liar, of course.


ETIQUETTE: When eating candy from a box or tray where the candies are individually wrapped in those crinkly papers, you should take the candy from the box or tray in its wrapping; don’t leave the crinkly paper behind. Eat the candy and dispose of the paper. To tell you the truth, though, I don’t think I’ve ever found a good explanation of where you are supposed to put the paper; you’re just supposed to “properly dispose of the paper” and not leave it in the box or on the tray. Perhaps you should just eat the paper along with the candy. That’s probably what Andy Warhol would do.

SUPERSTITION: If an expectant mother wants a baby girl, she should eat plenty of candy while she’s pregnant. A single woman who eats the last piece of candy from the tray will be an old maid forever.

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