Tamar Adler’s article for The New York Times Magazine, “A Manners Manifesto,” explores pros, cons, and trends of table manners.
“Throughout history, there have also been good rules, important reminders of things we often forget. The very first book of manners, a papyrus by the Egyptian Ptahhotep around 2350 B.C., included the sound guidances to wait to be served by your host, and to resist staring. In the Book of Ecclesiasticus, there is ‘Eat as it becometh a man, those things which are set before thee; and devour not, lest thou be hated.’ Erasmus says not to lick your fingers, but use a napkin, and to give up your seat to an elder. Brunetto Latini, whom Dante learned from and then satirized, wrote in his poem ‘Tesoretto’ that good manners should always be there, even when no one else is.” —NYTimes.com