I know I have bad table manners. On some levels I blame it on my love of food. I can never wait to dig in and eat once it’s cooked or bought. I’m usually wolfing it down – it takes conscious restraint to eat daintily and slowly.
So this article really resonates with me. It’s a comforting endorsement of what I considered a social disgrace.
Of all the things in this desperately pitiful world that drive me nuts – the letters page of the Daily Mail, small yappy dogs that always smell of stagnant pond, Newbury – the one that really gets on my increasingly substantial tits is this: people who eat slowly. God, but they infuriate me. Whenever I find myself with someone lacking what I regard as the necessary velocity around food, I become transfixed. How does it work, this slow eating thing? The tedious grind of knife against meat, the endless roll of molar across muscle fibre, the huge yawning gaps between mouthfuls. It’s wrong. It’s unnatural. It’s a mark of bad character.
What’s striking is how unconscious of the fact slow eaters generally are. Sitting in a restaurant, they never notice the rest of their party of six stabbing themselves in the back of the hand with forks, or fixing nooses to the light fittings as an exit strategy, while they poke laboriously at whatever they have ordered. They don’t notice that they are holding everyone up.
I’ve tried asking slow eaters about their bad habits but the answer is rarely satisfying. Sometimes they look baffled, which is probably a lack of nutrition interfering with cognitive ability. Sometimes they claim it’s healthier. Which it isn’t. As long as it’s not a 400-hotdogs-in-half-an-hour eating contest, it makes no difference whether you clear your plate in 10 minutes or 40. Indeed, eating slowly could actually be detrimental to their health. Because I might eventually lose patience, lunge across the table and ram the damn fork into the roof of their mouth.
The worst are those who smugly tell you they eat slowly because they like to savour their food. The verb to savour is sodden with judgment, swollen with its own self-importance. It’s language with its nose in the air: I savour; he bolts; you gorge. If you don’t savour, if you too don’t eat slowly, they are saying, it is because you are in the grip of the second deadly sin of gluttony. And it’s only a short hop and skip from there to sloth and lust.
In this regard, those who claim they like to savour their food are bang on. For here is the truth about us fast eaters. We like life more than slow eaters like life. Slow eaters aren’t just doing something they love more slowly than others. They simply don’t like food, not enough. No one with a real instinct to feed can ever eat slowly. Call those of us who rampage through a plate of food like bindweed through a suburban garden greedy if you wish, but if fast eating leads to lust and then sloth, well, that sounds like a bloody good night out to me. Greedy people are enthusiasts. They are there to suck the marrow from the roasted thigh bone of life. We recognise our appetites in all their forms and, unlike the buttoned-up, spank-me-now-and-call-me-Alice slow eaters, we are not ashamed of our true natures.
Sure, eating fast has its downsides. We end up with empty plates more quickly. That which we have so adored is gone so terribly quickly. Fast eating brings with it a profound sense of loss. But that’s OK. Because life is there to be lived, and the best moments cannot be drawn out artificially. In any case there will be another meal along soon enough. Ask yourself this: who would you rather eat with? The slow eater or the fast eater? I know who I’d choose every time.