With no threat of being observed, she succumbed to the supreme pleasure of licking her bowl clean.
It's great fun to discover humorous vintage illustrations: especially when the images depict raw humanity during an era of emphatic social graces. Eyebrows were begging to be raised, and the above image would have evoked some meaty disapproval!
Victoria Mather, a social commentator, wrote an article in The Guardian entitled, "What's wrong with licking your plate?" A survey that same week revealed that British table manners are in a "parlous state" since many diners admitted to eating with elbows on the table and/or burping during meals. Emine Saner and Lucy Clouting then interviewed a number of esteemed etiquette experts by asking if table manners really do matter.
Peter York, a social commentator, spoke candidly...
There is a difference between class-based etiquette, which isn't so important - I don't mind if people don't know which knife to use in a restaurant - and courtesy, which is. I don't think people should blow their noses in their napkins, and talking with your mouth full is very unattractive, but common sense should tell you that. Don't leave the table until everyone else is finished - it's like saying: "I'm bored now." But getting upset about elbows on tables is a bit trainspotterish, a bit classist.
I use my fingers because, I'm afraid, I'm greedy. And I'll tell you a ghastly secret: when dining alone, I sometimes lick my plate - delicious gravy and juices! But I would never do it in front of someone else.
Paul Burrell, a former royal butler, shared...
If you're faced with a regiment of cutlery and an army of glasses and you're unsure what to do, watch your host to see what they do. I was once on the Royal Yacht Britannia in the South Pacific and the Queen was hosting a dinner for a local prince. Dessert was served. The prince forgot to watch what the Queen did - instead, he popped the grapes into his finger bowl, then some cherries, then when the cream and sugar came out, he poured them in too, making a kind of fruit soup. I was standing behind the Queen looking horrified. He was about to raise the bowl to his lips to drink it when he looked at the Queen and realised he had made a terrible mistake. Not wanting to make him feel awkward, she picked up her finger bowl and took a sip. Now that's class.In today's society, many people adhere to table manners as social courtesy or to maintain appearances, while others approach eating as a free for all. Much like Peter York, some of us have two systems of etiquette: public and private. Realistically, we're comfortable in our bodies and we will allow in private what we would never permit in public.
China's tradition of courteous belching has never become an acceptable part of Western refinement. However, I have observed an epidemic among young girls who treat belching as if it were a sparring match. Even a female friend of mine will casually punctuate a public meal with a belch, explaining that she doesn't choose to be uncomfortable.
As far as licking my own plate, yes, I have done this, err, I mean I do this—but not in public. My daughter and I have been known to lick or use fingers when the thought of discarding a delicious-something-or-other was more than we could bear.
Finally, Prue Leith, a cookery writer, stated...
I'm not concerned with table manners but I do think if you don't eat "knees under" meals with your children, you should not be surprised if they grow up alienated and uncivilised. Civilisation is about talking and eating together - not about whether you eat peas with your knife, or whatever.
All quotes and references are from The Guardian: Friday, October 13, 2006.