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Social Grace 

How to Handle a Big Goopy Wad of Pâté

Wednesday, Aug 16 2000
Dear Social Grace,
Say you're at a party. You're talking to a nice lady in a pale-pink cashmere sweater and eating some delicious mushroom pâté on a cracker. You're not talking with food in your mouth, but you happen to have something very important to say about a recent celebrity wedding. So you swallow all your food down and open your mouth to speak; however, as you begin to form words to express your ideas, a very noticeable piece of food -- a none-too-small wad of mushroom pâté, cracker, and saliva, all mashed up and goopy -- comes shooting out of your mouth and lands on this nice lady's pretty sweater. You and she both notice it, but you're both so embarrassed that nobody says anything. This happened to me, and I thought I was gonna die.

I'm sure nothing like this ever happens to you, seeing as how you're so perfect and everything, but if you were to spit a big wad of something onto someone's sweater, how would you handle it?
Roseanne Rosannadanna Redux

Dear Ms. Rosannadanna,
I would apologize sincerely without making a big fuss, offer a napkin with which to remove the offending food matter, and somehow endeavor to get on with my life. I might cringe at the memory of this event for a couple of weeks, but let's face it: Pâté happens. Embarrassing accidents such as this -- although we may feel as though the world will end when they occur -- can and should be acknowledged and dealt with. How are you to continue a comfortable conversation with a big, goopy wad just hanging there like an awkward question that no one will answer?

Dear Social Grace,
If my partner and I (we are both women) are dining out and ordering wine with dinner, is it appropriate to ask the waiter or waitress to let us both taste the wine when it is brought to the table?
Restaurant Winer

Dear Winer,
Though it's usual for a food server to give wine-approval privileges/duties to the person who ordered the wine, if you both want to taste the wine, all you should have to do is ask the server. In answer to your question: I don't see wine not.
(Forgive me -- that won't happen again, I promise.)

Dear Social Grace,
You said recently (on KFOG's morning show, Aug. 3) that baseball caps must be removed indoors. Are you sure about that? In what situations is it right to leave a cap on indoors? I don't usually take my San Francisco Giants cap off indoors, and no one seems to mind.
Big Bob, San Francisco Giants Fan

Dear Giants Fan,
Yes, I'm sure about that -- but that doesn't mean everybody is listening to me. Hats are pretty heavy-duty clothing items, symbolically -- just look at the number of religions that require ritualized covering or uncovering of the head (or hair), for example. People are increasingly less familiar with our society's rules governing hats these days, because far fewer people wear hats regularly, and if they do, they wear baseball caps, which seem to many "not to count." But they do count. For this reason, people are unwittingly offending others by wearing hats inappropriately. And if you're going to offend people, I for one think you should do so knowingly and with good reason. So here are some general hat-wearing guidelines:

Head coverings worn as devotional items are of course excepted from rules governing social hat removal. However, a receding hairline does not make a hat a devotional item. Men and boys should remove their hats (and caps) indoors as a sign of respect. Exceptions include sports arenas (though hats are of course removed while standing for the national anthem), health clubs, Orthodox and some Conservative Jewish synagogues, and lobbies of public buildings (such as post offices). Though on the wane, the practice of removing a hat when greeting or taking leave of a woman or an older person is still current in some circles. And hats should be removed during somber ceremonies such as funerals.

Traditionally, women keep their hats on. A baseball cap, though, is not a woman's hat and, even when worn by a woman, should be treated as a man's hat and removed during the national anthem, etc.

Dear Social Grace,
Over the years, my partner and I have developed increasingly strict eat- ing habits, and several months ago we dropped our vegetarian diets of many years for vegan diets. Along with the decision to go dairy-free, we decided we would no longer support (or dine at) restaurants that serve meat. Our closest friends of course will continue to tolerate our Berkeley-esque behavior, but is it fair for us to impose our strict limits on others? How could our limits be laid out so as not to offend new friends and associates?
Keeping the Animals Happy

Dear Friend to Animals,
It is most definitely not fair (or polite) to impose your diet on others, any more than it would be for them to impose their diets on you. If you were to invite a meat-eater to dine with you at your favorite vegetarian restaurant, you would not be required to procure a pork chop for her. The reverse is also true, even though your diet may seem to you to be morally or otherwise superior to hers.

In order to avoid offending new friends and associates, "laying out limits" should probably be avoided. It just doesn't sound very friendly, does it? When invited to dine with others at a restaurant that serves meat, you should politely decline, saying something such as, "I'm so sorry we won't be able to join you. Madeleine and I do not eat in restaurants that serve meat. Perhaps we can join you later in the evening or another time." The hostess may choose to accommodate you by changing her plans; she may not. It's up to her. Of course, if you are doing the hosting, you may choose a restaurant that you like, and leave it to your invitees to accept or decline as they will.

We've addressed similar questions in this column. There comes a time in every person's life when he is faced with a food he cannot or will not eat. Just as a reminder: The polite thing to do in this situation is to refuse the offending food with a smile and a "no thank you," without fuss or bother.

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