Home Science Lessons Saved Me From Embarrassment At A Dinner Table

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Nothing explains a waste of time than mentioning most of high school subjects to someone who’s workplace is the internet. In my case, I still have PTSD at the mention of maths and physics. Especially when I remember how practicals took me on a two hour rollercoaster of trying to find at which angle, was an object to be refracted after had passed through a glass prism.

Real-life application? Nowhere, except that I know a mirage is not a sign that my eyesight is also failing me. Lets not even get into newton’s law and the centre of gravity. The only gravity I know is my ex who keeps pulling me down. The horrors of the other subjects don’t even deserve to be mentioned but in the least, I will say, out of the sciences, chemistry and home science did not do me wrong.

This epiphany came to me when I was at a food tasting event at Soi restaurant, Dusit D2. About the saviour that is home science, I mean. Chemistry is the two cents I use when I am looking at ingredients on natural hair and makeup products. Otherwise, not a day have I encountered a pipette nor a volumetric flask and its application. Not even the form 2 human who told me her name was burette and I would proudly report the same whenever I was asked who my school mum was.

In my defence, it only took me a month to notice that her name resembled an apparatus at the lab. To this ton of useful discovery add the fact that mortar and pestle would only amount to what we use to smash garlic and spices like ginger at home.  At least in American movies, they use the volumetric flask to serve wine. Good for them that their knowledge on titration was not wasted. Speaking of which what was the essence of moles and balancing of equations? Because the acne on my back and my bank statement would beg to differ.

Anyway, back to home science my saviour and the subject that was once the source of envy, to students who chose business, agriculture, building and construction and even computer as their technicals. Only they can narrate the meaning of greed when we home science students went for cooking practicals.

Nevertheless, I almost tasted the feeling (but with embarrassment to garnish) following what transpired at the SOI restaurant during the food-tasting event.

Thai Food tasting at Soi Restaurant

It goes without saying that lifestyle hubs like Dusit D2 among other posh places in Kenya are frequented by the high class and well-travelled you guy, my guy kind of people. For instance, sourcing from my experience not only were my seatmates/diners fluent in the British/American accent, but Swahili to them was a struggle. Don’t let the Indians who sat close to me fool you. Their English did not sound anything like you heard in Three Idiots. It was straight out of East FM and if you have listened to those presenters, you know they know.

Long story short, after a few moments of talking I felt out of my depth. Add to that my version of English which was still in development, there was my Swahili that was very much useless in that context. On the other hand, these cultured and well-travelled people were at the melting point of their lifestyles.

One would narrate how they can still remember the taste of Thai street food (not at SOI but from the streets of Thailand) while another would interject by asking if anyone on the table had experienced Singapore’s china town.

Next, the discussion would be about how in South Africa if you ordered passion juice that would be mistaken for sexual harassment. While I was laughing with the rest, I was feeling like I was not in the least way being seen.

On the lineup and yet still to be discussed would be women struggles highlighted by my 4C natural hair followed by tips on ghee, and how everything takes so much time all in the name of deep conditioning.

At this moment I could tell the initiation phase was almost over. But still on the menu would be the test that many flunk. Not because they aren’t smart but because nothing about the matter was ever mentioned in the ten useless subjects. This is why some people prefer not to use any other cutlery other than the spoon – or fork. Otherwise, when they do, there’s usually some dropping of utensils followed by sliding of the food from the plate as one tries to cut in and if not, knives and forks end up being placed incorrectly at the end of the course meal.

Then there’s the grey area as to whether to swipe the plate clean or leave behind just enough food, knowing very well that this action will haunt you once you get home. Truly, no one said fine dining would be easy.

But I knew better since my ten subjects had no use at that point, including English which now felt like Mandarin. I had to save my social status with Home science.

This was the only subject at the back of my brain and even if memory didn’t serve me right, home science was everyday life. Otherwise, it would be just as useless as the other ten subjects including fasihi simulizi which as I recall was a synonym for sleeping.

From what I learnt about good etiquette and the basic rules of wine and fine dining (as per home science) I knew that;

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  • No phones and elbows were to be placed on the table while eating. This would inconvenience the next person considering that in formal dining, the eating space is measured. Elbows on the table would just take up space, come off uncultured and that is what I wanted to avoid in this battle of the cool kids.
  • In the same breath, nowadays phones have proven to be a necessity. Therefore, taking pictures of food is not something that would be frowned upon as it would’ve been before. So apart from not placing your phone at the table or using it when eating, phones are allowed.

Then again you don’t need home science to know who needs to put away their phones when Iphones show up.

  • Next would be about the napkin that is usually folded and placed on the side plate or in a glass in some cases. Rather than passing it on to your seatmate without him looking, tuck it on your chest like a baby feeder or place it neatly on your lap. It is meant to catch morsels of food while you eat and prevent you from soiling your clothes.

You can also use it to wipe your mouth or hands. After use, do not place it back on your plate. Rather place it on the left side of your plate.

  • Third comes the arrangement of the cutlery set including the two/three glasses, which are placed at the right-hand corner, just above the pointed tip of the right-hand side utensils.

With the presence of a stewardess, you can distinguish the essence of the three glasses since one will be served with water and the other two with wine. Home science says after each use place the glass at the same position you picked it from to avoid spillage by knocking it over. Again using your eating space like a pro is a skill.

  • Last comes the important part which is; eating. Pick the cutlery from the most exterior/furthest coming in. For instance, if served with soup, which serves as an appetizer on a several course meal, use the soup spoon instead of the tablespoon. The soup spoon is normally placed the farthest on your right since it will be the first in and the first out when the steward clears the table. Again, making home science useful and logical because like in table arrangements everything follows the order of use.
  • That said, apart from a few exceptions where it’s a matter of your dominant hand or any other case,  home science dictates that the right-hand holds the knives (which are placed on the right) while the left-hand holds the fork.
  • The fork and spoon placed at the top of your side plate are meant for dessert.

This brings us to the final rule which is to live by, like the word from the good book. Act like a lady/gentleman, eat like a truck.

When it’s about food etiquette, here are 10 fine dining rules you must know.

Featured image via the spruce

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