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The phrase, “l’art de table”–aka “the art of table (manners)”–tends to bring to my mind images of BBC period drama, when dipping the soup spoon away from you and identifying which was the fish fork (???) was knowledge one actually used on a regular basis.

For most of us today, ultra-formal dining is a rare-if-ever experience.  However, the majority of us know the proper way to set a basic place setting at the table, along with enough general etiquette to get by at a semi-formal meal.  We feel perfectly comfortable sitting at a table full of people, and we innately know what is expected of us and “how to do it.”

In greater Haiti, though, this is not common knowledge.  You may be lucky to have a table, let alone a full place setting.  You may never have sat at a table full of people where bowls were passed for you to serve yourself.  You may never have developed the polite inhibitions that keep you from eating as much as you possibly can while you have the chance and eliciting raised eyebrows from fellow meal-goers.

November 18th is a holiday in Haiti, celebrating the decisive victory of the slave revolution at the Battle of Vertières.  So, school was closed, and there were no regular classes.  However, Almais wanted to take advantage of the day by providing continuing education for the teachers.  In addition to it being an important topic, he chose the subject of table manners since the teachers at Lemuel have opportunities to sit and eat with some of the visiting teams.

It was a wonderful time, full of lively discussion, lots of questions, and comparison of various experiences (both first-hand and second-hand).  After going over some general principles of common sense and prudence, we considered various settings, types of meals, and etiquette that may be encountered.  The most important rule we came away with: OBSERVE WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE IS DOING.

The staff then had a chance to set their own place setting.



Afterwards, we had some practice.  Everybody came to my (Krischelle’s) “house” for a meal. (Sorry, I was so busy trying to play my role as a good hostess, I didn’t get any pictures of the actual meal.)  In addition to being a learning experience, it was also a great opportunity to spend an enjoyable, outside-of-office time with the PEOPLE on the school staff.

Randomly, the staff is interested next in a chopsticks dining experience.  Anyone want to come and make Asian food?

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