Of Elbows and Tables

“Don’t put your elbows on the table!”

Anybody know where this shit came from? Because it’s dumb.

Back in my college days, our musical groups all had their own odd quirks and traditions. One of the Wartburg Choir’s stranger ones (I do not know if they still do this) was that when they were traveling as a group someplace and they were eating or having some kind of fellowship time, usually in a church’s fellowship hall, if any choir member spotted another with one or both elbows on the table, they’d shout something like “Hey [Name], get your elbows off the table!” and then the offending party would have to get up and walk around the entire perimeter of the room while the choir sang some goofy song about elbows on the table. (I’m not getting the particulars exactly, but it’s been 30 years and I was only present for this weird practice two or three times. And no, it was never me being called out.)

I was thinking about this yesterday while we were eating at 110 Grill in Henrietta, NY. (Yes, we road-tripped 80 miles to Henrietta just to eat at that restaurant, because their food is good and they have a big assortment of gluten-free options for The Wife. You do what you have to do when you have certain appetites and a food allergy that makes them difficult to indulge.) I ordered the fish tacos, which were (a) really delicious, and (b) really messy. The best way to manage this was to either eat them with the knife and fork (which looks absurd–I mean, really, who the hell uses knife and fork for tacos?!), or to eat them by hand and lean way over the plate while doing so. Obviously, I took option B, but I found that to comfortably assume that stance, it was frankly easiest to plant my elbows right on the table.

And this whole “No elbows on the table!” thing is so ingrained that I was feeling self-conscious about it the whole time I was eating. Yes, I was sitting in a public restaurant wearing a poofy Renaissance-faire shirt under a pair of vintage Hickory-striped overalls, and the thing that I was self-conscious about was my elbows on the table. What a dumb rule.

Oh, here are the fish tacos in question.



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2 Responses to Of Elbows and Tables

  1. Roger says:

    It is SO interesting how minor events from decades ago can so powerfully have an impact on us.

  2. Paul says:

    “Kelly, Kelly, if you’re able
    Get your elbows off the table
    This is not a horse’s stable
    But a first class dining table
    Stand up, say you’re sorry!”

    This chant was shouted out at a summer camp I went to as a child whenever someone was caught with their elbows on the table. The offender was then made to stand on their chair and sing a song before they were able to resume eating.

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