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KATE ROBERTS: Immersed in the crunch battle over changing social niceties.


WHEN exactly did the dunking of biscuits become socially acceptable? I was brought up to think that nice girls don't dunk, not in public anyway. Consequently dunking biscuits has always been a guilty pleasure, the kind of thing, like eating in the street, that you should only really do surreptitiously and certainly never, ever, in polite company.

Now, however, dunking is in the mainstream and one of Britain's poshest shops -- Waitrose, no less -- has declared its verdict on the best and the worst biscuits to dunk. Ginger nuts are the number one favourite since they become more gingery and still hold on to their crunchy texture following a three-second immersion in a cup of tea.

No arguments here then. The ginger nut is, of course, a dunking delight and it is also a low-fat option for anyone bothered about that kind of thing.

Digestives weigh in at number three on the preference list. I do like a nice digestive but it has to be good quality, none of those cheap versions that appear in biscuit selections at Christmas time. However, I beg to differ on the number two selection -- chocolate hob nobs, for goodness sake -- simply too messy by far. After three seconds, the chocolate has melted and you have to lick your fingers, another act that I thought was strictly beyond the pale in terms of good manners. Keeping track of changing manners is a tricky business -- in fact it's probably time we had a new updated, definitive guide to manners for the 21st century. What about elbows on the dining table? It was always frowned upon when my brothers and I were children, now it's seen as a sign of urban sophistication, as is tucking into one's meal regardless of whether or not everyone else has been served. Then there's standing up for certain passengers on crowded buses and trains, it just doesn't happen anymore does it? Mobile phones and e-mails throw up their own questions of etiquette. For example, I think it's the height of rudeness to send a text message while talking to someone else and I get seriously fed up by people who sign off serious business e-mails with ``lots of love'' or ``Cheers''. I don't love them and I'm not having drink with them so what's going on? I am obviously a complete dinosaur when it comes to all this manners stuff, a fact I am made only too aware of when I'm trying to ins til them into my own children -- the rolling eyes say it all. Back to dunking and I have a question about social niceties. I was interviewing a very successful managing director of a thriving company recently when a secretary arrived with a cup of tea for me and, inevitably, a plate of biscuits. Without pausing for breath, he reached across the board table, picked up a biscuit, dunked it in my tea and carried on with the conversation. Now, just where do we stand on the rules governing third party dunking? I told you it was tricky.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 2, 2004
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