A Time Traveler's Guide to Table Manners

The next time you visit the past, follow these rules to avoid a dinner party faux pas.

ANCIENT GREECE

Napkins haven’t been invented yet, so wipe your greasy hands with a piece of bread called apomagdalia. When you’re finished, throw it—along with any other scraps—on the floor for the dogs.

Don’t butter that roll! The Greeks considered consuming butter and milk barbaric. The poet Anaxandrides dissed the Thracians up north by calling them “butter-eaters.”

BEDOUIN CAMPS

Before and after a meal, rub your hands in the sand outside your tent.

If bread falls to the floor, call the five-second rule: Pick it up, kiss it, raise it to your forehead. (The same practice applies in many other Arab cultures.)

After finishing coffee, shake the cup. If not, your host will just pour you more.

VIKING VILLAGES

Forks won’t appear for centuries, so shovel your food down with a sharp knife.

When the drinking horn is passed, it’s rude to decline unless you’re old or sick.

MEDIEVAL EUROPE

Before carving into a piece of meat in France, take a moment and swear at it.

Erasmus of Rotterdam writes, “If it is possible to withdraw, [farting] should be done alone. But if not...let a cough hide the sound.”

Be polite! Toss chewed bones onto the floor. Just remember to look over your shoulder first.

ANCIENT ROME

Eat with your hands, but keep your pinkie and ring finger clean.

Don’t excuse yourself to go to the restroom. Just use a chamber pot at the table.

It’s rude to refuse food at a feast, so free up some room by shoving a feather down your throat to puke. (Seneca hated this, writing, “They vomit to eat and eat to vomit.”)

1900s HUNGARY

Don’t clink glasses! When Austria stopped the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the Austrian army supposedly celebrated by bringing glasses together. Bitter Hungarians pledged not to clink drinks for another 150 years. Today, it’s still impolite.

Drink from a shoe. Grooms celebrate nuptials by sipping a toast from his bride’s wedding slipper.

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The above article is reprinted with permission from the Scatterbrain section of the May 2015 issue of mental_floss magazine.

Don't forget to feed your brain by subscribing to the magazine and visiting mental_floss' extremely entertaining website and blog today for more!


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