The Star-Herald

Dining etiquette and a segue to shopping

A common sight when dining out in China was coming to a table where the tableware was wrapped in plastic. Sitting down to a meal begins with the ceremonial stabbing of the plastic to break its seal over the opening of the dish. For a large dinner party this sound can be quite a fanfare to celebrate the event and the season.

While using chopsticks, one holds the sticks like a dagger and stabs at the plastic. A sure sign that the seal is good is the loud pop that is made. Quickly the sticks pull the plastic into a ball. This is tossed into the center of the table, joining other such balls. The waitress often will lead the way. Pop, pop, pop, crinkle, toss — a very simple ritual that is then followed by the ritual rinse of dishes.

Because of limited spaces in many restaurants, the dishes are sent to cleaning facilities that are off the premises. A factory that does nothing but wash, sterilize and sanitize the tools of the dining room signifies that the dishes are safe to use by wrapping them in plastic wrap. The customer then breaks the seal; thus the loud pop.

For the ceremonial rinsing, hot water is taken from a large pot in the center, or the waitstaff will pour a small amount in each open bowl where it is swished around with the help of the chopsticks. The water is then poured into a basin to be taken away as the table is prepared for the feast that is about to be served.             

This note is not about dining. Rather, it is about the beginning of the festive season, also marked, of course, by shopping expeditions.

Shopping cart mayhem can be fun to watch as shopping carts wreak havoc on people and cars. These mindless beasts roam the vast parking lots attacking defenseless car doors and screaming customers. Heroes of the moment at the cart wranglers, the anonymous controllers of tons of wandering steel, who manage to keep the shopping season moving with ease.

Perhaps they should be taken to dinner.

Orpheus Allison is a photojournalist living in The County who graduated from UMPI and earned a master of liberal arts degree from the University of North Carolina. He began his journalism career at WAGM television later working in many different areas of the US. After 20 years of television he changed careers and taught in China and Korea.

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