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How to eat in a restaurant: dating tips from the 1950s


If you find the dating world of today tricky to navigate, spare a thought for single women living in the 1950s.

An article unearthed in a 1950s edition of Woman's Own shares a dizzying array of dos and don'ts for women going on a dinner date.

The piece, titled "How To Eat In A Restaurant", was published in October 1950 and imparts a series of baffling and alarmingly sexist tips that reflect the conservative, manners-wary etiquette of the time.

To begin with, women are gravely warned "never ask the waiter for anything yourself."

In a column titled "His Job To Order", the article instructs: "When eating out with a man, whether your father, brother or boy friend, the man always does the ordering."

Quite why opening your mouth to order a glass of Pinot would be such a faux pas is not clear, but it's not the only confusing edict on the list.

Eating fruit is apparently another potential minefield, with the likes of apple and bananas likely to "cause some embarrassment."

Panicking over how to eat your cherry? "Cherries should be put in the mouth whole with the stones carefully placed on a spoon." Other large fruit such as plums "should be dissected in the dish and the stones placed at the side." Phew, that's that one sorted then.

Image: Woman's Own

Another absolute no-no according to the article, is to tip your soup plate towards you when you eat. For some mysterious reason, doing this is "the very height of bad manners" and you should instead spoon your soup to your mouth "in scooping movements away from you" (which sounds like a recipe for a soup-splattered disaster to us, but hey).

Moving onto make-up, and it goes without saying that powdering your nose at the table is too rude for words. "Women should be very careful not to leave lipstick marks on napkins and cups; this is in bad taste," the article sternly instructs.

However, there is a silver lining to the cloud of complex rules drawn up by the magazine - if asparagus or celery come your way, feel free to use your fingers. ''There are certain foods which are eaten in a manner entirely different from others. For instance, asparagus is one of the few foods which can be eaten with fingers. Celery can quite correctly be eaten with fingers, provided it has been cut up into reasonally small pieces."

Image: Woman's Own

The Woman's Own article, currently housed in an archive collection at the British Library, also includes a step-by-step illustrated guide on how to eat - including tips on how to deal with dropping your fork, or what to do if a waiter spills something on you (do NOT react or cause a scene, simply ask for a napkin).

The piece was unearthed by CupidSpeedDater.com. A spokesperson for the site said, "Thankfully times have changed and the dating game is more relaxed. While dating can still be daunting at least women no longer have to worry if they drop a knife on the floor during a meal."

Terry Tavner, Editor in Large of Woman's Own, told the Daily Mail: "Since 1932, Woman's Own has been entertaining and educating women of every generation.

"Woman's Own is a rite of passage, handed down from generation to generation and we are honoured to continue that tradition in the 21st century."

For sheer entertainment, take a look at a few top key tips from the piece, below:

How to eat in a restaurant: 1950s top tips

  • It is bad manners to put your elbows on the table. It is also very bad manners to powder your nose or put on lipstick at the table, and unforgivable to comb your hair at the meal
  • On the Continent, fruit is always eaten with a knife and fork but in this country it is sometimes correct to cut the apple or pear into sections and eat it with your fingers or just the fork
  • Cherries should be put into the mouth whole and the stones carefully placed on a spoon
  • When eating out with a man, whether your father, brother or boy friend, the man always does the ordering. Never ask a waiter for anything*
  • ... *except apparently for when you drop a knife - "you do not start frantically hunting to retrieve it, ask the waiter to bring you a clean one."

Photos: Rex Features and Woman's Own



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