Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah tackle serving guests, eating lobsters, bashing hometowns, cutting birthday cakes without permission, leaving group texts, and much more. Please subscribe! (We'd write you a hand-written thank you note if we could.)
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Nick: Hey, everybody, it's Nick Leighton.
Leah: And I'm Leah Bonnema.
Nick: We're in New York today, and let's just get right down to it!
Leah: Let's get in it!
Nick: So, today, I want to talk about French, English, and Russian service. This is something that you have experienced, but you may not have known what it was called. I wanted to talk a little bit about this world and open the door, because I find it very fascinating, and I hope you do. Maybe it will inspire you to go deeper down this path and learn more about it.
Nick: So, what am I talking about? I'm talking about the way food makes it from a kitchen to your plate in a formal situation. Let's talk about French service - service à la Française. This is the oldest version of service. Basically, this was going on, I think, Middle Ages maybe; maybe a little later. Hard to say when this really started. But the idea is you arrive at the table, and the table's already set with food. All the food is out, at least for the first course. There's gonna be all these dishes, different soups, all sorts of things on the table arranged symmetrically. You sit down and then, you dig in, and you might help the person to your right and left, and we have a great celebration. This went on basically until the late 19th century. Service à la française was the way formal entertaining happened. It was very opulent. You could see all those different dishes, and it felt very exciting because there were all these different things. The disadvantage of this is that you didn't actually necessarily get to taste everything. If there was something that was too far away and never got passed to you, you may not get to try it. The other disadvantage is that things would get cold because, often, the table was set before you got there.
Then, this was replaced with Russian service - Service à la Russe. Apparently, there was a Russian ambassador to Paris, in the early 1800s, who popularized this style. The big difference here is that when you arrived, there's no food on the table. Then, from the kitchen, elaborate platters of food, beautifully arranged, would come around and then, maybe with tongs, or maybe to serve yourself, you would take a piece of meat, or something from the platter to your individual dish. So, this was happening, and this became the popular style. This replaced service à la Française because it made the food hotter; everybody got to try everything. Also, it was much more efficient to serve a lot of people. If you had a big banquet, you could get a lot of people fed this way. So, that is Russian service. Also, with Russian services, the table- that's when we get tablescapes happening, floral arrangements ... Because there was no food in the middle of the table, this is when we started to see more of that happening. Also, with Russian service, some scholars have said that the focus stopped being on the esthetics of the food and actually shifted a little bit more towards taste because, yes, things were beautifully arranged on platters, but the actual presentation was de-emphasized when you have this sort of situation. So, the idea that how food tastes became more important-
Nick: -which we still have today ...
Nick: Then, there is American service, which the English would call English service; service à l'Anglaise. In this style, basically, the host does the serving. You will never really see this in a restaurant, but this would be like you come over to my house, and I made lasagna, and we're all sitting around the table. I have the lasagna in front of me, and I'm gonna cut the lasagna; I'm gonna put it on a plate; I'm gonna pass it down. That is American service. There might be some sides in the middle that we help ourselves to, but the idea that, like, the hostess serving you, that's American service. Then, there's restaurant service, which is basically just the food is made in the kitchen; they put it on the plate; the individual plate - already perfect - comes to you. That's the major tent poles of service. Now, where it gets complicated is that there are so many different variations about what I just talked about. So, if there are any service scholars out there listening, being like, "Oh, no, that's not right! Oh, no, he left out this part ..." Yeah, it's really true. In researching this, it is so complicated because not only is it how the food comes out, there's this whole other world of how many forks are out, when they arrive, when you take plates away ... It gets real complicated with these different services. Then, also, what it's called ... Some people would call the restaurant service American Service. There are all these different terms, and no one agrees on anything. I'm using the Miss Manners approach - no surprise - but there are different flavors. Then, there's also the service called guéridon, service au guéridon, which is just French for pedestal table. That is when something would be prepared tableside. Some people call this cart French. It sounds fancy, but if you're at a Mexican restaurant, and they make guacamole for you at the table, that's guéridon-
Leah: Which is fancy!
Nick: If you go to Benihana, that's technically guéridon. Things like a Caesar salad that's prepared tableside, or Crêpes Suzette, or Steak Diane, these are all example of tableside things. I don't think you would ever really have an entire meal cooked for you tableside, or maybe you would. I don't know. I don't think I've been to that restaurant [Laughing] It just goes to show, there are a lot of different types of service in the world. I find it very fascinating because you can trace the history of the world through the way we eat and share food. I think people should learn more about it.
Leah: It's very interesting. Also, when you started up top, you said, "Do you mix up French and Russian service?" I actually do. I didn't know that. Very interesting. When I was a caterer-waiter, they would call what is now apparently Russian service, French service.
Nick: Right. Yes, and it may be that that's the correct term for whatever lineage they're working from. Also, a lot of service mixes the style. I feel like in modern dining, today, we don't actually have a pure essence of anything anymore. It's always a hodgepodge, but that's service. So, that's your amuse-bouche.
Leah: I love it!
Nick: We're back, and now it's time to go deep.
Leah: Deep into the water!
Nick: Deep into the inky abyss, yes! So, for today's deep dive, Leah's in charge.
Leah: [Gasping] This is my first time!
Nick: Might be last ... We'll see how it goes. So-
Leah: Be gentle with me!
Nick: [Giggling] For today's deep dive, I wanted to talk about eating lobster, and who better to assist us with this than our resident Mainer, Leah Bonnema?
Leah: I am delighted, and honored, and I hope that I serve my role as the lobster- bringing it to the world-
Leah: Ambassador of Lobster ... I decided I'm gonna talk about my personal history with lobster.
Leah: Then, I'm gonna talk about lobster's history.
Nick: Oh, gosh ...!
Leah: Then, we'll move on how to eat it.
Nick: We do have a limited amount of time.
Leah: Okay. I'm gonna make these real quick.
Leah: Hurtful, but I'm gonna make it quick. This is just a really funny story. I'm from rural northern Maine, northwestern, which is not coastal Maine. People associate lobster with all of Maine.
Leah: But that's not where I'm from.
Nick: Am I doubting your credentials about lobster-eating now?
Nick: Okay [Laughing]
Leah: I'm just saying I didn't step outside ... I'm not from the docks. You know what I mean?
Leah: I'm not from the coast.
Nick: Okay [Giggling]
Leah: We're not having lobster at every meal.
Nick: All right.
Leah: It was a treat.
Leah: My parents, they loved this one lobster place down on the coast. It was about a two-and-a-half-hour drive, three-hour drive. It was the first time I'd ever had lobster. They took me down. It was like a summer ... Everybody dressed up in their nice clothes, you know?
Nick: How old were you?
Leah: Old enough that I have a memory-
Leah: -but under two digits.
Leah: I walk in; I see the lobsters alive in the tank. I love them. I'm bringing to animals. Then, we go to the table and then, we order lobster, and they serve it. I, at that moment, realized that that was the lobster that I'd seen-
Nick: Connected the dots ... Okay [Laughing]
Leah: I don't remember it being that loud, but according to my parents, it was egregious- not egregious; they weren't embarrassed because they get me, but I started sobbing.
Leah: I screamed, "That's somebody's mommy!"
Leah: Because I was like so ... I'd had so much fun talking to the lobsters-
Nick: I see.
Leah: -and I just kept screaming, "That's somebody's mommy!"
Leah: So, that's my first lobster experience. I just thought that was delightful-
Nick: No, that's delightful. Yeah. I mean, it's interesting how you've been this way for a very long time [Laughing]
Leah: I've been this- I'm very sensitive about [Laughing]
Nick: Okay, so we did not have lobster that time, so that was actually not your first experience eating lobster-
Leah: I'm sure I had to be dragged out; just dragged out, sobbing.
Leah: I did work at a lobster resort during college.
Nick: What is a lobster resort?
Leah: People would come ... Any of the harbors - Boothbay Harbor, Bar Harbor. People would come for a week; they would rent a cabin ...
Nick: So, a resort-
Leah: A resort.
Nick: Not a lobster resort.
Leah: Well, they have a lot of lobster dinners. They would sail, that kinda stuff.
Leah: Then, dinner would be seafoods. We always had to serve the lobster, unlike it's regularly served. We actually had to hold the lobster in a sitting position, so the lobster would hold the butter. Then, we had to get that out to the tables-
Nick: Just to clarify, the lobster is in a sitting position. You, as the waiter, not in a sitting position [Laughing]
Leah: Me, as the waiter, walking. Walking-
Nick: You're walking. So, you mean that the lobster's turned upside down?
Leah: Yes, and then-
Nick: So, it's more like a boat.
Leah: -and it's holding the-
Nick: Holding a thing above, like a little ramekin?
Leah: Like a little butter thing.
Leah: So, I've had a lot of lobster experiences.
Leah: Some places, you slice the lobster, so the shell's already cracked for people.
Nick: That feels like cheating a little bit.
Leah: That's exactly how I feel about it.
Leah: I feel like don't have lobster, if you want somebody else-
Nick: Yeah, or why are you even talking about it, then, because where is there any challenge?
Leah: A part of lobster, unless you're gonna have a lobster sandwich, is doing the work.
Nick: Okay, that's part of the experience.
Leah: That's how I feel about it.
Nick: Yeah, no, I think that's true. Yeah.
Leah: You get in it! You get down- you have your pick, and you have your nutcracker.
Leah: I believe the right way to do it is you twist off the claws.
Nick: That was Leah making a little [Giggling] claw gesture with her hands, which you cannot see on the podcast ...
Leah: Right. You twist off the claws.
Nick: Okay [Giggling]
Leah: Then, the claws are in two- there's a knuckle-
Leah: Then, you can break those.
Nick: Well, there's the big part of the claw, the upper part, and then, the thumb-
Leah: A little thumb. That's easily breakable.
Nick: Right. We're using technical terms for all of these lobster parts-
Leah: I'm pretty sure it's actually called a knuckle [Laughing]
Nick: Yeah? Okay [Giggling]
Leah: Then, you get in there with your pick. The other thing you break off is ... The tail is the other major part.
Nick: Well, let's just back up for a second. I am rolling up to Ogunquit, Maine. I wanna make sure that nobody thinks that I'm not a Mainer, so-
Leah: They know immediately that you're not a Mainer.
Nick: Right, but I wanna pretend. I wanna live this fantasy. How do they know I'm not a Mainer? I'm wearing my L.L. Bean moccasins [crosstalk] No?
Leah: We just know each other.
Nick: That's true. There's like four of you, yeah, that's true. Like, "Oh, I didn't go to elementary school with him." So, I walked in, though, and I wanna try and be as authentic as possible. I sit down at the table, and now, I'm presented with a bib, right?
Nick: Okay, so bib is happening.
Leah: When I put the bib on-
Nick: Now, sidebar - I was looking into this and what Miss Manners had to say, and what Emily Post and everybody had to say about lobster. Interestingly, Andy Warhol, I think, did the lobster-eating illustration for Amy Vanderbilt's book, which I thought was interesting, that Amy-
Leah: Which is so not Maine ...
Nick: Andy Warhol doing a lobster illustration?
Leah: With a Vanderbilt?
Leah: This is not Maine.
Leah: You need to walk in. You need to get off your John Deere. Did you come in in a truck?
Nick: Oh, I'm driving my tractor to this place? Oh, yeah. I'm not from Maine ... But Miss Manners was saying two conflicting things along the history. I guess when you've been in the etiquette business for so long, you start to contradict yourself. One time, she told somebody that if you wanted to eat lobster without a bib, you should just do it at home. Then one time, she said that- or she hinted that she's so good at eating lobster that she doesn't need a bib. So ... [Giggling]
Leah: Oh, wow! I mean that just feels like a dare or something.
Nick: I think what she said was when you know how to do it, you can be, "spared the indignity of the bib." So, that's Miss Manners.
Leah: I think I enjoy the indignity of the bib. That's really-
Nick: Because when else are you wearing bibs? That's a bad question for you [Laughing] In general ... When else in society do we get to wear bibs?
Leah: Yeah, enjoy it! It's a part of it-
Leah: Because it's gonna spray a little bit, and it's fun!
Nick: So, now my whole lobster has arrived.
Nick: So, what part do I start with first?
Leah: You're gonna break the claws off first.
Nick: Okay, so claws come off first.
Nick: Am I eating the claws first?
Leah: You could also ... I think this is an emotional choice. Do you wanna break it all up first, or do you wanna break it up as you go? I would break the claws off, then, pop the thumb off, eat the claws, then pop the tail, and then, end in the middle, because that's a little dicey.
Leah: I think some people like to break the whole thing up first.
Nick: So, prepare it all.
Leah: Prepare it all.
Nick: Get all the meat out. Do all my picking, do all my labor, and then, afterwards, enjoy the fruits of my labor.
Nick: And either are okay?
Leah: As far as I'm concerned.
Nick: Okay, well, 'as far as you're concerned' is the correct answer, as the authentic Maine person, yeah.
Leah: I think part of being from Maine is that we're very casual.
Leah: I did have a little hot history for you, because I didn't- I wanted to live up to your ... It's that in the 1700s-
Nick: Oh, gosh, going way back!
Leah: -the lobster was so common that people called it, and I'm quoting, "The poor man's protein."
Leah: They gave it to like prisoners.
Nick: Oh, how things have changed.
Leah: Yes! Then, in the mid-1800s, Maine started the first lobster pound.
Nick: Oh, okay.
Leah: Then, it caught on in Boston, and New York, and when that happened, that's when it started getting fancy.
Nick: I see. Yeah. I mean, I think, for me, I would never think to order a whole lobster in a fancy restaurant. I feel like it's not compatible with that [crosstalk]
Leah: Well, a lotta times, when you go to a fancy restaurant, they give you a steak, and a half a lobster; a lobster tail.
Nick: Oh, like surf and turf, yeah. I guess a tail is not that much labor involved [crosstalk]
Leah: A lotta people don't wanna get in there with the tomalley.
Nick: So, let's talk about the tomalley. The tomalley is this sort of green-y, liver, lobster-
Leah: It's the liver and the pancreas.
Nick: -concentrate that is in the middle part of the body.
Nick: So, I guess it's very controversial, or people just don't like it; a lotta people don't like it.
Leah: Some people love it. They're like, "Oh, I like to put it on toast." Some people are in.
Nick: Yes. It's polarizing.
Leah: I think you're allowed- I don't eat it. I don't bring it up when I'm eating-
Nick: Okay, we don't talk-
Leah: I don't flag to the table, "Eww!" You know what I mean? I just delicately move it to the side with the remaining shells.
Nick: So, it's acceptable to not eat it.
Nick: Okay. What about roe, if it's a female lobster?
Leah: I mean, it's your call.
Nick: Okay, but similar rules. Like, if I don't wanna eat it, it's fine, and no one will judge me for not eating it?
Leah: Yes, I think that's correct.
Nick: Is it okay to offer it to a fellow diner, or we don't do that?
Leah: You know me.
Nick: Okay [Giggling]
Leah: I would. "Oh, do you love the roe? Why don't you have mine?"
Leah: I don't know ... I also ask people, "Are you not eating your pickle?" because I love a pickle.
Leah: So, I don't know ...
Nick: What is actually acceptable, and what you would do [crosstalk]
Nick: There's some ambiguity. Fine. Then, where do I put all of my carcass parts? Do I leave this on the plate?
Leah: There will be a bowl in the middle.
Nick: There will be a bowl. So, I just put it in there as I go along.
Leah: Yep, goes into this ... Often, people will come through, and dump it, and come back.
Nick: Oh, they'll occasionally decant it.
Leah: Yeah, they will decant the shell bowl.
Nick: Okay [Giggling]
Leah: Obviously, they'll give you a little tin cup [crosstalk] for your butter. It'll be warm butter, so you can just dip your lobster right into the butter. Many would argue that lobster is just a vehicle for butter.
Nick: I guess you have your individual butter, so it's fine to double-dip in your own butter.
Leah: Yeah, double-dip that!
Nick: Right. Okay. Now, at the end of the meal, now my hands are all lobstery-
Leah: You are gonna get a little hand wipey-
Nick: So, no finger bowls.
Leah: There's no finger bowls.
Nick: Okay [Giggling] I mean ... I would like a nice finger bow, but, okay ... So, I get a-
Leah: A towelette.
Nick: Towelette. Moist towelette [crosstalk]
Leah: They usually give you a whole pile of them because one's not gonna be enough.
Nick: Okay. Now, we didn't know about lemon. Am I allowed to squeeze lemon on lobster?
Nick: That's fine. Okay.
Leah: I think people ... It's been my experience that lemon always comes with all seafoods.
Nick: True, yeah.
Leah: Squeeze on your plate, as needed.
Leah: I wouldn't go around squeezing it on other people's lobsters.
Nick: Yes, I think squeezing lemon on other people's lobsters? Frowned upon.
Leah: Frowned upon.
Nick: Frowned upon.
Leah: I think, really, with lobster, get in there and enjoy it. I like to try to get all the meat out ... Have a good time!
Nick: Yeah, okay-
Leah: Make that bib work for its money!
Nick: Fair enough! Then, I guess when we're done with the lobster, I guess we would wanna remove the bib, and I think we'd wanna fold it nicely, and I think we'd wanna put it to the left. I feel like that would be [crosstalk]
Leah: If you get it off you, and you make it in a way that people can pick it up-
Nick: Okay, you're just gonna wad it up.
Leah: I think I'd also ... I don't know? Possibly, people put it in the bowl where the shells are?
Nick: Oh, it goes in the communal shell bowl. Okay.
Leah: I don't know.
Nick: No, I could see that. Yeah.
Leah: I've often worn my bib home [Laughing]
Nick: I'm surprised you don't bring your own bib.
Leah: That is a great idea. I may do that moving forward.
Nick: Yeah! Well, thank you, Leah.
Leah: Thank you!
Nick: I learned a lot about lobster, and I am ready to tackle this crustacean.
Leah: I get so nervous that I'm not just presenting my experience. I looked it up. I hope that I did well by everybody!
Nick: I believe that you have done your state proud.
Leah: Thank you.
Nick: And if you haven't, I'm sure we'll hear from people [Laughing]
Nick: We're back, and now it's time to take some questions from you guys in the wilderness.
Nick: So, our first question is: "My question concerns comments on people's origins. My five native New Yorker friends - [She actually wrote it phonetically] - and I took a girl's reunion trip to Nashville. When our Uber driver asked, 'Where y'all from?' we answered enthusiastically, 'New York!' Mr. Uber's response was, 'I hear New Yorkers are rude.' Kind of a rude response from a genteel Southerner, no? How would you have handled this? I must admit we were not rendered speechless. One of my friends responded in a New York minute, 'I hear Southerners are stupid ...' I found this very funny and very satisfying, but when I recount this story, another friend says she feels uneasy with that response and did not like it. We had just arrived and had yet to learn about Bless your heart. I suppose that could have been the appropriate response, but really, I prefer a blunt but genuine New York response." All right, Leah. Are you rude?
Leah: Am I rude?
Nick: I guess you're not a New Yorker [Laughing]
Leah: I feel like I'm a New Yorker at this point.
Nick: For sure, yeah.
Leah: I think people think New Yorkers are rude -which, this is not the question - just because New Yorkers are in a hurry.
Nick: I think that's part of it. I think part of it, also, that New Yorkers tend to be a little more forward and blunt, so that comes across as maybe a little rude if you're not used to that.
Leah: But I think it's because they're in a hurry [Laughing]
Nick: Yeah, fair. Yeah, that's true. Yeah, we do have places to be. So, I guess my initial response here is that we do not want to add more rudeness to the world, so we do not want a ruderesponse to a rude statement.
Leah: I 100-percent agree. I always feel like always take the high road.
Nick: Yeah. I think I've experienced a similar flavor because, I mean, I'm- I live in New York, but at the end of the day, I'm not a New Yorker. I experience this when I travel abroad, where people make comments about the United States, and I feel obligated to defend my country for some reason [inaudible] just say disparaging things about the United States. I guess you have a couple choices on how you wanna respond. One is just to say, "Oh ..."
Nick: And just leave it at that. Yeah, "Oh ..." Just sort of a withering, "Oh," and not respond. I think that's fine. The other option is to take great offense and apologize; like, "Oh! I'm so sorry to have offended you! I didn't realize we were being rude. I'm so sorry. Would it be better if we took a different Uber?" You could just have an extreme reaction and assume that they thought that you were being rude in this moment and apologized profusely for it. That's a dramatic approach. Requires a little flair; a little acting ability.
Nick: But I like this option. No? You're not on board with this?
Leah: I mean ... I see where that's ... I mean-
Nick: Okay, put it on the whiteboard.
Leah: We're putting it on the whiteboard.
Nick: Put it on the whiteboard. I think you could say the more honest answer, which would you be like, "Oh, that hasn't been my experience, and I'm sorry you feel that way about the place that I call home." I think you could say something like that. It's a little pointed. It kinda twists the knife a little bit when you talk about the place that you call home, but I like that answer.
Leah: I like that answer. I also like saying, "Oh, that hasn't been my experience ..." I think we don't wanna ... For the taxi driver, I think, in his mind, he was kind of joking, which doesn't excuse it.
Leah: But I think we never wanna joke about where people are from and the things people say about them.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, I think we want to address it. Yeah, that's true. I don't think we wanna let it go.
Leah: So, we don't wanna respond with somebody's error of making a joke about where you're from and what's wrong with the people from where you're from with what is the rumor of what's wrong with people where they're from.
Nick: Yes, agreed.
Leah: Because I feel like some people actually miss the point of that.
Nick: Yes. I mean, I guess how about an answer, which is like, "Oh, well, there's 8 million of us, so it's hard to generalize ..."?
Leah: I mean, that's very ...
Nick: I like that.
Leah: I like that, too.
Nick: Or to do what you did up top, which is just explain why people think we're rude, which is like, "Oh, you know, we tend to be more direct. We tend to be in a hurry. If you're not used to that, that definitely comes across as rude, but we don't mean it that way."
Leah: Yeah. I mean, obviously, I understand people don't deserve explanations, and it was this person- the taxi driver said something first. I just love to explain things to people.
Leah: So, I would do that. I'd be like, "Oh, I'm not really from there, and that was my ... But now that I've lived there, I realize it's just because people are in a hurry and, in general, people are really kind."
Leah: Then, if they don't change their tone, then maybe I drop a little hottie-tottie on 'em.
Nick: [Giggling] Okay.
Leah: But, at that point, maybe they would just see me as I-
Nick: I wanna see your little hottie-tottie. Yeah, I wanna see what that'd look like [Laughing] Yeah.
Leah: You know, give 'em a little information.
Nick: Or, if you wanted to respond but didn't want to get into a conversation, I guess you could say something like, "Oh, well, I hope that won't be your experience with us today."
Leah: Ooh, that's a nice one.
Nick: Just leave it there. Let's not try and explain what New Yorkers are. Let's not try and explain why he's wrong and rude, and just-
Leah: I like that one, too. I'd be like, "Well, i hope you like me!" [Giggling]
Nick: Yeah, that definitely hits all your buttons, yeah ... "Please like me!" [Giggling] That's what we would do. I think we gave a lot of different [crosstalk]
Leah: I think my buttons would be, "Let's just get along!"
Nick: Yeah, like, "Oh, can we be friends? Can we hang out later?" Yeah. Our next question-
Leah: I'm not gonna feel bad about that, by the way, that I'm like-
Nick: No, nor should you!
Leah: -that I want people to get along.
Nick: You should find friendships wherever you can.
Nick: Our next question is: "This question came up in my knitting group ..." P.S., I love that so many knitters like our show. It's great! " ... If you make a birthday cake and bring it to a party, does the person celebrating their birthday get to choose when to cut it? As in, do they get to decide to cut it at any given time without notifying the baker of the cake or anyone else, or must they wait until everyone, including the baker, is gathered to do so?" Sooo, I love the scene that has been painted.
Nick: I wrote back. I wanted a little more color because I like the idea that we are knitting friends, and it was somebody's birthday, and that a cake was cut without authorization. The question is - was that wrong? I asked some follow-up questions just to fill in some detail. "How formal was this?" I asked. It was apparently a very casual weekend away at a rented house, so there was no official host. Very important detail. The cake, itself, was a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, and a chocolate ganache filling.
Leah: I like it because it's also that the party happened one place and then, the question came up in the knitting group.
Nick: Oh, we think that the knitters are not part of the birthday?
Leah: I think some of them were part of the birthday, but then, it was brought to the party later because it was clearly ...
Nick: So, the etiquette crime happened, and now we're sitting around knitting, and now it's like, "Well, let me tell you what happened."
Nick: Yeah. So, just to clarify what I think happened here, it was somebody's birthday; somebody made a cake; the birthday person just cut themself a slice - it was in the kitchen - and walked in the living room eating a piece of birthday cake. There was no Happy Birthday song; there was no gathering; there was no nothing. It was just like, "Oh, the cake was in the kitchen. I made a slice." That was it, and then, the baker obviously is a little concerned.
Leah: That was my takeaway, as well. I also want to just take a moment to say amazing! A peanut butter frosting with a chocolate ganache, all homemade ... Well done!
Nick: Yeah, I'm not mad at that. One of the nice things, when you bake for someone, or give a gift of any sort, is the enjoyment that you get seeing the person open it or enjoy the thing. Baking is fun because you get to see somebody enjoying the thing you just baked. So, when you deprive someone of that, this makes it less fun to bake for you.
Leah: I also think this is a situation where you bring food to a person's party, and it goes with all the other food, and people can come and go as they please.
Leah: That doesn't seem like this situation.
Nick: I mean, that's if you brought chips and guacamole to a birthday party, and you put it out on the chip table.
Leah: Right. I'm just giving this person a benefit of the doubt that they don't know ...
Leah: Also, though-
Nick: This is a birthday cake! Peanut butter frosting, chocolate ganache-
Nick: This was baked for the birthday person.
Leah: Well, on top of it, compounding the situation, it's multiple birthdays.
Nick: Yes. Oh, maybe I neglected to mention that. Apparently, it was more than one person's birthday that we were celebrating at this weekend away.
Leah: So, technically, everybody should have been there whose birthday it is for the cake.
Nick: True. Yes!
Leah: I feel like they didn't just cut the line of not letting the person who cooked it see them dig into it; they also maybe stepped in front of the other birthday people-
Leah: -who were perhaps waiting for a song.
Nick: So, two etiquette crimes were committed with this one act. Wow! This is a serious crime!
Leah: I think what happened was the person was so overwhelmed by the beauty of a chocolate cake with a peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache-
Nick: Oh, now, you're just an apologist. Okay.
Leah: They couldn't restrain themselves.
Nick: Uh-huh. Oh, I can imagine this cake was very tempting, yes, but etiquette requires restraint. So, yes-
Leah: I don't know what this person ... I guess the question is - is this appropriate, which we've decided is no.
Nick: I do not believe it is appropriate to just dig into a cake someone else has made for you to celebrate your birthday without letting them know.
Leah: Yeah, especially when it's multiple people's birthdays.
Nick: Especially when it's not just your birthday this cake is celebrating, correct, yes. So, yeah, I feel like this is pretty cut and dried.
Leah: Cut and dried, no pun intended. Cut and served!
Nick: I mean, I hope this cake wasn't dry ... With all that ganache, how could it be?
Leah: I don't think it was dry; I was just trying to move on the cut part.
Nick: No, I know. We'll workshop it. We'll come back to it.
Nick: Our next question is: "I married into a large and opinionated family. There has been a family chat running since basically iPhones were available. I would really like to no longer be in it. At one point, probably eight years ago, I left the chat and then, someone added me back in. I'm working on setting better boundaries, and this is something I've wanted to do for a long time. Do I have to make a statement before leaving the chat? If so, what should I say? I don't want to be hurtful, but honestly, they can just be a lot to handle." Hmm.
Nick: So, I feel like I know what I would do, but let's hear it from you.
Leah: No, I'd like to hear what you would do.
Nick: I would mute it, and I would stay in the chat.
Leah: Oh, me, too.
Nick: Oh, okay! Okay. Because I think no good will come of making a statement, because what do you say - "I don't like you people. I don't like what you have to say. I don't want to hear your opinions ..."? There's no way to make any announcement that is not a comment on everyone else.
Leah: It's the family you married into.
Leah: Which I think, sometimes, we just take one for the team.
Nick: Right. So, I think we have to do that because we cannot leave. I think what you can do is mute it. Let your partner, who is presumably still in this group chat, alert you if there's anything that you need to know about or if ever somebody tags you in something and wants you to comment, but other than that, yeah, I think we just mute it.
Leah: Yeah, just completely ignore it. Then, if somebody says, "Oh, you haven't been responding," say, "Oh, I can't keep up."
Nick: Yeah, that's great, or, "Oh, gosh, I never look at my phone. Oh, I have so many alerts."
Leah: I do understand and appreciate the wanting to set boundaries-
Leah: -and take care of your mental health, but I think, in this situation, there's a way to take care of your mental health that may not throw up as many issues, and that's muting it.
Nick: I think the etiquette situation becomes much more complicated if you announce why you're leaving. So, I think not making any announcement is really the path of least resistance-
Leah: Yeah, just mute that.
Nick: -which, per etiquette, is the way to go. Yeah. But I think, in general, a lot of people are on group chats with friends or family, and they don't wanna be on those group chats because they find it toxic for whatever reason. So, I think this is a very common problem.
Leah: Oh, I think so, definitely.
Nick: I think it's a little trickier, the smaller the group chat is, because if you're on a group chat with only three other people and now you just sort of ghost, then this is maybe more noticeable, but ...
Leah: Also, I think the other people in the group chat, it's their responsibility to realize some people go back and forth all the time. Regular human beings can't be that involved in what they're doing, the rest of life.
Nick: That's true. Yeah, The group chat, or just text, in general, does make this ongoing dialogue that never stops a lot easier than you would ever have with a real relationship in real life.
Nick: Yeah, that's true. So, yeah, just mute it.
Leah: I feel bad because I always wanna support people in setting boundaries.
Nick: Who do you feel bad for? This family that is being ignored?
Leah: No, the letter-writer, that she wants to do this, and we're being like, "Just mute it." But I think that's the right answer.
Nick: Well, I think we're achieving the same goal for her, though. She wants to not have mental bandwidth spent on this group chat, so we are allowing her to achieve that goal without causing any drama.
Leah: Right, and she's- the way she doesn't have to say anything, it's kind of like leaving.
Leah: But it's not leaving.
Nick: -well, it's basically just muting it-
Leah: Yeah, mute it.
Nick: -and not paying attention to it. No, I think we really arrived at the perfect answer for this person, and we will achieve all of her dreams.
Leah: I love it!
Nick: We'll achieve all of your dreams, if you send us some questions. So, send them to us ... Send them to us at our website, wereyouraisedbywolves.com, or you can leave us a voicemail ((267) CALL-RBW (267-225-5729)), or you can slip into our DMs, or I guess, if you text us and don't mute us, you can do it that way, too.
Nick: So, keep 'em coming!
Leah: Keep 'em comin'!
Nick: We're back, and now, it's time to play a game we like to call Vent or Repent ...
Leah: [Singing] Vent or Repennnnnnnnt!
Nick: Which is our opportunity to vent about some bad etiquette thing that's happened to us recently, or we can repent for some etiquette faux pas we've committed. So, Leah, would you like to vent or repent?
Leah: I would like to vent.
Nick: Mm-kay, yes. Shocker, yeah [Laughing]
Leah: I also would like to make an addendum to something I said earlier.
Nick: Oh, okay.
Leah: Because I hate to walk away with still feeling like I have something ... When I talked about people from Maine being casual, and I brought up tractors, and trucks?
Leah: That was a compliment, and-
Nick: Oh, I took it as such.
Leah: I just-
Nick: Oh, so you would like to repent for your previous statement about Mainers-
Leah: Well, no, I just wanted to make sure it came off as a compliment because there's nothing I want more than a truck. I look at them online! I thirst for the day that I would have a parking spot for a truck!
Nick: Okay, we are different [crosstalk]
Leah: I just wanna make sure that that's very clear.
Nick: I believe that your love of Maine and your respect for the people of Maine is unquestioned. So, I think anything you say about their truck driving to lobster bakes, all with love.
Leah: I just wanna make sure because some people make fun of people with tractors, and I meant that as a compliment.
Nick: No, I got you. Okay, so what's your vent?
Leah: People who stand in front of edifices!
Nick: [Giggling] Edifices?
Leah: I would say just stores, but it's also apartment buildings-
Nick: Any edifice. Uh-huh.
Leah: -with no mask.
Nick: Ah, okay.
Leah: You're just standing there congregating, and people have to go through you to get in. Okay, you've decided to not wear a mask. This is whatever. Don't stand in front of the door where other people have to go through you. Just move to the side!
Nick: Hm. So, you should be six feet away from the edifice.
Leah: Yeah! People will stand in the doorway, on their phone, and then no mask!
Nick: Is 'edifice' the right word here?
Leah: I don't think so. It's just what came to mind. I'm very hungry! [Laughing]
Nick: Okay. Yes, I feel like-
Leah: I would say buildings.
Nick: Okay, yes.
Leah: Private buildings, public buildings, entrances ... I would even say it doesn't have to be a building. Is it an entrance to a park? Just don't stand in the opening area.
Nick: Yes. In general, etiquette is about having courtesy for other people, and the whole idea with the mask-wearing is actually not for you; it's actually for everybody else. That's why we do it.
Nick: So, if you don't wanna wear a mask, okay, but by not doing it, you are affecting other people, so you do need to still have a nice social distance away from me, yeah.
Leah: You don't need to double down on not caring about other people by standing in the middle of where everybody has to go through.
Nick: Okay, fair. All right, this is fair. So, don't do that.
Nick: Yeah. For me, I would also like to vent, and I ... For whatever reason, I feel like I'm the last person that still calls people on the phone. There's a lot of voicemail in my life-
Nick: I just- I would love to not have so many voicemails, but I still live in a world in which voicemail happens. What happens is someone will leave me a voicemail, and there'll be probably a question in it, or a request, so now, I have to return your phone call. So, I will call you. I'll be like, "Hey, Leah, it's Nick. I got your voicemail." You'll be like, "Oh, hey," and then you repeat the entire voicemail live for me again, and don't take a breath for me to jump in. So, you repeat the entire two-minute question, blah-blah-blah, and it's like, "No, no ... I'm returning your call because I've received your voicemail. I listened to it. I am here to give you the information or the answer you are requesting. We don't have to go through this again." It's really tricky because if I interrupt them, it's difficult to interrupt them and be like, "Oh, no, I got your voicemail ..." So, I find this maddening. It's tricky on the other side of it, though, because so often people will return your call without actually having listened to your voicemail.
Leah: Right, which is rude.
Nick: Which is super-rude, but it's very difficult to have someone call you and be like, "Oh, I'm returning your call," saying, "Well, did you listen to my voicemail?" It's hard to ask that in a nice way. So, I can see how we've arrived at this, but I just wish, when you answer the phone, just say hello. Give me the opportunity to go into my answer for you before you feel automatic need to just do it all over again.
Leah: I feel like a person who knows you [crosstalk]
Nick: Well, that's the thing!
Leah: Should know-
Leah: -that you've listened.
Nick: Well, that's true, yes. I do come across as the type of person who would probably listen to your voicemail and have a fully formed response to it before I return your call. It's true-
Leah: Yeah, you're very thoughtful and organized.
Nick: I have that sense that I give off. Right ... I actually find, in general, that the etiquette crimes that are committed against me by people that know me, those are the worst, because you know I have an etiquette podcast! You know: Nick Leighton = Etiquette! You should be on your best behavior at all times.
Leah: Even if you're not into etiquette, and they know you, they should know you well enough to know that-
Nick: You should know better, yeah!
Leah: -you've listened.
Nick: You should know who you're dealing with, yeah.
Leah: I'll often call people back if I saw I missed a call, and it's somebody that I worry ... Oh, it's an emergency. You know what I mean?
Leah: But if it's ... If there's a full message, or a work thing ... Definitely, if it was you, I would know that you listened to the message.
Nick: Sure! Know your audience! Yeah, so that's my vent. It's just, if you leave me a voicemail, and I call you back, I have the answer for you.
Leah: Nick's on top of it!
Nick: I'm on it!
Leah: I think it's also you want people to know that you're on top of it.
Nick: Um, I don't necessarily need people to know that.
Nick: But it is sort of inherent in the way I live my life.
Leah: Yeah, that's what I mean [Laughing] You're like, "Don't you know me?!"
Nick: Yeah! You know what you're buying from the Nick Store. That's the merchandise I got for sale.
Leah: [Laughing] Buying from the Nick Store ...
Nick: So, that's my vent. Hopefully, it'll never happen again.
Leah: Fantastic! I wish you all great voicemails moving forward.
Nick: Uh, yeah. Fingers crossed.
Nick: So, Leah, what have we learned?
Leah: I really feel like I learned a lot about the history of how food is served.
Nick: Yeah, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Oh, my goodness! I learned all about lobster in an authentic Maine way, so I feel like I'm gonna trick people, next time I'm in Maine, and they're gonna think I'm local.
Leah: I think Maine people are always happy to have you be local. We're welcoming.
Leah: Others'll say, "You're not from here, but welcome."
Nick: Okay. Well, thanks, Leah.
Leah: Thank you, Nick.
Nick: Thanks to you out there for listening. If I had your address, I'd send you a handwritten note on my custom stationery. Please visit our website, and for your homework this week, I want you to leave a nice review for us because the algorithm and the way people discover our show are based on the number of reviews that we get, so we would like more of those. If you've already left us a review, update it! I'll take a fresh review!
Leah: Update it? [Laughing]
Leah: We're very grateful!
Nick: And please leave a nice review. Got something to say? Got some comments? Feel free to email me privately; happy to address them one on one. We don't have to use the review process to give us critiques. Thank you. So, that's my request. We'll see you next time!
Nick: All right, Leah, it's time for Cordials of Kindness, the part of the show that I try and bury at the end after people, maybe, are tuning out-
Nick: -where you make us say nice things, and I only give you 30 seconds to do it. Ready, set, go!
Leah: I would like to thank- she actually listens to the show, my friend, Coral, from home. I did a long set on Zoom, a comedy show.
Leah: It's very different performing online.
Nick: I'm sure.
Leah: Then, it was my first ... She came to the show online and then, surprised me. She had this poster signed in her square that said, "Love you, Leah!" It just-
Leah: -it made me ... I haven't left this apartment in three months, and it melted my heart, you know what I mean?
Nick: Aww, that's very nice, yeah.
Leah: It was so sweet! When I saw that sign, I just welled up. I just appreciate it so much.
Nick: I would like to give a shout out to my friend Patrick, who has been baking up a storm - like a lot of people have lately ... You know, there's a shortage of flour right now? [crosstalk]
Leah: Oh, yes, I saw that.
Nick: Yeah, the number of friends who have sourdough starter at home ... Oh, my goodness. But Patrick has really gotten into lemon bars. I've watched his journey of refining this. I think it's an Ina Garten recipe. I've been watching his journey making these lemon bars over the past several months, and he brings them to me, hand delivered with my doorman. It's so delightful to have all these lemon bars at home, which are very tasty-
Leah: That's so nice!
Nick: I really appreciate it, and it brightens my day. So, thank you, Patrick, for your baking efforts. [Buzzer Sound] I would like some more lemon bars, please.
Leah: That's so sweet!
Nick: [Giggling] That's it.