Jan. 9, 2023

Eating Off Trenchers, Butting Into Conversations, Serving Instant Coffee, and More

Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah tackle eating off of trenchers, butting into conversations, serving instant coffee to guests, and much more.


Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah tackle eating off of trenchers, butting into conversations, serving instant coffee to guests, and much more. Please follow us! (We'd send you a hand-written thank you note if we could.)

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EPISODE CONTENTS

  • AMUSE-BOUCHE: Trenchers
  • A QUESTION OF ETIQUETTE: Butting into conversations
  • QUESTIONS FROM THE WILDERNESS: I'm not a coffee drinker, but should I offer coffee to my houseguests? Should I eat the British way when in the UK?
  • VENT OR REPENT: Cutting in line, Using doors
  • CORDIALS OF KINDNESS: Thanks for the dog sitting, Thanks for taking our survey

 

THINGS MENTIONED DURING THE SHOW

 

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CREDITS

Hosts: Nick Leighton & Leah Bonnema

Producer & Editor: Nick Leighton

Theme Music: Rob Paravonian

 

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TRANSCRIPT

Episode 168

 

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Transcript

Nick: Do you eat your trenchers? Do you butt into other people's conversations? Do you use doors the wrong way? Were you raised by wolves? Let's find out!

[Theme Song]

Here are things that can make it better

When we have to live together

We can all use a little help

So people don't ask themselves

Were you raised by wolves?

Nick: Hey, everybody. It's Nick Leighton.

Leah: And it's Leah Bonnema.

Nick: And let's just get right down to it with our amuse-bouche.

Leah: Let's get in it!

Nick: So for today's amuse-bouche, I want to talk about eating in Europe in the Middle Ages.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: So Leah, have you ever been to Medieval Times?

Leah: I thought you were gonna say, "Have you ever eaten in Europe in the Middle Ages?"

Nick: [laughs] Or that. Yes, perhaps you have.

Leah: What's so funny is that Medieval Times is on my dream list of places to go to.

Nick: Dream list!

Leah: Dream list. Like, up there with ...

Nick: Oh, you want to go to Tiger's Nest in Bhutan, you want to see the Northern lights, you want to go to Medieval Times.

Leah: Yes!

Nick: I see.

Leah: Yes.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: I've never been to one.

Nick: I haven't either. I was on their website today checking it out. Interestingly, their menu involves tomato soup and corn, which are two things that were not in Europe in the Middle Ages.

Leah: I thought it was just like turkey legs.

Nick: No, no. They have some New World items. So I hate to break it to you: I do not believe that the tournament and dinner is authentic, but I'm sure it's a good time.

Leah: Oh, no!

Nick: [laughs] So what I want to talk about specifically is in the Middle Ages in Europe, this was a time before plates. People didn't have individual plates like we think of plates, like a white ceramic thing in front of you on the table. Like, that wasn't a thing in Europe yet. So the question Leah is, what did people do?

Leah: I mean, I feel like you could just take a turkey leg ...

Nick: Okay.

Leah: And just—you know, with your hands.

Nick: That's it. Just like right off the platter and into your face.

Leah: And maybe you mixed up some—something in your hand?

Nick: [laughs] Okay.

Leah: Do we have like a—a thing we could put it on? We don't have plates. Maybe we have, like, a bowl that we carved out of a piece of wood. I feel like maybe we could do that.

Nick: Okay, you're very close. So what we had was a trencher. And what a trencher is is a piece of bread. It's a stale piece of bread.

Leah: Mmm!

Nick: And it was used as sort of like a base where you could, like, have that chicken leg—although chicken actually was very expensive in the Middle Ages, because why would you kill an animal that you also use for eggs? So you probably wouldn't do that unless you were very wealthy. But let's say there was some meat of some sort, you would actually take it off the platter with your hands and put it on the trencher to catch any drips. And then that would be the base. It wouldn't go right on the table.

Leah: Hmm.

Nick: And what this was specifically was sort of a rustic bread thing that was sort of sliced in a disc shape, or it was maybe square, like little six-inch-long squares. So they came in different shapes and sizes. And throughout Europe, you know, there was different versions of this. This woman, Margaret Visser, who wrote a great book called The Rituals of Dinner, she actually says that sometimes they were colored to be more decorative. So they may be, like, yellow with saffron or green from parsley, or even pink with sandalwood. So you could actually get some very elaborate colors, I guess, in these trenchers. And also on the table, you actually have regular bread you could eat.

Leah: Oh! I was imagining I was just gonna eat the bowl when I was done.

Nick: No. So you actually would not eat the trencher. It was typically not eaten by you. You would either give it to the dogs, or they would be like alms for the poor. But you wouldn't eat the trencher. And because you wouldn't eat the trencher, the flour that was used was, like, not the best flour. It was like one step above this type of thing called horse bread, which was like the bread you would make for horses. Wasn't the best quality. And you also wouldn't put salt in it because, like, why waste salt, which was very expensive in Europe at this time, in something that you weren't really gonna eat? And so it really was sort of like just a stale plate thing.

Leah: Okay, Because in the beginning I was visualizing like, that was what you did with your bread that got stale. This is separately cooked, made differently specifically for this purpose.

Nick: Right. It is made specifically to be a trencher, to be a base for drip catching. Yes. It is designed for this purpose. It is not bread for eating.

Leah: This is my drip catcher.

Nick: Right! And why trenchers were cool at this time is that we didn't really have individual forks. Forks came much later in Europe, and so we weren't trying to slice things on our plate. Like, that wasn't a thing we were doing. So having something mushy is okay. We didn't need a hard surface to cut against. And so plates, like hard surfaces, really kind of rose up alongside the advent of the fork and the popularity of the fork. But until we got there, yeah, we were using trenchers. Now as we go along in the Middle Ages, there would be this thing that would go under the bread. So like a wood board, or if you were in a fancy household, like a metal plate that would go under the trencher bread. And those things were actually also called trenchers. So it'd be like a trencher board, a trencher plate. So that would happen, but you wouldn't eat directly on those things.

Leah: So it's like a trencher for your trencher.

Nick: Yeah, it's a trencher trencher.

Leah: I'm double trenched.

Nick: And there is this idea, like, oh, we don't use trenches anymore. But that's not exactly true because we have boards. So if you think of what a cheese board is, that's basically a trencher. It's not a plate. We wouldn't call it a cheese board a plate. It's a hard surface that you're using to hold cheese.

Leah: I don't know why this conversation is making me so hungry.

Nick: Because we're talking about food. [laughs]

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: And there's actually some dishes that do still have this trencher bread concept sort of built into them. Like, there's this French beef thing called Tournedos Rossini, which is like beef on top of bread. And I would even argue that, like, sometimes you get foie gras served over bread, and I think that is sort of inspired by this original trencher idea as well. And so I think we do still have this idea of, like, oh, meat on top of bread.

Leah: I immediately thought of—do you ever have soup that's in, like, a hard, carved out ...

Nick: Of course. I'm from San Francisco. Like, we invented the sourdough soup bowl thing.

Leah: Oh, did you?

Nick: I mean, I'm sure we didn't, but, like, we really took it to, like, the nth degree.

Leah: That's immediately what I visualize. Would we feel like this is a cousin to the trencher, even though you're gonna eat it?

Nick: I mean, I think it's in the world of bread as ...

Leah: Dishes.

Nick: ... serving dish.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: Yeah. I mean, I think it's in that world. But I mean, the trencher was designed not to be eaten, whereas hopefully the sourdough bowl that you're getting is meant to be eaten and is as delicious as the soup.

Leah: Definitely.

Nick: Also, one last thing which I think is actually kind of fun is that in The Aeneid, you know, Virgil's famous story, The Aeneid about Aeneas, trenchers are actually a major plot point in that story. So as you may recall, Aeneas was a guy from Troy, and there was that whole war thing with, like, the horse. And Troy did not win.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: And so Aeneas left Troy and he was basically going to wander the oceans, and eventually he was gonna be the founder of Rome. And there was a prophecy which was that you will not make it to where you're trying to go until your crew is so hungry they will eat the tables. And so the story goes along, and then one day all of his crew are picnicking and they are so hungry, they eat the trenchers. They have trenchers and they eat them. And then Aeneas sees this and is like, "A-ha! That is the end of the prophecy. We're good. This is where we're supposed to be. This is Rome." And so they ate the treachers. That was Rome. Major plot point.

Leah: I am so delighted by this. I love Nick's historical food journeys.

Nick: Yes! And this was a journey. Yes, to Rome. Yes. I mean, there were also people in that area before Aeneas got there, so it was like he didn't really found Rome but, like, it's a good story.

Leah: This whole thing was a great story.

Nick: So that's trenchers. So unfortunately, when you go to Medieval Times, I do not believe you will be given a bread trencher.

Leah: I'm gonna bring it up. I would say, "Do you guys have trenchers?"

Leah: I think you'd have to bring your own. BYOT.

Leah: "Is this BYOT?"

Nick: Yes!

Leah: Bring your own trencher?

Nick: And if it is, I think you should do it.

Leah: I think that we should both go, since you also haven't been, and we should make our own trenchers. Because it's also a fun word. And then we'll have shirts that say "BYOT," and then we'll just bring out our trenchers.

Nick: Um, okay. I mean, then we'll get thrown out of Medieval Times. What a story that would be. And I'm sure it takes a lot to get thrown out of Medieval Times.

Leah: Well, that's the name of our movie: Nick and Leah Get Thrown Out of Medieval Times.

Nick: [laughs] Okay, can't wait.


Nick: And we're back. And now it's time to go deep.

Leah: Deep and awkward.

Nick: So for today's question of etiquette, this actually is inspired by your request, Leah, and it's about people who are butting into your conversations.

Leah: Totally candid?

Nick: Yeah?

Leah: Not my request. It is my fiance's pet peeve.

Nick: Oh, okay. So this happens to him a lot.

Leah: So he was like, "Can you guys please discuss people who uninvitedly ..."

Nick: Yeah, it has to be uninvited.

Leah: "... enter our conversations?"

Nick: And we take requests. So happy to discuss it.

Leah: Happy to discuss it.

Nick: So I guess that's the key. It's the uninvited, right?

Leah: And I think it's usually a tad—it's not just like coming in. It's them, like, coming in and taking over.

Nick: Oh, it's about taking over.

Leah: Coming in and giving feedback.

Nick: Okay. Well, that's what it is. Because you would never chime in if you didn't have an opinion to offer.

Leah: Yes.

Nick: Right? Because otherwise, what is there to say?

Leah: I think there's also people who join conversations who kind of like—the example where maybe you and a close friend are catching up, and there's a person who kind of knows you sort of a little bit and comes and just stands there.

Nick: So the first thing I had on my list is where is this happening? Because if we're at a cocktail party and we're catching up, and then somebody sort of wants to enter our conversation, you know, a cocktail party is sort of that. You would actually let someone sort of join and cut in. That'd actually probably be normal to, like, have someone join you unless you were, like, really in a very private conversation and it was very obvious to everybody.

Leah: Yeah. No, I feel like at parties, that's sort of like we're all here, we're doing this.

Nick: But if I'm, like, having a conversation with you at work and we're in the hallway and we're discussing something, and then a colleague just, like, walks up and then, like, joins in and offers their opinion unsolicited, yeah, that's a different thing.

Leah: Totally different. But I do think sometimes you'll be in a close conversation and people just miss the cues. They didn't realize it.

Nick: Yeah. Oh, that's true. And if you weren't eavesdropping to actually hear what the conversation was about before joining ...

Leah: You wouldn't know.

Nick: You might not know, yeah. And sometimes people just do this. This is just who they are. They just like jumping in, and there's not much we can do about it as the people in the pre-existing conversation.

Leah: No. I mean, what, are you gonna wear a shirt that says ...

Nick: I mean, that's an option.

Leah: [laughs] "In convo. Come back in five minutes."

Nick: So what do we do about this then? Like, what do we do about it?

Leah: I mean, you're either gonna have to address it or you're gonna have to give up and just have them in the conversation.

Nick: Well, I guess let's say we're actually having a conversation where I want your advice on something and we're discussing some matter, and I'm asking you, like, your opinion. And now this third person—let's call him Chad—Chad comes up and like, "I have ideas for you." And it's like, "Oh, we didn't ask you, Chad." So how do you say that In a nice way?

Leah: I think there's a way to say, "Hey, Nick and I go way back and we were just catching up about this one thing real quick. Let us finish our convo, then I'll go swing by and say hi."

Nick: Okay, I guess that works for, like, a colleague, or I guess that works for a cocktail party situation.

Leah: Because sometimes also it's somebody you haven't seen for a long time or somebody who's a really close friend, and you just need a quick second to, like, catch up on a personal thing.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: And I think if you can say it in a way that isn't like with any kind of a tone.

Nick: Mmm.

Leah: Not just to not sound like "Please go away," but also that you don't sound like you feel bad that you're asking them to go away. So you're just sort of saying, "I just have to finish this really quick, and then I can't wait to talk to you."

Nick: Yeah. No, it's the NJVN—non-judgmental, value neutral, just thank you so much.

Leah: [laughs] Oh, NJVN.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: Per ush.

Nick: I'm going to try and make that catch on. [laughs]

Leah: I think you should make it catch on.

Nick: But yeah, I think that would be the idea is you want to make sure the tone is very value neutral, non-judgmental. And so that would be the way to handle it. Yeah, just like, "Oh, thank you so much. That's not this. We'll see you in a second."

Leah: "And I'm excited to see you!"

Nick: Yeah, and a little enthusiasm. And I think that principle of, like, oh, when you want to shut somebody down, but giving them something else, that is useful here. So, like, I'm gonna shut you down here, but I'm gonna give you the enthusiasm of having a new conversation in a minute. And so it's like, oh, it's not forever. It's just like not this thing.

Leah: Yeah, and it's not even about them, it's just that you had this other relationship with this person. You're closing out a thing on that.

Nick: And then I guess if this is somebody you have a relationship with and see all the time, and if this is somebody who does this all the time, then I guess you could have a polite-yet-direct conversation with them about, like, "Oh, this is a thing I've noticed that you do to me, and I would rather that not happen. And so let's discuss it." I think you could do that in a nicer way but, like, that would be the sentiment. It'd be like, "Oh, how can I highlight this issue for you, which you are clearly not aware of?"

Leah: And I think that's good for this other option where you're in a conversation, and maybe you're even in mid-sentence. I have noticed that some people just come in and start talking. They just come in, they take over with no awareness that there's already a conversation going.

Nick: And I think it's an important point to assume that this is not nefarious. Like, they just weren't aware that this was happening, that they didn't intend to butt in and then offer their opinion about something they weren't asked about. Like, we just have to assume, oh, perhaps this is actually just innocent and not intentional.

Leah: I've definitely walked up on conversations when people were the only people I knew at a party, and then I realized it seemed like maybe I interrupted a flow that was happening.

Nick: Mmm.

Leah: So there was that as the person who accidentally joins the conversation in that moment of like, "Oh, were you in mid-sharing your deepest secrets?"

Nick: Yes.

Leah: "I'll come back." And then there's a little dance, and then, you know.

Nick: Because the polite thing to do if you were actually gonna break into a conversation we were having is I would invite you in and be like, "Oh, me and Leah, we were just discussing the latest season of Love is Blind. Have you seen it?" And I would then invite you and prompt you to join our conversation.

Leah: Well, I also feel like that's the cue that it wasn't a private conversation.

Nick: Right.

Leah: And if I don't get that, that's when I sort of excuse myself in case they wanted to finish something up.

Nick: Right. Yeah, I guess you just want to kind of be mindful and sensitive to, like, oh, how did that go?

Leah: But then there's the person that we started out in the beginning who just comes in and offers advice on things that they weren't asked.

Nick: Yeah. When I think about, oh, joining conversations when they weren't invited, that's really what I'm thinking of.

Leah: I mean, that's really the one that gets one's goat.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: And I'm not kidding.

Nick: Oh, no. Mmm.

Leah: We should have at least—I feel like we haven't had a horrible Leah pun in at least three episodes.

Nick: Yeah, I think because my editing is getting better.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: [laughs] So long story short, if we're just more mindful when we are in the conversation, when we want to jump into a conversation, I think if there's just a little more mindfulness—which is of course what etiquette is all about—I think that would help make this less of a problem in society.

Leah: And I think we could all just adopt a response where when somebody interrupts and says something, we just stare blankly at them until everybody around us is uncomfortable.

Nick: Great. Yeah, that's—put it on the whiteboard.

Leah: I feel like I've actually done that.

Nick: Oh, I'm sure you have. Absolutely.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: Yeah. No, I feel like you have moved it from whiteboard to practice.

Leah: I mean, you gotta try it out in the wild, you know? See how it works.

Nick: Yeah, gotta audition it. Yeah. Yeah, see how it works. And how'd it work, Leah? How'd it go?

Leah: Well, sometimes it's better to say nothing at all.

Nick: Yes. But yeah, staring deeply into their soul? I don't know if that needs to be paired with that.

Leah: That's just how my face sits.

Nick: Okay. [laughs] That's true.

Leah: It is true.

Nick: Yeah. No, it's absolutely true. Yeah. It's terrifying.

Leah: [laughs]


Nick: And we're back. And now it's time to take some questions from you all in the wilderness.

Leah: [howls]

Nick: So our first question is quote, "I'm not a coffee drinker. I know, I know. Insane! But I know most other people are. Ought I buy a coffee machine so houseguests can have a cup when they wake up? Is it rude to not have coffee for guests? I also don't know how to make a cup of coffee, so do I need to learn? I just feel bad when my guests have to venture out in the morning for coffee. What is the polite thing to do?"

Leah: I don't know why I love "Ought I buy a coffee machine" so much, but I really do.

Nick: [laughs] It's a fun phrasing.

Leah: It's such a fun phrasing.

Nick: Yeah, I like it.

Leah: And how lovely of our letter-writer to want to have coffeed their guests.

Nick: Yes, very considerate. And a good host, I think, is mindful of their guests' comfort and happiness. And so coffee in the morning, that definitely is part of that.

Leah: I think if you have guests like once every two years ...

Nick: Mmm.

Leah: ... but if you regularly have guests ...

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: I do think coffee is—I mean, if I go five minutes after I've been awake without coffee ...

Nick: Yeah, no one wants to see that.

Leah: [laughs] It feels like a little bit of a crisis.

Nick: Yeah. And it's really a benefit for you as the host, to not have cranky guests. Yeah.

Leah: I think it will really lift your spirits to have guests that are fully awake.

Nick: And I think it is nice to ask guests, like, oh, what do they like in the morning? And even go as far as, like, oh, what milk preference do they have, you know, for their coffee or their tea? So that can be part of the conversation when you're onboarding a guest, you know, asking them about anything in advance.

Leah: When you're onboarding a guest.

Nick: [laughs]

Leah: I also like when I go to people's houses and they say, "Hey, what do you want—what do you want in the house?" And I say, "Oh, I need coffee in the morning. I'm happy to bring coffee." You know what I mean? I'm also—but it's nice if you have a coffee machine.

Nick: Yes. And I think you do not need to have an elaborate coffee setup. Like, there's a lot of different ways to make coffee that are not expensive and easy just to put away when not in use. Like, you could get a classic American, like, pour-over-the-top-in-a-filter coffee thing. Or you could get a stovetop espresso maker, which is actually very nice. What I do when I'm going to a house that I'm not sure what the coffee situation is, or I know what the coffee situation is and it's not good, is I bring these things that I bought at MUJI, which is this Japanese store, although I'm sure you can get them elsewhere. And it's this thing that is a pouch of coffee in, like, a tea baggy thing, and it has these little paper things that kind of fold out and hook over the side of a mug. And what you do is then you pour hot water through it and it's like a one-person coffee filter making thing. And so I actually pack those with me. They come in little foil pouches. And so I always have a couple of those in my bag just for emergency use. And so that's what I do, BYOC, just because I don't want to be left without coffee.

Leah: BYOC. A) I love that so much. And B) right before you said that I was like, "Oh, you could have instant coffee in the house."

Nick: You could. Although as someone who does enjoy coffee, I'm not excited if you have instant coffee for me.

Leah: I'm saying this if maybe you have, like, a kitchen where there is not space for a little coffee pot or say there's an example like that.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: There are some nice instants. Like, Starbucks makes a single serve. It's just one, you put it in a—and that way you're getting them to their next coffee.

Nick: Okay, so it's a transitional item.

Leah: You at least have a transitional coffee ready.

Nick: I hear what you're saying, and I want to say that that's an acceptable substitute. But, like, it's not. Like, it's just—it's not gonna fly for me. I'm gonna note it. I'm gonna note it that in your house, all I had was instant coffee and now I have to go out and get real coffee. Like, I'm gonna flag it. I'm not gonna say it to you as a host, but I'm gonna note it.

Leah: I feel like when I was in Scotland, a lot of places I went had a kettle and an instant.

Nick: Oh, for sure. Oh, instant coffee is definitely a thing in a lot of places. Like, I remember traveling through Bhutan where, like, coffee is not a thing except for Nescafé. And I definitely strongly associate that flavor of Nescafé with, like, being in the middle of, like, nowhere. So I guess that's fun, but I don't want to drink it if I'm in your house.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: [laughs]

Leah: I will take instant over nothing. Happy to do it.

Nick: Would I do that?

Leah: Nick would rather you just get a coffee machine.

Nick: Well, I would rather you get, like, a stovetop espresso maker, which is very small. And it's just like you put coffee in it and put water and screw it on and then it percolates coffee up. Or I would get, like, the little single serve things like I mentioned. Or I guess, yeah, instant coffee in a pinch. But it's sort of like, you made the effort for that so, like, can you just make ever so slightly more effort to have something slightly better than instant coffee? I guess that's what I'm looking for.

Leah: I like to have an option in case there's no coming—out of the smallest apartment in the entire world. Of course, I would give up my whole apartment for a coffee maker.

Nick: Of course. Yeah, we don't need a bed.

Leah: But, I mean, if there was other things and you didn't have space for it, this is an option.

Nick: I guess. I mean, I think I have instant coffee in my go bag. So there is a place for instant coffee, I guess. Flashlight, money, copy of my passport, instant coffee. But yeah, it's not elsewhere in my apartment.

Leah: What is coffee—instant coffee acceptable for Nick? Traveling ...

Nick: Go bag.

Leah: ... and apocalypse.

Nick: That's it. Yeah. Although in New York City, you cannot evacuate Manhattan. It is actually, like, physically impossible. So good luck with that.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: So our next question is quote, "I'm presently in England visiting my brother and sister-in-law. My sister-in law invited me to her prestigious university's formal hall this Friday. I'm honored and excited for what to me will feel like Harry Potter time travel: excellent food and port, Latin prayers, gongs and gowns. My sister-in-law has helped me understand when to stand and when to sit for the fellows entering, et cetera, but I'm anxious about the dinner. Should I try to hold my cutlery UK style, with no switching hands with the fork as I'm used to? I'm afraid though, I'll be a messy eater. So which is worse? Potentially missing my mouth with my left hand, or switching and accidentally appearing to my British tablemates to be hoovering my food into my face by eating tongs up right handedly?"

Leah: A) It sounds very exciting.

Nick: Sounds very fun. Yeah, for sure.

Leah: So fun!

Nick: So what are your thoughts?

Leah: My first thought was: did you respond right when this came in?

Nick: I did, because this seemed like a culinary emergency.

Leah: It did seem a culinary emergency.

Nick: For which I'll respond to that.

Leah: I also—because we had this question in the recent memory past, I can't not remember this other letter-writer's comparison where she asked if they should spell in Australian English.

Nick: Oh, right.

Leah: Even though they're American. And they compared it to is that the same as speaking with a fake Australian accent?

Nick: [laughs] Right.

Leah: And I can't get that out of my head. So when I read this, I immediately thought: is switching your hands the equivalent of speaking with a fake British accent? And I mean, that may not at all be a—that's as an equivalency, but it just popped into my head because we've had that recently.

Nick: I love that idea that, like, if you switched hands now, you're somehow Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.

Leah: [laughs]

Leah: You switch hands and you immediately have an accent and people are like, "What just happened?"

Nick: So I guess my first thought is that I do try to blend in when I'm traveling. So when I travel abroad, I try to do the etiquette of that place. So, like, I drive on the left when I'm in Australia, or I'll slurp my ramen when I'm in Japan. So I do feel like it would be nice if you would do it the way they do it when you're visiting. So, like, as a baseline, that's like my first thought.

Leah: I think that there's a big difference though, between driving on the side of the road that one must to not cause major accidents.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: And if you can't use your left hand, and you're afraid you're gonna miss your entire face.

Nick: Right.

Leah: I feel there's a very wide—there's a cavern between those two.

Nick: [laughs] Okay.

Leah: [laughs] But I do like trying to do as the locals do.

Nick: Yeah. And I think in the UK especially, table manners are a lot about not drawing attention to yourself. Like, a lot of the table manners sort of have that as the foundational sort of principle. And so I guess the question is: which is gonna draw more attention: missing your mouth with your fork and, like, dropping food, or just switching? Like, which would actually be less distracting to the people around you?

Leah: I think just eating how you normally eat is probably less distracting.

Nick: Yes, I think that's what I would do and that's what I told this person. Just like, do it the way you do it.

Leah: That's how I felt. I do feel like I want to do things, you know, try to fit in with people's—but this I don't feel like is a—it's not just respecting anything. You're standing up. You're sitting down on all the right places.

Nick: Right. It's not disrespectful to their culture if you switch your fork, I don't think.

Leah: I don't think it's disruptive in any way to get food into your face the way that you are accustomed to.

Nick: Yes. So I think that would be the right answer here.

Leah: I also don't think that people will notice, to be honest.

Nick: And if they do, then that's on them. Like, I don't think there's anything we can do about that.

Leah: I mean, you're standing up, you're sitting down. I assume you've got the outfits on. You know what I mean? There's candles floating over your head.

Nick: Oh, I hope so!

Leah: There's wizards entering the room. I mean ...

Nick: [laughs] And so ...

Leah: I don't think people are gonna notice.

Nick: And interestingly, I did see a study where 30 percent of people living in the UK under 30 switch their fork like Americans do. Apparently, more and more young people in the UK are actually doing the switch. So isn't that interesting?

Leah: I was gonna say I—I bet that it's a little intermingled.

Nick: Oh, I bet it's not. No. I don't think it's intermingled. I don't know why younger people of the UK are starting to do it the American way, unless they're just watching so many Thanksgiving and Christmas movies from American television that they're just picking it up. But, like, apparently it's a thing.

Leah: I don't actually switch my fork when I eat.

Nick: Yeah, I actually do it the European way myself. I typically do it, unless I'm eating something where clearly it's easier to eat with, like, just the fork in the right hand. But normally yeah, I would probably just do it the European way. Not that I'm trying to be fancy. It's just like, more comfortable and easy. Well, and you're left handed.

Leah: [laughs] Yeah.

Nick: That's why you do it.

Leah: I'm not switching anything. I didn't want to bring it up top because I didn't want to feel like I was, like, fancy.

Nick: Don't worry, Leah. It's not—we're not in the danger zone of that yet.

Leah: [laughs] And then I was like, yeah, nobody will think that. So I just didn't want to throw that up at the top that I'm already not switching.

Nick: And the last thing I did tell our person who wrote in was that use this as an icebreaker. If this makes you self-conscious and you were worried that, like, everybody at the table is gonna judge you for this, just call it out. "I'm American. I wasn't sure what I should do at this meal because I normally eat this way. I'm not as good at the other way, and I want to talk about it. And, like, what do British people think?" And I'm sure they have thoughts on the American tradition of doing this. And did they even notice? Would they notice? Do they care? And so use it as maybe an icebreaker.

Leah: I love that. I was thinking it's just easy if you just bring it up yourself.

Nick: Yeah, sometimes just calling it out is just the easiest to diffuse a situation that feels awkward.

Leah: And this is a thing that I learned in stand up: if something is awkward and you feel awkward and you notice they feel awkward and it's not addressed?

Nick: Right.

Leah: It's just more awkward. Whereas as soon as you call it out, everybody then feels comfortable to talk about it. Moves on. It's not a big deal anymore.

Nick: Like if some audience member says something and people hear it?

Leah: Or if, like, sometimes you're afraid, like, you have something on your face, or—so you're, like, acting weird. Or you said something weird or, you know, just something happens, and then you're thinking about it.

Nick: Right.

Leah: People can sense when you feel off.

Nick: Oh, for sure. Yes. When you're not comfortable, that can often give off a vibe. Sure.

Leah: So then you just address. "Oh, I—I didn't check my face before I got on stage." And then we all have a laugh.

Nick: Right.

Leah: You know what I mean? Or, "Oh, I can't believe this—we said this." And then we all have a laugh, or we all talk about it and then we all move forward.

Nick: Yeah. So I think using that principle here would be a good idea.

Leah: And have so much fun!

Nick: Yeah, let us know how this goes.

Leah: I have such a visual in my mind.

Nick: So do you have questions for us about anything? Let us know! You can let us know through our website WereYouRaisedByWolves.com. Or you can leave us a voicemail or send us a text message: (267) CALL-RBW.


Nick: And we're back. And now it's time to play a game we like to call Vent or Repent.

Leah: [whispers] Vent or repent!

Nick: Which is our opportunity to vent about some bad etiquette experience we've had recently, or we can repent for some etiquette faux pas we've committed. So Leah, would you like to vent or repent?

Leah: I'm gonna repent.

Nick: Oh!

Leah: But I would like to say that I used my Were You Raised By Wolves?training.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: And I fixed it.

Nick: Oh, the student becomes the master!

Leah: But I wanted to share the process with our listeners.

Nick: Take us on the journey.

Leah: Because I recognized I would not have been able to fix—because this is—you always say, "Oh, it's so interesting that, like, you can do stand up and deal with all this stuff. And then when it comes to interpersonal situations ..."

Nick: Right.

Leah: So I realized it was happening as it—so I'm in—I'm at the airport.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: I'm in a line at Starbucks.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: Long line. I had enough time. I'm not in a hurry. I'm not trying to—two people in front of me are standing very close. I thought they were together.

Nick: Mm-hmm.

Leah: There's two different cashiers. The second cashier opens up, they both step up.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: And the next cashier opens up. I step in.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: The woman out of those two people steps in.

Nick: Oh, so they walked up together to one cashier, and you thought they were together in a unit gonna order together.

Leah: They weren't together. She was looking at the goodies in the thing.

Nick: I see.

Leah: But it was happening so fast I couldn't process it. Because she goes, "Oh, you can go." And I go, "Were you—"and then the lady was taking my order, and then it was all moving forward. And then as I'm giving my order, in my mind I'm like, "I just cut somebody. I cut somebody in line."

Nick: Well, let me just stop you right there. That person wasn't ready. They were perusing the bakery case. They weren't ready to step up to the plate.

Leah: But they were because the bakery case was—they were looking at it before they were next.

Nick: Okay. Interesting. Okay, loophole. Loophole. All right. Continue. [laughs]

Leah: So—and then this is usually where I would just, like, get my coffee and run away and feel horrible that I did something.

Nick: Right.

Leah: So I ordered my coffee, and it took a second to figure out what happened because I was like ...

Nick: Yeah, a lot of moving pieces, a lot of people standing. A lot of luggage.

Leah: Everybody's waiting. Yeah.

Nick: Right.

Leah: And then—I feel like normally I would just be like, "Aah! I did this and I feel bad!" I waited for my coffee. She came down to wait for her coffee. I just walked right over.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: And I said, "Hey, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to cut you. I thought that you were with the person that—I thought that you went up together."

Nick: Okay.

Leah: And then she said, "Don't worry about it. I was looking at the stuff."

Nick: Right.

Leah: And then we had a laugh. And—because I said, "Oh, I felt so bad." I was like, "No, I'm a line cutter." And then we had a laugh.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: And then we said, "Have great flights." And I felt it was gone.

Nick: There was a lightness.

Leah: It was a lightness.

Nick: There was a lightness. And it is possible that that person was super annoyed with you, and you also made their day better because they were like, "Oh, I can also let this go."

Leah: I definitely didn't want them to carry around "Oh, somebody didn't see me. They just cut me."

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: You know?

Nick: Okay.

Leah: Especially at an airport. You know, you're rushing. You're just like, "Can I just get my coffee? And now here's this woman cutting me." So I wanted to give her the full "Hey."

Nick: All right. So great! We used all the tools in the toolbox, and we prevented an etiquette crime.

Leah: And then I felt lighter. I went over there and I just apologized. "Oh, this is what happened. I wish you well."

Nick: And you meant it.

Leah: And I really meant it. Yeah, absolutely I meant it.

Nick: [laughs]

Leah: I cut. I cut. I was in the wrong.

Nick: And for me, I would like to vent. And so I just want to do, like, a little review on how doors work.

Leah: Okay. I don't know what this is, but it's already my favorite thing.

Nick: [laughs] They're new, so perhaps not all of us are, like, super familiar with them. And I really do think, though, they're gonna be like the next big thing when it comes to, like, getting through walls. So I think it is important to sort of review doors. So I'm at the Whitney Museum here in New York City, and the museum is such that they don't have escalators and the elevators are very slow. And so you have to really just take the elevator to the top floor, and then you have to take the stairs down. Like, that's the only way to navigate this museum. So I'm on the sixth floor. I've seen the exhibit. I'm gonna go into the stairwell and I'm gonna go to another floor. And the door opens into the stairwell away from me. So I push the door, but someone actually is right there and they open the door towards them. They're standing in the stairwell. Leah, what should happen next?

Leah: I would step back and let you through.

Nick: You're holding the door for me and you would let me through.

Leah: Yes.

Nick: Uh-huh. Yes. Because that is physics.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: And so that is not what happened. What happened is this person opened the door, and then tried to exit the stairwell past me while also still trying to hold the door open for me. So their arm is now behind them and they're hoping I'm gonna somehow catch the door, which is not possible because their body is between me and the door. And so then what they did is that thing where you kind of give a door a shove to make it sort of bounce open, and you hope that I'm gonna catch it because now you've darted away. So they did that, and they're like, "Oh, I hope you catch the door before it swings into your face." And I was like, this is not how this works. You need to hold the door open for me so that I can go past you, and then you can walk and have the door closed behind you. Like, that's how this works, because otherwise there's no other way to do it. Like, there just aren't options.

Leah: I feel like I'm such a visual. I see the whole thing happening.

Nick: Yes!

Leah: I think if we ever have a book, we have a chapter called "Doors."

Nick: "Doors: what are they good for?"

Leah: Train doors, subway doors, large buildings, stairwells.

Nick: And in New York City, I mean, there are times, like, in an escalator or an elevator situation where there might be somebody who's, like, clearly a tourist and you're like, "Oh, you probably just don't have that many escalators or elevators in your town where you're from. Okay." Like revolving doors. Not everybody has them. Not everybody is good at that. Okay, I get it. Doors, though? Doors. I feel like we all have doors.

Leah: [laughs]

Nick: We have a lot of door experience. Even children. Children know about doors, you know? It's not something you learn later in life. So it just feels like a reminder that when the door swings towards you and you're holding the door, you are now holding the door. And so please let the person, like, go through.

Leah: I think they even had doors when they had trenchers.

Nick: I think they also had doors back then. Yes. Also not edible.

Leah: [laughs] Also not edible.

Nick: So that's my vent.

Leah: I loved it!


Nick: So Leah, what have we learned?

Leah: I didn't even know that trenchers were a thing. Also, just what a fun word in general.

Nick: Sure!

Leah: And I learned a wonderful his—I went on a historic tour of a trencher, a literary tour of a trencher. And then I also learned that we're gonna go to Medieval Times together.

Nick: Can't wait! And I learned that nobody needs to see you in the morning before your coffee.

Leah: I mean, that is very true.

Nick: Well, thank you, Leah.

Leah: Thank you, Nick.

Nick: And thanks to you out there for listening. I'd send you a handwritten note on my custom stationery if I could.

Leah: He would!

Nick: So for your homework this week, we want you to go to our website and do everything. So we want you to sign up for our newsletter, we want you to check out our social media. We want you to click on "Monthly Membership"and see if that's something you want to do. So go to our website and do it all.

Leah: Do all the things.

Nick: And we'll see you next time!

Leah: Bye!

Nick: Bye!


Nick: All right, Leah. It's time for Cordials of Kindness, the part of the show that you make us do, but I only give you 30 seconds to do it. Ready, set, go!

Leah: So I want to do a huge cordials of kindness to my parents, because—well always.

Nick: Yeah, what did they do now?

Leah: [laughs] Well, one of the things that they do now, Dustin and I both did gigs on the East Coast for the month of December. And we were coming and going from their house, and they kept Lacy when we were both on the road at the same time.

Nick: Lacy is her dog.

Leah: Lacy is our phenomenal dog. And I can't even tell you how much I appreciate it. And Lacy had a great time.

Nick: Oh, that's very nice! And for me, I want to say thank you to everybody who filled out our listener survey. I really appreciate all the time that it takes to fill out a survey. And it was so great to get to know all of you a little better and hear about your lives and what interests you and what you like about our show. So really appreciate it. And thank you!

Leah: Thank you so much!