Question: I am troubled by this phenomenon: Diners photographing food in restaurants. This frequently involves flash photography and much standing up and sitting down. I am not referring to a place where the waiters and waitresses introduce themselves by name, or establishments that feature wacky wall furnishings, extreme nachos, a play area for tykes, or a tip jar. I am writing about a decent place with linen napkins.
Douglas in N.J.
Answer: Sometimes I think that people photograph more food than they eat. Whatever happened to just having a joyful experience and not feeling the need to put it on Facebook or Instagram or tweet it? That being said, I think if people can subtly (meaning without flash or fanfare) photograph their plates it's not crossing the boundary of bad etiquette. But if the photo session involves standing up, flashing lights, moving around, and annoying other diners, it becomes bad behavior.
I hope at some point we all reach a place where experiences like meals, sporting events, and everything someone's child does in a day don't all need to be documented. We may not know if a tree that falls in the forest makes noise if no one is there to hear it, but we can be sure that a child's first steps are still precious even if no one captures them digitally. That goes for an elegant meal, too.
Q: What about families that go out to a restaurant with their teenage boys and the boys never remove their hats (even sometimes the fathers don't, either), and the boys lean on their forearm and grab their utensils as if they are pitching hay. At what point will those parents teach their boys table manners?
I always wonder what happens when this boy falls in love with a lovely young girl who comes from a family where proper manners are practiced every day. Back in the '80s, and maybe even now, people made money consulting with businesses to teach middle- and upper-management staff table manners.
Jeanne in Pennsylvania
A: As my mother says when she agrees with a point, "You are so right." Hats should not be worn in restaurants and people shouldn't eat as if they've never seen food before. There are still a lot of folks teaching manners and blogging about etiquette, and the library is full of books on manners. But good behavior is probably best learned in the home, and apparently it's not a priority today for everyone.
Q: One member of my family has an unusual habit: She eats only one meal a day. It is the evening meal. If we celebrate a holiday at my home, am I obligated to consider her preference, even though it is not mine?
Christine in New Jersey
A: No. You have a family dinner, make the invitation, and it is up to the receiver if he or she would like to attend. If the meal is at a time the person doesn't eat, the family member could still come by and socialize and have a meal later at home. If you were inviting just this relative for a meal, it would be fine to respect the wishes, but when other family members are coming and you are gracious enough to host, you pick the time.