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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner


The following is excerpted from “The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time,” published by Grand Central Life & Style:

To American television audiences, she is known as the not-to-be-messed-with JUDGE JUDY SHEINDLIN, but to her eleven grandchildren, ranging in age from five to twenty-one, she is just Nanna. One night she planned a formal family dinner, invited her children, their spouses, and their offspring. Oh, and one more special guest: a manners expert hired from the Internet!

LAURIE DAVID: Is it true you hired an etiquette expert to have dinner with your family?

JUDGE JUDY: Yes, but let’s start with why. My father was a fastidious manners person. He had a thing for good table manners, and I grew up hearing the words, “Close your mouth when you chew,” “Bring the food to you,” “Don’t talk with your mouth full.” If dinner was twenty minutes, it was twenty minutes of “Sit up straight” and all the rest. I believe I taught my children reasonable table manners, but not all of their mates had the same upbringing. I also think people today are so busy with just trying to maintain order at home with two parents working and shuffling back and forth between tennis lessons and bongo lessons and soccer that somehow the importance of good manners has gotten lost.

LAURIE: So one motive was perhaps to refresh the adults as well as the kids?

JUDGE JUDY: Sometimes a little bit of a brush-up is a good thing. Doctors, lawyers, CPAs go for continuing education. Why not do the same when you parent children? Not to mention the grandkids, who are wonderful and well schooled, but not all of them know how to hold a fork!

LAURIE: How was this idea received?

JUDGE JUDY: The children were very excited about coming to a fancy dinner party at Nanna and Poppy’s where they were going to learn etiquette and manners. They got all dressed up. There was really no fooling around. We started right away with how to sit down at the table the appropriate way, and for the young men to stand until the women were seated. They learned that when a bread basket is passed, you politely take a roll, you put a little pat of butter on your bread plate, and then you butter your roll.

LAURIE: Did you learn any new manners that evening?

JUDGE JUDY: I did. I learned that when you eat in a restaurant and you get up to go to the restroom, if you’re not finished with your meal, you are supposed to leave your napkin on the chair. But if you are finished with your food, your napkin goes on the table.

LAURIE: Your dad would be very pleased with your experiment!

JUDGE JUDY: He would have loved it. I remember, after I became a judge, going out to dinner with my father and ordering soup. He gave me a gentle reminder, “Darling, the whole spoon does not go in your mouth, sip it from the side.” He wasn’t afraid to say this to his daughter who now had a prestigious position. You’re never too old to be reminded!



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