The Louder the Better

“Put down your plate,” my Aunt Lorrie whispers through laughter. She had taken me—and me alone, not my brother and my sister—to IHOP. I forget why I was singled out, but I felt special.

This was during the early years of my decade-long pancake obsession (from about age 6-16) and after the last of the pancake was in me, I slanted the plate toward my face and started to lick the remaining syrup.

This was clearly not appropriate in a Southern Jersey restaurant. Okay, no jokes. In any US restaurant. We just don’t show that sort of oneness with our food.

It’s probably from our stuffy British ancestors. But in America we have certain stoic standards of eating. Plates and bowls are kept on the table. No noises should utter from our mouths, except maybe a soft mmmm.

Being a dramatic type, I will show my appreciation through an extended closing of the eyes so that I may tune out the rest of the table to fully concentrate on the bite within me. I may utter a slightly-louder-than-normal mmmm. But that’s all. That’s all we do to communicate deliciousness. Well, and tip. But that’s another story.

Meanwhile, in Japan they’ve realized eating is a full-body sport. Chopsticks become an extension of the hand in a way that sharp metal objects cannot. It is fully expected that when eating one will bring a bowl of rice or noodles up to her face. Shoveling in rice. Slurping up noodle soup.

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