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Monday, 24 March 2014

Post the Seventy-fourth (in which our heroine despairs for the future of manners)

Manners, eh?  If your parents were anything like mine, you had it drilled into you early and often just how important manners are.  Please.  Thank you.  Excuse me.  After you.  Such small words, but with such a big impact.  And, as the cliche oft-observes, they cost nothing.  So why are they becoming more and more uncommon, if you'll allow me a small pun?  I'm running the risk of sounding really old and cantankerous here, but I've noticed a definite decline in the level of manners I see on a daily basis in the past few years, and it really, really irks me.  As I said, they cost nothing more than a nano-second of your day, so why do people treat them like a precious resource that there's only a finite amount of?

Upbringing is clearly a large factor in how unmannerly or otherwise a person is.  For years, I just assumed that everyone's parents were the same as mine and that no-one escaped the constant reminders of "Where's your manners?" that everyone in my family was subjected to.  Sadly, much observation has disabused me of this notion.  Sitting in my local pub yesterday afternoon, I watched as two young boys ran riot around the place - spilled plates of food, threw chips at eachother, mashed said chips into the floor and generally made life unpleasant for those around them.  Not once - literally, not one single time - did their parents (or, it has to be said, any of the large group of adults with them) look over from their own table to check on their offspring, let alone have a word with them to tell them to dial it the hell down.  Manners extend to more than just saying please and thank you; a concept that clearly hadn't occurred to these people.

There seems to be this idea now that manners are a strangely old-fashioned concept in today's vulgar, self-entitled "I'll behave however I damn well please" culture.  I actually don't think anyone is ill-mannered on purpose (or at least I hope not).  I think it's just that people have become so self-absorbed that it simply never occurs to them to consider whether and how their behaviour is affecting others.  People who won't avert their eyes from their phone for the two seconds it takes to place an order with wait staff generally aren't deliberately rude, they simply haven't stopped to consider that what they're doing is rude in the first place.  Same with holding doors open for people.  I do it without fail.  In fact, I'm probably guilty of doing it for people who are that little bit too far away, making it necessary for them to do that little half-run to the door cause they don't want to leave you waiting there too long.  But I've lost count of the number of women (and, sadly, it's nearly always women) who've let doors slam in my face when I'm walking in directly behind them.  Again, I highly doubt any of them are doing it in any kind of consciously bad-mannered way.  I'd guess that if you ran after them all and asked did they realise what they'd just done, 9 out of 10 of them would be mortified, but they still do it.  And I'd love to know why.  If I realise, and you realise, and any number of readers of this blog who are currently nodding along in agreement realise that some actions, or lack thereof, are inherently rude, why do these people not?  Were they never told in the first place, or have they just forgotten?

I'm not advocating a return to Emily Post levels of formality here.  Nothing of the sort.  But if people could be just a *leetle* more mindful of their behaviour, life would be unutterably more pleasant.  No?

So don't forget to thank me for this delicious recipe, for which I, in turn, must yet again thank Paul Flynn and Lidl.  We eat a lot of sweet potatoes in my house, but usually as an accompaniment, so I was only delirah when I spotted this recipe, which has them as the star of the show, in a main course.

Baked Sweet Potato with Feta - serves 2

2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed                          4 tbs olive oil
20g butter                                                     2 cloves garlic, crushed        
Good pinch hot chilli powder                      85g pumpkin seeds
200g rinsed spinach                                     200g feta cheese

1. Preheat your oven to 180C.  Cut your sweet potatoes in half lengthways.  Drizzle a baking tray with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Lay your sweet spuds cut-side-down on the tray and roast for about 40 minutes, maybe a bit longer if they're particularly mahoosive.  Like all potatoes, they're done when you can easily slide a knife into them.

2. About ten minutes before they're done, melt the butter in a pan and add the garlic & chilli powder.  Add the pumpkin seeds and toast for about 5 minutes, making sure they don't burn.  Add the spinach, bung a lid on, lower the heat and allow to wilt for 2-3 minutes, tossing every so often.

3. Plate up the sweet potatoes and squeeze the insides out a bit.  Divide the spinach mix evenly amongst them and crumble over the feta.  Enjoy.

Depending on your appetite (and the size of the spuds, obviously), a half potato may actually be plenty even for a main course.  That was certainly the case for me.  The good news is, these reheat really well, so the leftovers are perfect for bringing in to work for lunch.