Since the beginning of time, people have been eating: apples, pears, TV dinners and frozen pizzas.
We probably all started eating the same food - straight off a tree. But now, thousands of years since the First Meal, there are more than 6 billion people on the planet with stomachs. Throughout history, even in contemporary times, every culture has developed its own eating protocol.
In China it's polite to leave food on your plate. In Spain it's appropriate to brush crumbs onto the floor. In Germany you ought to cut your potatoes with forks, and in Japan you ought to slurp your noodles to show appreciation.
Here in the United States, at the University of Richmond, we have customs too. Unlike many countries, where meals are a formal affair that require circles of family and (in wealthier circumstances) slow consumption of food that has been carefully prepared, many Richmond students are on-the-go eaters - for breakfast, just a coffee, please; for lunch, a wrap from the Pier on our way to class; for dinner, a quick bite on your way from here to there; for dessert, who has time to burn those calories?
But I'm not here to berate Richmond students for the minuscule quantities of time we devote to one of the most important things we do each day. I know we're all busy, busy - very busy climbing our way to the top of the American pile. Instead, here are some tips for our nomadic meal plans, which often include eating in the classroom, at semi-formal meetings and in the library.
No. 1 - Avoid making prolonged, consistent or loud noises while eating in non-dining settings.
Chips: bad. Apple: bad. Rustling-brown-paper bag from the Pier: bad. Pop-top soda can: bad.
Smoothie: good. Bagel: good. Pop-Tart: good. Chewing with your mouth closed: good.
It's pretty hard to be completely silent while eating, but a little effort shows a lot of respect. I'm not a professor, but I can only imagine that there are few things more irritating than the pop of an aluminum soda can opening during the high point of a lecture.
"After years spent studying the hibernation patterns of purple monkeys, I've discovered the true meaning of life is ..." - SNAP! Shoooop. Ah! - "Oh, sorry. I lost my train of thought."
Maybe we should avoid carrots and celery too. It's pretty hard to concentrate when the person next to us is emitting a constant crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch.
This noise-reduction suggestion is nothing ground-breaking, just a request that we show a little more respect for the professors who teach us, the students who meet with us and the bookworms who study with us.
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No. 2 - Avoid eating food that creates a strong smell.
Some people love the smell of your Lean Cuisine lasagna at 9 a.m., but some probably don't. In fact, you might thoroughly enjoy the room-filling scent wafting off the orange you meticulously peeled during the first half of class, but not everyone cares for the aroma of freshly squeezed citrus (not to mention the fact that you may or may not be getting orange juice all over your books, desk or, in particularly careless situations, your computer).
It may come as a surprise to many of you, but not all Richmond students enjoy the odor of warm food. I even heard of one student who could smell yogurt (I never knew it had a scent). While we're busy trying to accomplish the day's task, eating in a designated dining zone might take a back seat, but the students around us shouldn't.
As one Richmond College library-goer said: "If you are going to be ordering Chinese takeout or rustling with a noisy concoction, please eat it in your dorm ... I am trying to do work."
No. 3 - Every once in a while, take a breath and take a bite while you're chillin' with your homies.
I love a good D-Hall hangout, and although it may not improve our etiquette, it may improve our quality of life. Maybe it's worth skipping moments with our friends in order to be successful for a lifetime. But is it worth being successful if it means we skipped all the moments with the friends we used to have in order to get there?
If you're a traveling chewer, take a few minutes (or hours) to smell the salmon or crunch on the potato chips, but please do it where those scents and sounds belong.
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