Friday, April 20, 2012

Chewing and Walking

Coming from a European background, some things are a given. Men have to wear a baseball cap or hat on the street, and tuck their tzitzis in. Women should be relatively dressed up when going out in public—no sweatshirts, for instance. 

As for eating? Only if starvation is imminent can one purchase an ice cream and leisurely lick it on Fifth Avenue. 

Public food consumption has become a topic of conversation as a legislator hopes to get on the books a law making subway munching illegal.
Eating in public was considered improper, even further back than the Victorian era the author attributes it to. 
"When the wise man eats the little which is sufficient (lit., 'fitting') for him, he should eat it only in his house at his table. He should not eat in the store or marketplace ('shuk') (except in cases of great necessity) so that he is not demeaned before others.- Rambam 
I don't particularly understand that whole "little which is sufficient" bit, but moving on to the eating in public thing . . .  

Rambam refers to it as "demeaning." Is it possible to eat with class and refinement without a proper table? Even then it's hard. Like when I finally get served by a wedding and I haven't put a thing in my mouth since lunch (I would suggest you duck . . .)

When searching for illustrative photos I came across this article by a seemingly Jewish gal from the UK. And she makes the point: is eating in the subway, or under a hair dryer, or while on the stationary bike, enjoyable? 

As Ms. Leve says, eating is also, in a way, an intimate experience, and seeing one partake in it seems like an intrusion of a private ritual.  

After writing up this post I found myself on a train platform munching on a cookie. Me, a cookie! In public, yet! It is way too easy to let one's guard down. 


Mystery Woman said...

A cookie is different than some of the meals you see being eaten on the train. And it doesn't smell. You have my permission to eat your cookie :).

Princess Lea said...

I don't have my own! I committed two violations:

I never eat cookies, I'm a cake person, and I certainly can't afford the extra calories.

And then I ate in public! My Zaidy would not be happy with me.

fudge said...

My experience is that eating in public or on the train is nobody's plan A. But let's say you were me last summer - working 3 part time jobs, none of which gave you lunch or coffee breaks, all of which were located in radically different boroughs in Manhattan. Sure, you can nosh on a sad little bag of kix at your desk discreetly, but at around 3 pm, as you emerge onto the street to hit the subway yet again, you are overcome by a desire for REAL food, which you will undoubtedly have to scarf down before you get to your fancy-pants internship....

Dignified? No. Options? Alas...

Princess Lea said...

As I said, "if starvation is imminent." And I'm not the one who wants to ban subway munching.

Wig Making Diva said...

I rarely eat in public unless it's at a restaurant or coffee shop. Even an ice cream/lolly I would have to sit down to eat. I just can't eat and enjoy it, and more importantly not get it down my clothes, without sitting down! Sometimes on the way back from London I will munch on a little somthing in the privacy of my coach seat, but if there was a stranger sitting next to me, I wouldn't do it unless I was about to pass out. I think the person who highlighted the 'smell factor' is right - that to me makes a massive difference. Who wants to sit smelling other people's food - especially bacon or onions?

Princess Lea said...

There was this one family that would bring pastrami sandwiches for their kids to shul on Yom Kippur, and the smell . . . it was very unfair.

I've now realized I enjoy eating the most when I am in pajamas.