And there are many, many pieces of advice on table manners: Don’t be the first to take from the dish. • Don’t fall on the food like a pig, snorting and smacking your lips. • Don’t turn the serving dish around so the biggest piece of meat is near you. • “Don’t wolf your food like you’re about to be carried off to prison, nor push so much food into your mouth that your cheeks bulge like bellows, nor pull your lips apart so that they make a noise like pigs.” • Don’t dip your fingers into the sauce in the serving dish. • Don’t put a spoon into your mouth and then use it to take food from the serving dish. • Don’t gnaw on a bone and put it back in the serving dish. • Don’t wipe your utensils on the tablecloth. • Don’t put back on your plate what has been in your mouth. • Do not offer anyone a piece of food you have bitten into. • Don’t lick your greasy fingers, wipe them on the bread, or wipe them on your coat. • Don’t lean over to drink from your soup bowl. • Don’t spit bones, pits, eggshells, or rinds into your hand, or throw them on the floor. • Don’t pick your nose while eating. • Don’t drink from your dish; use a spoon. • Don’t slurp from your spoon. • Don’t loosen your belt at the table. • Don’t clean a dirty plate with your fingers. • Don’t stir sauce with your fingers. • Don’t lift meat to your nose to smell it. • Don’t drink coffee from your saucer.

In the mind of a modern reader, these advisories set off a train of reactions. How inconsiderate, how boorish, how animalistic, how immature those people must have been! These are the kinds of directives you’d expect a parent to give to a three-year-old, not a great philosopher to a literate readership. Yet as Elias points out, the habits of refinement, self-control, and consideration that are second nature to us had to be acquired— that’s why we call them second nature—and they developed in Europe over the course of its modern history.