Mrs. Linklater has been on a mission lately to stop advice column madness before it spreads. She does this without any thought for her safety. And she can hardly wait for the thanks of a grateful nation.
Dear Amy: I have sort of a weird problem. I live with my husband and teenage son, both of whom drive me absolutely crazy with a particular eating habit -- namely, scraping a bowl or plate many, many, many times with a clinking fork or spoon to get out the last bit of lettuce, noodle or whatever.
I know this isn't a big deal, but we have plans to live together for a year or more on a small sailboat in the not-too-distant future, and I'm afraid I might shove one of them overboard one fine evening as dinner is drawing to a close. Do I have a right to make them overhaul their eating habits for my own personal sanity?
Can you help?
-- Gritting My Teeth
Dear Gritting: Nothing ruins a sunset quite like a man overboard. Don't resort to that.
I'm glad you know that there are far worse problems you could have on your plate than the sound of scraping cutlery, but in my book, the person who is bugged most over dinner table habits wins. Just because the perpetrators outnumber you doesn't mean they're right.
You could try some cognitive therapy techniques to make these two aware of what they're doing. Each time they scrape, they could put a dollar in a fondue pot right there at the table. You could also videotape them eating and play it back to show them what you get to see and listen to while dining.
My friend Phil Vettel, restaurant critic at the Chicago Tribune, has another suggestion for you to try on your family: chopsticks. I love it.
As usual, Mrs. Linklater is shaking her head in disbelief. Amy dear. Cognitive therapy for scraping the plate? You've gone overboard.
How about ear plugs for Mom, so she doesn't have to hear the sound. She's the one with the problem. Not her family.
Mrs. Linklater comes from the stand-over-the-sink-and-lick-the-plate-school of finishing her meal, so she is hardly in a position to fall on her fork here. But, as usual, that won't stop her.
With all due respect to Mr. Vettel for his clever suggestion, chopsticks may seem like an amusing solution, but they're only funny until someone loses an eye. And this family seems quite capable of committing acts of violence over cutlery noise. At least ONE of them does.
So Mrs. L would like to suggest that Mom buy a bunch of rubber scrapers just for those occasions when scraping the plate may be an option. Big ones for entrees. Perhaps the more delicate, smaller ones, for desserts.
What? You have a problem with that? They come in colors now. And you could decorate the handles. Just watch, thanks to Mrs. Linklater, you'll be able to register for one with a silver handle at Georg Jensen soon.
Okay. Fine. Use your fingers. But don't make that stupid sucking noise when you do. Drives me nuts.