Friday, 7 August 2009

Noisy eaters

For some people, social occasions can be completely ruined by noisy eaters. The sound of their companions munching, crunching, slurping and sucking drives them round the bend. They just want to flee somewhere where food is not being eaten and the dreadful background noise ceases.

There's a big difference between Jenny and me here. I've never been bothered by eating noises but some sounds make Jenny cringe with discomfort. She's been known to leave the room when I'm eating something particularly cacophonous.

It seems this horror of eating noises is surprisingly common. Many people have their pet aversions to the consumption of cornflakes or toast or crisps or apples. Or drinks being slurped or sucked through straws.

Whole households can have their private rules about what can or cannot be eaten, and in what way, in order to soothe the delicate sensibilities of one family member or another.

It's a particularly knotty problem in public places like offices or trains, when objecting to someone else's noisy eating might bring a very angry response and the charge of being a tight-arsed killjoy out to spoil other people's pleasure.

In any case, it may not be possible to mute the noise. If it's determined by the way you eat, the size of your jaw, or the shape of your teeth, there may be nothing you can do about it.

No, eating noises don't perturb me in the slightest. Food is meant to be eaten and enjoyed, every which way. What annoys me far more is the quantity of food-related debris dumped thoughtlessly on pavements - crisp packets, takeaway cartons, coffee cups, sandwich wrappers. Why can't the eaters just keep their rubbish to themselves?

Pic courtesy of Guardian/Getty Images


  1. I'm with Jenny on this generally unbridled enjoyment of all things sensual doesn't extend to that...I mean, I have an unbridled enjoyment of food, just not of its accompanying noises...

    It drives poor Sarge and Hedgie crazy.

    But for me far worse even than crunching crackers is the snapping and cracking of gum.

  2. p.s. Nick, I've been enjoying looking at some of your "most visited posts" on the sidebar--really interesting stuff there, including the comment sections.

  3. I'm with you Nick. Mostly. However, I can't bear the sound of 'tines on teeth', I have to get up and flee. There is something quite sensuous about food, IMO, i.e. and strawberries and such on naked bodies.
    Oh I need to stop now...
    And I think Asians had it right when burping aprpeciatively after a meal.....Inuit too, I believe.

  4. I think I must be oblivious to food noise! I don't seem to notice. What I do notice though is table manners, I can't bare bad manners!

    You just go ahead and ENJOY noisily!!!

  5. he food noises don't bother me unless they are excessively noisy. My bugbear is someone eating with their mouth open. Ugh!

    As for the throw away rubbish people... just imagine what their homes are like! Double Ugh!

  6. Leah - My sympathies with Sarge and Hedgie! Even snapping and cracking of gum I only find mildly irritating....

    Ah, you must have learnt a few interesting things from the MVP! I must add a few more.

    www - Food on naked bodies,eh? Funnily enough, I've never tried that, I suspect I'm missing something.

    Suburbia - What sort of bad manners are we talking about here? I gather Princess Di often ate with her fingers....

    Grannymar - Eating with mouth open, no worries either. It's the quality of the conversation that concerns me rather than the food handling.

  7. I am afraid, I am with Jenny on this Nick. I have often excused myself, got up and left some tables, lest my disgust shows.

    I suppose that this is because I was brainwashed as a child, into eating without making noises!

  8. they love to loudly shhhhlurp their noodles over here so if noisy bothers you then beware.

  9. Ramana - I think childhood conditioning has a lot to do with it. I don't remember ever being ticked off as a child for noisy eating, even at school.

    Quicky - We'd better write off Asia as a holiday destination then, or Jenny will have serious problems!

  10. I'm with you on super sloppy eating and I've been told that I'm a loud chewer of gum but good table manners mean I can't stand bowl chinking or plate scraping. I guess I'm somewhere in the middle. I don't like bad table manners at all, and some things just shouldn't be eaten in public (BBQ ribs, chicken on the bone . . .crab in black bean sauce!) and Macdonalds should be responsible for picking up the rubbish they cause!

  11. Hey Nick.

    I had a gal in my office yell at me once because I was "copying too loud." No joke. She's a pretty weird gal. We all wish she would quit so we could put music on during the day - she can't stand that either.

    Nice point there, at the end. I agree with you.

  12. Baino - No, I'm not even bothered by bowl chinking or plate scraping (and I'm not deaf, honest, in fact my hearing's excellent). Eating messy food in the street is pretty unattractive, I must say.

    Megan - Copying too loud? Excuse me? I take it you mean photocopying? But how can that be muted? I don't mind background music, as long as it's something tasteful and not some banal autopop.

  13. When I lived in China, people told me it was rude if I ate quietly. Apparently, the more noise someone makes while eating, the more the cook knows the food is being enjoyed.

    I suppose that made me relax a bit as far as noise, but I can't stand it when folks take bite after bite without putting down their fork, when they bite the fork, and licking greasy fingers. Those three drive me insane!

  14. what a can of worms you have opened here!
    i cant stand gum snapping
    i dont mind food noises
    i dont like the asian burping thing and couldnt do it if i tried
    i cant bear plate scraping and fork chinking
    and i would probably find people licking greasy fingers revolying but i do it myself so you know, i'd better shut up 'bout that

  15. Liz - I rather agree with the Chinese, lots of noise definitely equals enjoyment in my book. I don't mind licking greasy fingers, as long as the grease doesn't get on me or my treasured possessions.

    Kylie - Just don't eat that can of worms too noisily, he he! I do object to deliberate burping, which luckily I can't do anyway. But keep licking those fingers!

  16. No, I don't notice food noises. I'm too busy eating usually. Chewing gum while talking now ...

  17. Liz - Actually I think that's what happens to me, I'm too busy with my own eating to be aware of other people's. Even if they were smashing their plates with a sledgehammer I probably wouldn't notice, I'd be concentrating on that awkward bit of broccoli....

  18. Yep. Photocopying. No way it can be muted. She's WEIRD, I tell you...

  19. Megan - Weird is the word. Maybe she also objects to the ABSOLUTELY GHASTLY noise of people tapping on keyboards??

  20. i definately have a problem...i cant stand to listen to my husband eat. I get angry just listening to him fix his plate. Then the smacking, slurping, fork on's so painful for me I could scream!