Manner Matters: A Spicy Food Lover's Conundrum

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Is it rude to wipe your nose at the table? [Photograph: Shutterstock]

Dear Molly,

Help! Whenever I eat foods seasoned with chili peppers, my nose starts to run. Yet I love chili peppers and can't resist good curries or Mexican food, but then I have a nonstop runny nose until I finish the dish. I always take antihistamines and I'm not sure what else can be done pharmacologically to remedy the problem. I'm left with three choices:

  1. Leave the table several times to blow my nose
  2. Blot my nose with a tissue left on my lap, or
  3. Blot my ever-running nose with the napkin

This is an embarrassing problem and I'm wondering what other people do to deal with it. For now, I discreetly wipe my nose with my napkin but I'm not sure that's correct since my mom told us to leave the table whenever we needed to wipe our noses but that was almost 50 years ago...and her food was always bland! What do you say?

Yours, Intense Gustatory Rhinitis

I have a dear friend who breaks into a flop sweat at the very sight of peppers. And yet, to the peppers he goes. Red faced and sopping wet. Like a sweaty moth to a spicy flame.

Your mom was absolutely right, and it's something people today often overlook: Any personal grooming—any touching of your own person, be it to apply lipstick or blow your nose—should take place away from the table, in the restroom.

I am going to posit, however, that there is a fundamental difference between blowing one's cold-stuffed nose and wiping away the more watery effects of hot peppers. Bring tissue with you (no one wants to touch a snot-soaked napkin), keep it in your lap, and use it to discreetly dab away the results of chili-eating. Anything more, if you find yourself in need a good blow, for example, and you'll need to excuse yourself and address it in the bathroom.

And please, on behalf of servers everywhere, take your snotty tissues and throw them away in the bathroom, don't leave them on the table with the napkins when you're done—no one else should have to touch that mess.

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