If this is the wrong SE, please tell me and I'll move it to the correct one. I couldn't find anything more specific.

My mother and I are having a bit of an argument.

Emily Post, my cotillion training, and the internet at large agree: if you want the last bit of soup, you tilt the bowl away from you.

My mother disagrees (born 1953, her mother 1921, her mother 1891). She claims it's a Victorian etiquette rule, but I can't find anything that confirms nor denies this.

Is there a set point (or etiquette publication) when tilting your soup bowl became accepted? Is there a similar record of it being denounced?

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    reference for Emily Post: emilypost.com/advice/guide-to-food-and-drink "To retrieve the last spoonful, slightly tip the bowl away from you as well to reduce the chance of spilling in your lap." – AllInOne Nov 1 '16 at 13:07
  • Amy Vanderbilt's New Complete Book of Etiquette from 1963 contains a reference to this. – called2voyage Nov 1 '16 at 15:09
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    The Asians in the US have always seen that tilting the bowl to your mouth to drink soup as the way to properly drink soup. – SMS von der Tann Nov 1 '16 at 21:55
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    @SMSvonderTann isn't it obvious that different cultural groups, like "The Asians", would have different rules of etiquette? – congusbongus Nov 3 '16 at 6:47
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    @congusbongus He kind of didn't specify what group, but asked a general question of just "when". – SMS von der Tann Nov 3 '16 at 11:21

Picking up the soup bowl was acceptable in earlier times in England (sources aren't clear when exactly but this must have been true before the eighteenth century because soup spoons didn't exist before then in the West (according to wiki on soup spoons). There is a lot on etiquette in the 1800s in Knife, Fork, and Spoon Etiquette in the 1800s - you mustn't blow on the soup, only use a spoon, don't pick up the bowl, don't slurp, don't ask for two helpings, leave your spoon on the soup plate - but nothing about tilting the bowl.

Then there is a source from 1879 (John H. Young , “Our Deportment”, it's quoted in Etiquipedia) which says you should not tilt your bowl to get the last spoonful. Next, an 1897 source says you could tilt the bowl but it should be away from you. This was to make it clear you were eating the soup, not drinking it (this is according to a 1897 source which is mentioned in this book chapter: web.stanford.edu).

Culture and the company and the social setting usually say what we can or can't do, so I don't think it's possible to come up with just one answer. The design of Chinese soup spoons makes it impossible to get even close to emptying the bowel without tilting (sort of in line with one of the comments above).

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  • Fixed. I also found new sources to make a better answer. – bonzo-lz May 20 '18 at 9:45
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    Spoons have been around for thousands of years. I find it hard to imagine they weren't getting used to eat soup until the 18th. The wiki page you read might have been discussing the history of soup spoons - as in explicitly designed to eat soup, with the current modern looking design. – Denis de Bernardy May 20 '18 at 14:38
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    Yes, it's soup spoons that are recent and it's likely that the etiquette evolved sometime after they were 'invented'. Before that, I think people used spoons mostly had soup from a communal bowl. – bonzo-lz May 20 '18 at 14:58
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    @bonzo-lz I recently learned that some (how many wasn’t specified) peasants in the French countryside, as recently as the 1800s, would carve round depressions into thick wooden tables instead of using bowls. Makes tipping the soup bowl quite a bit more cumbersome. – Random May 25 '18 at 21:58
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    @bonzo-lz sure, I saw somewhere in The Discovery In France, a social and geographical history by Graham Robb, where it was mentioned offhandedly as one item in a catalogue of otherwise representative things owned by peasants. Immediately became my favorite bowl fact. – Random May 26 '18 at 5:52

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