Table manners are very important. This, I think, is a cultural issue related to British attitudes about food. Some have criticized British food as dull or bland. To the British, food is fuel -- a necessary and routine element of life. Eating for the sake of pleasure is somewhat hedonistic. In terms of fuel, a pork chop, boiled vegetables, and potatoes are just as acceptable as filet mignon or haute cuisine. There is also something not very dignified in putting anything in your mouth. Therefore, the process of eating must be made as civilized as possible by the imposition of a layer of certain procedures: don't talk with your mouth full, don't put your elbows on the table, don't slurp your soup, and many much more refined rules. The attitude is this: if you want eating pleasure for its own sake, take table with the degenerate French; if you want civilized company, mind your manners and eat with the English.