As a child, my mother instilled manners into me until they oozed out of my pores.! Don’t forget to say “please” and “thank you”. Don’t forget to address your elders with respect. Always say “hello’ first when entering someone’s home. Always, but I mean always, offer a guest in your home something to eat and/or drink. And for goodness sake, don’t forget to make pleasant conversation and at the end of the visit say “goodbye”. Double kiss on the cheeks too.!! It was a lot to remember; but, after awhile, it just became second nature.
I may have rebelled against being so polite as a child , but as an adult I welcomed refinement and good manners. One of the many gentilities that I enjoyed in Mexico was everyone’s use of the phrase “¡buen provecho!” In English, it literally translates to “enjoy your dinner”. It is similar to the French use of “bon appétit”. Therefore, when someone you know is going off to lunch or dinner, you would wish them “¡buen provecho!”
Now this is also a custom we have in the states. When someone is going to lunch or dinner, we tell them to “enjoy their lunch” or wish them “a nice time at dinner.” However, “¡buen provecho!”, which is more formal, goes a step further in Mexico. Firstly, it can be used casually. When you sit down to a meal with friends, you would only say “provecho”. You would also say “provecho” when you arrive or leave the presence of others eating.
When I worked at the hotel, all the employees ate at the comedor or dining hall. As you can imagine, “provecho” was said millions of times in that comedor as you sat down to eat with your fellow co-workers and when somebody new sat down. Also, when somebody got up to leave they would wish everyone “provecho”.! And, of course, if you walked by someone’s table on the way to yours, you were most definitely obligated to say “provecho”.!! Sometimes, it was a wonder, anything else was said in the comedor.!! jajaja…. But I loved it.! All the well wishes creating great energy constantly 😉
Secondly, Mexican Spanish also makes frequent use of diminutive suffixes such as ito/ita to indicate affection or intimacy. For example, many people called me Rosita not just Rose or Rosa. People go home to their casita or little house. Even your boyfriend becomes Juanito or papito instead of Juan or papi.! Therefore, provecho becomes provechito.!! Ironically, provechito also means “burp”; therefore, you are aiding in digestion there as well.!
Finally, when someone wishes you “provecho” or “provechito”, you must in return reply “gracias, igualmente” or “thank you, same to you.” It’s all so civilized.! I miss it.!! When I first returned to Chicago and I sat down to dinner with family or friends, I was at a loss before I began my meal. Do I say it or do I say nothing.?? I have finally decided to just say “provecho” among friends who know me well and won’t think it odd. I’m hoping to start a trend.! So I’m going to start right now.! Since it’s Friday night, many of you will be going out to dinner or ordering food in. Whichever dinner route you choose, I wish you “¡buen provecho!”