World events don't rise and fall on table manners. But America is taking food terribly seriously these days. And with the coming of warm weather asparagus is appearing on many a lunchtime restaurant menu -- which brings us to table manners.
Just how should asparagus be eaten anyway? With knife and fork like most other foods? Or with fingers, as even the ''elite'' used to do some years ago.
Acceptable books on manners can't agree.
Emily Post in her usual forthright way suggests a knife and fork, after bowing briefly to the old rule of asparagus as finger food. Amy Vanderbilt repeated the Emily Post philosophy almost word for word.
But the most complete treatment came from Charlotte Ford. Small spears, she allowed, may be picked up and eaten with the fingers. Longer, thicker spears can be a messy job.
However, she was firm on one point the others didn't cover: ''Do not take a knife to a dish of asparagus and cut off all the tips at once. Cut and eat each asparagus a bit at a time, leaving tough inedible stalks on your plate.''
There. We can all face the future knowing that the asparagus hurdle has been successfully negotiated.
Here is a recipe that transcends the problem of fork or fingers. You eat this asparagus with chopsticks. Cold Spicy Noodles With Chicken and Asparagus 12 ounces Chinese noodles or Italian thin spaghetti 3 cups shredded cooked chicken 1/2 pound asparagus, thick or thin 2 eggs, slightly beaten 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons peanut oil 1 tablespoon soy sauce 8 small scallions, including green leaves, sliced fine Sauce: 6 tablespoons chicken stock 1/4 cup peanut butter 2 tablespoons soy sauce 1 tablespoon oriental sesame oil 1 teaspoon each sugar and minced garlic 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon hot bean paste or chili and garlic paste
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil, add noddles or spaghetti, and cook until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Toss in large serving bowl with 1 tablespoon peanut oil. Place chicken in small bowl, sprinkle with tablespoon of soy sauce, and toss.
Heat small frying pan, brush with teaspoon of peanut oil, add half the egg, and cook briefly on both sides. Repeat with remaining egg and oil. Cool. Stack egg omelets and shred fine.
Wash asparagus, but do not peel. Cut in diagonal slices 1/2-inch wide for thick spears, 1 inch for thin.
Bring a quart of water to a boil in a saucepan, add asparagus, and blanch for 1 minute, timing from the moment you put the asparagus in the water. Drain and refresh in cold water. Drain again.
Combine sauce ingredients, tasting and adding the hot bean paste to your liking.
Add chicken and asparagus to noodles and toss to distribute ingredients evenly. Sprinkle top with egg shreds and scallions. Just before serving, pour sauce over ingredients and toss together. Serve at room temperature.
Serves 6 for a light meal, or many more as part of a full Chinese meal.