Sep 8, 2010

Dining and Table Etiquette

At a recent event, I sat down to this:

YIKES!!  What to do with all of this? I did not know where to begin. It was at this point, I realized that all of the country club dinners I had attended in my younger years did nothing for me! I was LOST! I knew it was time to do something.  I was going to have to learn how to use these many pieces that assemble a table setting. What did I do? Well, I challenged you to give us your etiquette questions, and boy did you!

After receiving all of your questions, I set out to do a little research and learn. So with out further ado, here are your answers... (bear with me...this is a long one, BUT full of great tips and info!)

Silverware, Glasses, Dishes...Oh my!
Q: I am afraid I won't use the correct forks for salad, dinner, and dessert. Ha! It's simple, but I get confused! (Elana from Good Girl Gone Shopping)

Q: What if the food is really fancy and you are given WAY too many pieces of flatware and you don't want to use the salad fork for the main meal or vice verse? (Charles P.)

Q:  I know to use the small fork first but what are the utensils at the top of the place for? And that really big outer spoon? Soup maybe? (Sunday from Adventures in Extreme Parenthood)

Q: I get confused over who's glass or salad dish is who's. (Audra from Penny Pinching Penguin)

Q: : I always get nervous about which silverware to use and when. I was taught at some point but it's really embarrassing that I can't remember! (Leeann from Join the Gossip)
Usually a good rule of thumb: Always start with the flatware farthest from your plate and work your way in.

In a formal setting, you will usually use one(1) utensil per course, starting with the one furthest from your plate.The soup spoon is the out most left followed by your beverage spoon (YES beverage has it's own, DON'T use your soup spoon to stir your iced tea!) The spoon and fork above your plate are for dessert. If none are there, then they will be brought to you at that time.

If you are having difficultly figuring out which set of flatware or dishes are yous, remember this: Eat to the left, drink to the right.

Tip1: once your utensils are used, they are not to touch the table again, including the handles. If in a formal setting, the utensils will usually be removed after each course and replaced if need be.

Tip 2: If you have completed your meal, you can signal this to the server by resting your knife blade in and fork resting tips down. Please leave your unused flatware on the table, and do not stack them on your plate.

Tip 3: (from Wendy):  Form your thumb and index finger into a circle on each hand, forming a b and a d. That way you know which side is your bread plate and which is your drink! (as opposed to the method I used to use, which is wait until one of the people sitting next to me took a drink or used their bread plate).

Tip 4: (from Patricia): Did you know it's not proper to pick up a utensil if you drop it on the floor in a restaurant? Makes since but I see people doing it. Then what do you do with it once you've picked it up...put on the table with clean ware? Not on my table.



Q: I worry I will have too much on the table. Place setting, serving dishes, glasses, etc. (from JDaniel4's Mom)
Just follow the guidelines as stated in the images above and you should be fine!

Q: I am at a total loss as to where to start with my silverware and then all those wine/water glasses?(from Sunday)
Thanks Sunday! Please see above for the Silverware answer. As for all those wine glasses:
Each course could have a different wine selection. You are not obligated to have any wine, or finish the previous glass. If opting to not have any, please decline gracefully! Do not turn your wine glass upside down. Simply hold your hand over the glass or just let them pour as to not draw any attention.

Here is some information straight from the Etiquette Scholar Website:

If you are serving a variety of wines with dinner, glasses are generally arranged according to size so that the smaller ones are not hidden behind the larger ones. The water goblet is placed directly above the knives at the right of the plate. The champagne glass is next to it at a slight distance to the right. The red or white wineglass is positioned in front of and between the water goblet and champagne glass. If you have several wineglasses, always set them according to size, with the largest ones on the left, starting with the water goblet. The sherry glass is placed either to the right or in front of the wineglass.

If you don't want to group the wineglasses, place them in a straight row slanting downward from the water goblet at the upper left to the sherry glass at the lower right.

Eating Styles, Conversations and How To
Q: My sister said that there's a way to cut your food. There's the American way and the European way...I never want to be messy. (from Elana)
Taken from the What's Cooking America Website:

Use one of two methods when using the fork and knife:

American Style: Knife in right hand, fork in left hand holding food. After a few bite-sized pieces of food are cut, place knife on edge of plate with blades facing in. Eat food by switching fork to right hand (unless you are left handed). A left hand, arm or elbow on the table is bad manners.

Continental/European Style: Knife in right hand, fork in left hand. Eat food with fork still in left hand. The difference is that you don't switch hands-you eat with your fork in your left hand, with the prongs curving downward. Both utensils are kept in your hands with the tines pointed down throughout the entire eating process. If you take a drink, you do not just put your knife down, you put both utensils down into the resting position: cross the fork over the knife.

Tip: Never cut your food into more than one or two pieces at a time. This looks unattractive and cools your meal at a faster rate. There is an exception made for young children.

Q:  Another question I have is when is it proper to start eating? Do you wait until everyone has their food on their plate or do you start eating as it is brought out? (from Sunday)
In smaller group settings (up to four) you should wait till everyone has received their meal, in a larger setting it is best to wait until all have received their meal OR until the hostess insists or asks you to begin eating. A good signal to watch for is when the hostess or host pick up their utensil, you may do so.

Q: For me it is more about conversation during formal dinners. When to talk, when to be quiet. I am a pretty social person, but it can be intimidating when you are all dressed up. (Emily from Family and Life in Las Vegas)
First rule, do not talk with food in your mouth! This is tacky and rude. Dinner parties are a social affair, conversation is a given. Try to remember to engage in conversation with those around you. Remember to not
talk about yourself in length, and always listen. Conversation is a give and take act.

Now, if you are in Japan- conversation is subdued during the meal, In Turkey, they are loud and animated! so just remember to follow the lead of your host.

Q: My usual peeve is when you have to spit something out (a fragment of shell or bone, a fruit pit.) What is the best way to deal with this? (Maria from 1000 reasons I am a Bad Mom)
It is best to remove whatever obstacle is in your mouth by the same means you put it in with, and place it on the rim of your plate. You should go unnoticed because it is normal for your utensil to be in your mouth. Never spit it out or place on the table linens!!

Tip:  You should eat cake with a FORK? It irritates me more than I want to admit when I get a slice of cake and a spoon. (From Maria)

Q:  Seriously, though, the "obvious" things: what to do with your napkin, how to signal you are finished/ not finished with a course, which side the service will come from/ be taken away. People don't know these things, and I have seen WAY too many awkward moments at nice restaurants (usually with the boss watching... yikes!) (Gina form Fantasy Casting)
When you are seated, simply UNFOLD your napkin.  Do not shake it open as this looks tacky.  If you are in a high end restaurant, the waiter may do this for you. Gently place the napkin in your lap. Please leave the napkin in your lap until the end of your meal, never place your dirty napkin on the table during the meal, and never blow your nose into it.  At the end of your meal, place the napkin onto the left side of your place setting.

Major No-No's
Q: What are the major no-nos.? How can you look like you know what you are doing even when you have no clue? (from Emily)
Never do the following:
- Chew or speak with your mouth full
- Turn a glass upside down to decline a beverage
- Smoke at the table
- Ask to taste another guests food or offer yours
- season your food before tasting it
- Use your finder to help scoop food
- Blow on your food- simply wait till it cools
- "Play" with your food or utensils
- Hold food on your utensil while talking
- Place your elbows on the table
- Slurp, smack or burp at the table
- Stab your food
- Pick at your teeth
- Slouch in your chair

Additional Reading/Education:

Thank you everyone for your participation and help!


Photo Credit:
Table setting images: Replacements LTD
Table Setting Photo: ME

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