All of us should feel confident when we sit down at a table, whether it is a formal dining setting with a six-course menu or casual birthday party. That confidence comes with knowledge and practice.
So, here are some important things you should know about table manners.
#1. Napkin Etiquette
At informal meals, place the napkin in your lap immediately upon seating. During formal occasions, before unfolding the napkin, wait for the hostess to remove her napkin from the table and unfold it in her lap.
- Place the napkin in your lap upon seating.
- When leaving the table temporarily, put the napkin on your chair.
- At the meal’s end, fold your napkin and place it to the left of your place setting.
#2. Handling Utensils
The continental style prevails at all meals, formal and informal, because it is a natural, non-disruptive way to eat.
- Hold your fork in your left hand, tines downward.
- Hold your knife in your right hand, an inch or two above the plate.
- Extend your index finger along the top of the blade.
- Use your fork to spear and lift food to your mouth.
Hold your fork like a pencil, with the shank extended between your thumb and index and middle fingers. Your fourth and fifth fingers rest in your hand.
For leverage, the index finger is extended along the back of the fork, as far from the tines as possible.
Hold the knife with the handle cupped in the palm of your left hand, along with your third, fourth, and fifth fingers. Place your second finger on the back of the blade. Hold your thumb against the side of the handle.
#3. The Table Setting
Deciding which knife, fork, or spoon to use is made easier by the outside-in rule – use utensils on the outside first and working your way inward.
So, if you are served a salad first, use the fork set to the far left of your plate.
Your water glass is the one above the knife in your place setting and your bread plate is to the left. To remember which bread plate belongs to you and if the glass in front of you belongs to you or your neighbor, use “b” and “d”. Touch the index finger on your right hand to your right thumb. Touch the index finger on your left hand to your left thumb. The “b” formed by your left hand is for “bread” (your bread plate is always at the left of your place setting). The “d” formed by your right hand is for “drink” (your drinking glasses are always at the right of your place setting).
#4. When to Start Eating
At a small table of only two to four people, wait until everyone else has been served before starting to eat. At a formal or business meal, you should either wait until everyone is served to start or begin when the host asks you to.
#5. Resting Utensils
When you pause to take a sip of your beverage or to speak with someone, rest your utensils in one of the two following styles:
Continental Style: Place your knife and fork on your plate near the center, slightly angled in an inverted V and with the tips of the knife and fork pointing toward each other.
American Style: Rest your knife on the top right of your plate (diagonally) with the fork nearby (tines up).
When each course is finished:
Place the knife and fork parallel with the handles in the four o’clock position on the right rim of the plate.
#6. Seating Etiquette
Your host may have seating arrangements in mind, so you should allow him to direct you to your seat. As the host, you should suggest the seating arrangements.
In a restaurant, the guest of honor should sit in the best seat at the table. Usually that is one with the back of the chair to the wall. Once the guest of honor’s seat is determined, the host should sit to her left. Other people are then offered seats around the table.
#7. Food Service Etiquette
During service of a formal dinner, the food is brought to each diner at the table; the server presents the platter or bowl on the diner’s left. At a more casual meal, either the host dishes the food onto guests’ plates for them to pass around the table or the diners help themselves to the food and pass it to others as necessary.
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