Etiquette 101: Tips for table manners

Here are excerpts from some of the handouts Miss Kedine distributed to the girls in her etiquette class:

EATING SOUP

Dip the spoon into the soup, moving it away from the body, until it is about two-thirds full, then sip the liquid (without slurping) from the side of the spoon (without inserting the whole bowl of the spoon into the mouth). The theory behind this is that a diner who scoops the spoon toward himself is more likely to slosh soup onto his lap, although it is difficult to imagine what sort of eater would stroke the spoon so forcefully through the liquid that he creates waves. It is perfectly fine to tilt the bowl slightly — again away from the body — to get the last spoonful or two of soup.

BREAD

Bread must always be broken, never cut with a knife. Tear off a piece that is no bigger than two bites worth and eat that before tearing off another. If butter is provided (and at formal events it customarily is not), butter the small piece just before eating it. There is an exception to this rule: If you are served a hot roll, it is permissible to tear (not cut) the whole roll lengthwise down the middle.

HOLDING A UTENSIL

In general use, both spoon and fork are held horizontally by balancing them between the first knuckle of the middle finger and the tip of the index finger while the thumb steadies the handle. The knife is used with the tip of the index finger gently pressing out over the top of the blade to guide as you cut.

REMOVING INEDIBLE ITEMS FROM THE MOUTH

The general rule for removing food from your mouth is that it should go out the same way it went in. Therefore, olive pits can be delicately dropped onto an open palm before putting them onto your plate, and a piece of bone discovered in a bite of chicken should be returned to the plate by way of the fork. Fish is an exception to the rule. It is fine to remove the tiny bones with your fingers, since they would be difficult to drop from your mouth onto the fork. If what you have to spit out will be terrifically ugly . . . it will be necessary to surreptitiously spit it into your napkin, so that you can keep it out of sight.

"PLEASE PASS THE SALT"

The proper response to this very simple sounding request is to pick up BOTH the salt and pepper and to place them on the table within reach of the person next to you, who will do the same, and so on, until they reach the person who asked for them. They are not passed hand-to-hand, nor should anyone other than the original requester sprinkle her food when she has the shakers in her possession.

POSTURE

Elbows, elbows, if you're able — keep your elbows off the table! Proper posture at the table is very important. Sit up straight, with your arms held near your body. You should neither lean on the back of the chair nor bend forward to place the elbows on the table. It is permissible to lean forward slightly every now and then and press the elbows very lightly against the edge of the table.

Etiquette 101: Tips for table manners 03/26/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 26, 2010 11:08am]

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