Welcome to our final phase of our discussion on “table manners”. I hope you have been discussing dining etiquette and enjoying helping children practice these new skills. We will begin our discussion with the subject of “breaking bread”. The correct way set out bread plates is to bring the plates at the same time the bread is brought to the table, not before. Bread plates are not part of a “proper” place setting according to the “Laws of Etiquette”; however, in intimate settings with your friends or family, it is perfectly acceptable. Bread plates are usually placed to the left of our dinner plate at approximately 11:00. Bread is usually served in a bread basket. The appropriate way to serve bread is to “score” the bread, so it can be easily broken for our guest. As the bread basket is passed, we are to “break off” a piece of bread and then continue to pass the basket. To butter our bread, we take the bread knife and cut a piece of butter and place the butter on the edge of our bread plate. Then we return the butter knife to the butter plate. We use our own knife to then butter our bread from the butter on our bread plate.
Now, let’s discuss the polite way to respond if we don’t particularly care for an item being served. The polite way to handle these situations is: we never speak of our “dislikes” at the table. If we don’t care for something, we simply keep this to ourselves. A simple, “no thank you” is all that is necessary to say. It is also acceptable to go ahead and accept the item and then leave it on our plate, although this could be viewed as “wasteful”. If one of our favorite “dishes” is being served, we still only take a sensible helping. We never know, but our favorite might be other’s favorite too. A component of proper etiquette that we must always remember is we must never compromise our integrity. This means we are honest in all things. It is not necessary to say we love something that we simply do not like. However, we can concentrate on the things we really enjoyed which helps keep the conversation positive and shows appreciation to the host.
It is not polite to ask for “seconds” when we are a guest in someone else’s home. If the host offers “seconds”, then it is perfectly polite to accept the offer. We demonstrate our etiquette by not taking the “last one” of anything, without first asking those around us if they “mind”. For instance, if there’s one piece of cherry cobbler left; before we dig in, we need to say something like, “Would anyone care for this last piece of cherry pie before it disappears?” Of course, we have to be prepared to share it or give it up when we ask such a question.
OK, now for the trick question. Are you ready? Let’s see how many of you get this question right. The question is: How do you properly remove unwanted items from your mouth at the dinner table? Now, I’m not talking about something that just doesn’t taste good. If you bite into something and you do not like the taste or feel of it, you must swallow it. Before you answer, let’s not forget our “protect the linen” rule. The correct answer is: we take our forefinger and our thumb and very discretely remove the unwanted item from our mouth and set it on the side of our plate. These items might include such things as a hair, a rock, a foreign object, etc. I know it’s unpleasant to even think about, but we do face these types of awkward situations from time to time. Discretion is the key. We NEVER, NEVER, NEVER spit something out into our napkin. Test your friends on this question and I’ll bet you get a lot of “napkin” answers. Yuck! Poor waitresses.
Now on to just a few more etiquette considerations at the table; before we take a sip of beverage, we first chew and swallow all our food. Of course, it is not polite to make any “yucky” weird noises at the table such as slurping, gulping, smacking, crunching, etc. We are careful to never speak with food in our mouths, even if we think we are very good at it. I have seen people push their food over to one side (like a chipmunk) and then proceed to have a conversation. This is very unsightly. We chew with our mouths closed. When we are not “cutting” or taking a bite, our hands return to our lap. Sometimes, we may be faced with an “unexpected” sneeze or cough. If we do not have time to reach for a tissue or excuse ourselves from the table, then using our napkin is an acceptable choice. However, we do not want this to become a habit. We never take care of any personal hygiene items at the table. Simply excuse yourself and take care of these issues in private. Lastly, it is not polite to wear a hat at the dinner table. It is a sign of respect to remove our hat when we enter someone’s home, so we most definitely want to remove our hat at the dinner table.
Wow, we’re finished. Have we covered everything? Well no, not exactly. However, we have covered everything that would hinder your guest or your family from experiencing a joyful dining experience. It’s really “all about” being considerate of those around you. Most of these considerations come naturally if we are the kind of people who consider the feelings of others. In our home, we try to concentrate on one or two items each week, so our children do not feel overwhelmed. Remember, enjoy meal time. Designate meals that etiquette will be discussed and practiced and the rest; simply look for ways to compliment your children on their progress. Bon appetite!
CEO/The Etiquette Factory