The Importance of Good Manners While Dining
16 Ways To Make a Good Impression at the Table
Read on for a primer of a dozen ways to improve your table manners instantly.
Forget "You are what you eat." You are how you eat. Dining with good manners is an important way to make a great lasting impression, as well as a way to ensure that you’re invited again.
1. There's no such thing as being fashionably late, only unfashionably tardy! An eight o'clock invitation to an intimate dinner party means eight o'clock, which allows time for cocktails and a sit down dinner at eight forty-five.
2. Flatware is positioned in the logical order of its use; in other words, moving toward the plate. Thus, diners should use the outermost fork for the salad, the middle fork for the fish course, and the innermost fork for the dinner itself. Knives and spoons sit on the right of the plate, again using the same intuitive order. If you're serving a fabulous soup for starters, the soup spoon goes in the outermost position. Assuming you're serving a fish course, place the fish knife in the middle and the knife closest to the plate is reserved for dinner (make sure you keep the sharp edges of your knife facing toward the plate, with the bottoms of your flatware neatly angled).
3. Dine as quietly as possible. Chew with your mouth closed and don’t slurp when you drink or eat soup. Dip the soup spoon from the near edge of the bowl, then skim from the front of the bowl to the back. Cut your food one piece at a time, not all at once.
4. Only use your utensils for eating. The knife is not a laser pointer nor should it ever touch your mouth – no knife licking! If you're not taking food from your plate to your mouth, your utensils should be resting on the dinner plate. Make sure you are using the right utensils, when it comes to pasta you don't need a knife!
5. Fork is not a forklift. Don't load up your utensils with large amounts of food and shovel it into your mouth. This is not a Coney Island eating contest. The knife is initially held in the right hand and the fork in the left. Grasp your knife and fork in a relaxed, natural manner, never with clenched fists.
6. Take smaller portions. When dining buffet-style, avoid ‘vulture syndrome’ and don’t load up your plate. It’s more elegant to take smaller, more civilized portions and make another trip to the buffet if you’re still hungry. When offering a taste of your food to a friend, place a small portion on your bread-and-butter plate and pass it along. No eating off each others' plates!
7. Position your possessions. Contrary to popular belief, your purse should not go on the back of your chair. It should be placed on the floor by your feet or on your lap. Never on the table!
8. Excuse yourself to blow your nose. Instead of blowing your nose at the table, walk to the bathroom or a private area.
9. Put your cell phone away. Unless someone is ill or you are a physician on call, there is no need to have a cell phone at the dinner table. If you need to make an urgent call, make it either before or after sitting down. If a real emergency occurs during dinner, excuse yourself and walk to another room to place the call.
10. Wash your hands before sitting down for a meal. It is much more sanitary to dine with clean hands. There's nothing worse than noticing someone's filthy nails while you're eating. If a napkin ring is present, after removing your napkin, place the ring to the top-left of the setting.
11. Be polite even if the food served doesn't fit within your diet. If you have dietary restrictions that you have not communicated to your host, keep your explanation short. Simply tell the host you're sorry, you recently became a vegetarian and no longer eat beef, then ask for a larger portion of the other selections if possible. Take responsibility for not informing your host of your dietary restrictions earlier.
12. Finish chewing and swallowing before speaking. Never talk with food in your mouth. Never!
13. Allow other guests to finish before speaking. This may not have to do with your table manners, but avoiding interrupting people during conversations is polite and respectful.
14. Ask your tablemates to pass anything you need. Don't reach past your neighbor at the table. If you need someone to pass the salt or wine, ask the closest diner for it to be passed to you.
15. Practice utensil Morse code. Once used your utensils should not touch the table again. When finished with soup, your soup spoon should be rested on the under plate. If no under plate is provided, leave your soup spoon in the soup bowl. When you are resting, during a meal, your knife stays at the one o'clock position and your fork at the four o'clock position. Once you have finished eating, place your utensils parallel to each other across your plate, with the handles at the 4 o’clock position and the knife blade and fork tines resting close to the plate's center. This silently informs your server that you are done eating and your plate can be removed.
16. When leaving the table during the meal, place your napkin on your chair. Once everyone has finished dining, the host will place his or her napkin on the table and you should follow suit. Don't refold it, crumple it, or wad it up- simply, place it on the left of your dinner plate.