Just like knowing how to change a tire and pick a lock, knowing fine dining table etiquette is one of those life skills it really pays to know, even if you don’t know when you are going to use it.
It might seem like an outdated practice, with many of us forgoing proper dinner table etiquette in favour of eating on the run or in front of the TV, but civilised eating habits still have a place in modern society.
If you’re attending a wedding reception, business lunch, dinner party or even a first date these rules will really come in handy when you find yourself in need.
Tuck these dining skills into your ‘best behavior’ wardrobe, and you’ll always be prepared to impress.
- Never use your knife to cut your rolls. Instead, break your roll in half and tear off one piece at a time. Butter each piece as you are ready to eat it.
- Butter bread over your bread plate, never in mid air. This will make sure you aren’t covered in crumbs.
- Sit up straight, and keep your arms (including elbows) off the table. Why? If your elbows and forearms are on the table you’ll be more likely to knock things over, and you won’t take up more room at the table than you’re meant to.
- When talking, drinking or excusing yourself from the table, put your fork over your knife, and crossed on your plate. This is known as the Continental Rest Signal, which tells the waiter and your guests you’re not finished with your meal.
- Use the finished position (fork below the knife, diagonally across the plate) to indicate that you have finished eating.
- Wipe your fingers and mouth often with your napkin. There’s nothing more embarrassing than not realising you have mashed potato stuck to your bottom lip until after you’ve left the restaurant.
- If you notice a speck of food on someone's face, you're doing him or her a favor by subtly calling attention to it.
- Cut one piece of meat or fish at a time on your plate and eat it before cutting the next one.
- Look into (not over) the cup or glass when drinking. This will ensure you sip, and not gulp (very unbecoming!)
- When you drink any other beverage, put down your utensils before picking up the glass or cup.
- Don't leave your spoon in your cup, soup bowl, or stemmed glass. Rest the spoon on the saucer or soup plate between bites or when finished.
- Never place your cell phone, keys or purse on the table. Leave them in your bag or pocket. This will mean the dining table isn’t any more cluttered than it needs to be.
- NEVER use your mobile phone at the table. Keep it on silent, and if you must answer your phone, excuse yourself or call back after the bill has been paid.
- Let your guest order first. And if you’re the host, make it clear by saying phrases like, “My guest would like to order first,” to ward off confusion.
- In doubt about which fork to use first? Follow the lead of the host. Even if he or she uses the wrong fork, you’ll show your respect by doing the same thing as long as you don’t call attention to yourself or embarrass the host. Otherwise, you should work from the outside in.
- The fork and knife closest to the plate are for eating your main course.
- Use the bowl-shaped or larger oval spoon for eating soup. And never slurp. Bring the spoon to your mouth and tilt it while sipping soup from the edge.
- Never lift or tilt the soup bowl, keep it firmly on the table. And drinking from the bowl is a big no no.
- While you may be tempted to eat chicken or pork chops with your hands, at formal dinners you should always use your knife and fork. Leave fingers for when you’re eating at the family barbeque.
- Don’t use your utensils to point or gesture. And don’t reach across the table.
- After you use each utensil, rest it on the edge of your plate; don’t put it back in the lineup.
- Don’t tuck your napkin into your shirt, leave it on your lap. And if you decide to leave the table, leave your napkin on your chair until you return. Napkins should be placed in your lap as soon as you sit down.
- Place your index finger approximately one inch down from the handle of the knife to assist with cutting.
- Never season the food before it has been tasted.
- Don’t start eating until everyone has been served, unless invited by your host to start.
- White wine glasses should be held by the stem, and not the bowl. Red wine glasses may be held by the bowl.
- Sometimes a sneeze or cough is unavoidable, so cover your nose or mouth with a napkin and proceed as quietly as possible.
- Feel a burp is coming on? Cover the mouth with a napkin, quietly burp, and say, "Excuse me." For an attack of hiccups, excuse yourself from the table until they have passed.
- Don’t speak when your mouth is full, don’t tell rude jokes during the meal, and always cover your mouth when you cough. Its just good manners.
- And don’t talk about anything that will cause dissension or indigestion among the diners. That includes politics and money!
Do you have rules on proper dining etiquette? We’d love to hear about them! Let us know by commenting below.
For more rules on proper dining etiquette, follow these rules from Liberty Tabletop.