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Table Manners

One of the most important aspects of table manners is simply being aware of your fellow diners.

By
Adam Lowe,

By popular demand, we'll focus this episode on a few aspects of table manners.

Getting Seated

One of the most important aspects of table manners is simply being aware of your fellow diners. Formal manners suggest that men should help women into their seats and wait for the hostess to be seated before sitting.  In modern and casual settings, help others who need it or who would appreciate the gesture, and wait for other diners to start taking their seats before sitting down yourself.  Once you are seated, open your dinner napkin unobtrusively and place it on your lap, folded in half.  Should you need to get up from the table at any point, excuse yourself and place your napkin on your seat. 

Bread Etiquette and When to Begin Eating

If there is bread on the table, offer it to others before taking some yourself.  If there are bread plates, place one roll or slice of bread on your plate.  Place some butter on your bread plate from the serving dish.  Break off a small, bite-size piece of bread with your fingers, and use your butter knife (or regular knife if no butter knife is provided) to butter just that piece.  When dinner is served, wait for the hosts to begin before eating, unless you are told to start first.

Pass it Along

If someone asks for the salt (or pepper) it is best to pass them both together.  If you wish to refill your wine or water glass (and servers are not performing this function) be certain to fill the glasses of those seated near you first.  Don't lean across others to get dishes or bottles – ask for them to be passed.  If platters are passed for self-service, don't take an excessive amount of food; you may have the chance for a second helping later on in the meal.

Handling Flatware and Table Conversation

Flatware is generally used from the outside in, if you are unsure about which fork or knife to use.  When eating, most food is cut with a knife (not a fork).  Only cut one bite at a time – do not cut up all of your food before eating.  Remember to bring the food up to your mouth; don't hunch over to eat.  Chew with your mouth closed, and never speak with food in your mouth.  If someone asks you a question while your mouth is full, indicate that you will need a moment, and chew and swallow before answering.

Clearing Up

Wait for everyone at the table to finish eating before clearing dishes.  Do not stack plates or scrape food at the table, but rather take them away one or two at a time.  When you get up to leave the table, place your napkin neatly on the table, and help others up who need it.

For more information please refer to these episodes:

So here's wishing you a polite and pleasant meal, and thank you for listening to quick and dirty tips for a more polite life.

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