|Mind Your Table Manners
A guide for what to do on the table…
We have notoriously poor table manners – we slurp our soup, chomp our chocolate cake, spill our salt and belch our blessings. And while all of this slurping, chomping, spilling and belching can be seen as quaintly charming, we are no longer living in little wooden shacks. Let's move right to the meal.
Tip #1: For all questions involving etiquettes, just use your brains.
Men don't have to get all old-fashioned and insist on standing up every time a woman leaves or returns to the table. Just be polite. Now, if you're a guest at someone's house, don't sit until the host sits first (unless the host told you to just go sit down at the table). In fact, when dealing with hosts, remember...
Tip #2: Never do anything until the host does it first.
This includes sit, eat, put your napkin on the table and leave. After all, the host is paying for the meal, so at least make him/her feel like she's in charge. Now it's time to take inventory and figure out which stuff is yours. Here's a shortcut so you can know exactly what is yours: your plate is in the center; knives and spoons are on your right; forks and your napkin on the left; liquids (your water) go to your right, and solids (your plate) go on your left.
Learn how to use everything properly. Take your napkin and place it in your lap right away when you sit down. Don't try to snap it open.
Tip #3: Use your utensils from the outside in.
The fork farthest to the outside is the one you should use for the appetiser. When the next part of the meal comes, use the next outermost fork, and so on. The same goes for the spoons and knives. If you lose track of your utensils and get lost, then proceed to...
Tip #4: If you're not sure what to do, wait and see what your neighbour does. If that offers no clue, just fake it.
Chances are, nobody's watching you closely enough to see that you're using your dinner fork instead of the salad fork. Don't draw attention to yourself. Just take a guess and eat. If you used the wrong utensil, the waiter will bring you a replacement.
Assuming you are right-handed, hold the fork in your left hand and the knife in your right. With the tines facing downward (curving towards you), hold down an end piece of whatever you are cutting. Do not hold the knife or fork like a dagger, but rather, place your index finger along the top of each utensil, holding each at the end. Gently, using a sawing motion cut the meat near the tines of the fork, so you have one bite-sized piece. Then lay down the knife (without allowing it to touch the table) and switch the fork (complete with pierced meat) to your right hand. This is called the American method of cutting food. The Continental method consists of not switching hands, and using the left hand for all fork-related activities.
Tip #5: If you spill something, don't make a big deal of it.
It happens. Just be calm, quietly apologise, try to prevent anything from spilling over onto the people sitting next to you with your napkin, and get a waiter to help you control the damage. If something spills onto someone's clothes, do not try to get it off his clothes. Point it out, let him clean it up, and then let it go.
Finish With a Flourish
How do you end with a good impression? Well, place your knife and fork on the plate so that they are parallel to each other, at the 11 o'clock position (a diagonal from bottom right to top left) with the points facing away from you.
So, how do you rate your table manners?
Take this quiz to find out…
1. If a fellow diner is chomping away at his/her food, would you:
a. Shrug and ask. "What's wrong with that?"
b. Pretend to enjoy the song playing (either in the restaurant or in your head).
c. Glare at the person till he/she stops eating altogether.
2. When faced with too many unfamiliar cutlery items at a fancy restaurant, would you:
a. Pick any at random and tuck right in.
b. Wait for the others to begin and follow their lead.
c. Work your way from the outside in because that's how it's done, duh.
3. If you have a particularly stubborn something stuck in your teeth, would you:
a. Use multiple toothpicks or the fork at the table itself to extract the offending particle.
b. Tongue it incessantly till your fellow diners ask if you need some help with that.
c. Try to map out the location of the nearest washroom in your head, the time it would take to get there and the obstacles you'd have to over-come to get there.
4. When eating, do you prefer your hands or a spoon and fork?
a. Hands of course, how else do you get finger-lickin' good?
b. Depends, are we talking biryani or noodles?
c. Always eat with cutlery even at home.
5. If you receive a call during the meal, would you:
a. Excuse yourself to answer it and return when half the course is done.
b. Take the call at the table itself and put the caller on speakerphone.
c. What call? Phones should be on silent during mealtimes by law.
6. You're starving mad. Would you wait to eat till all are seated and served?
a. Are you kidding me? Outta my way!
b. Offer your services as a 'tester' and declare each dish excellent in hopes of a second helping.
c. Cough loudly every time your stomach emits a low… rumble.
7. What do you usually talk about during meals?
a. Every single grisly detail of the latest murder mystery you read last night.
b. You're usually too busy savouring the food to talk.
c. Anything that whets the appetite not diffuses it altogether!
8. If there's just one more piece of your favourite fried dish left, would you:
a. Spear it with a fork, saying, "Since nobody wants this…!"
b. Agonise over what the others will think if you help yourself to it.
c. Offer it to everyone in turn with a smile, hoping, hoping, and hoping no one will say "yes".
Mostly As – Let's just say your scores leave something to be desired. Head for the nearest etiquette school in town or just read up online. Hopefully, it'll soon be your finesse and not your appetite that leads the way!
Mostly Bs – It's amazing how nothing seems to faze you at least on the outside. Compromise is the name of the game, for you like to have your cake and eat it too.
Mostly Cs – With impeccable manners like these, you'd be a definite pleasure to dine with. But you probably already know that, right?