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Some basic etiquette ‘to dos’ for dinner

May 15, 2011
By ANITA HANABURGH , For The Leader Herald

Our business associate was clearly hungry. The restaurant was full and the service was adequate, but not immediate. I looked at our handsome dinner guest: his cufflinks were gold and monogrammed, his haircut was professional, his suit was Italian and his patience was minimal.

As the waiter placed a roll on the plate, our guest grabbed the roll and put it in front of him on the table, ignoring the bread plate. Holding the whole roll, he reached in front of me for the butter. Using his fork, he stabbed the butter pat and placed it on his roll then folded the roll and took a bite. Loudly he explained his business venture, chewing and chatting and washing down the bread with water. It is said that manners make the man. I say that bad manners make the man or woman "unattractive."

Manners are part of how you are viewed by your companions. Manners are the little things you do that follow the rules humans follow that make us human. Manners are the little things you do that keep you on target with other people's sensibilities. Poor manners: poor impression. Rude remarks: imperfect impact. I am an advocate of good manners, not perfect manners, but just good manners.

I am not alone:

Whoever one is, and wherever one is, one is always in the wrong if one is rude. - Maurice Baring

Life is not so short but that there is always time for courtesy. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even if you wish they were. - Author Unknown

The test of good manners is to be patient with bad ones. - Gabirol The Choice of Pearls

Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you - not because they are nice, but because you are. - Author Unknown

What are good manners? Basically good manners are not bad ones, going by centuries and centuries and pages and pages of "to dos." From time to time, I have shared those "to dos" with you and today I will continue. I am astounded at the small amount of education that is given the important activity of "Everyday Etiquette." Bear with me as I can only touch the surface today with some general dinner rules. I will serve more etiquette another day.

Dress appropriately to the event. If you don't know what to wear, dress your best guess but dress up. Come to an event well groomed and be cautious of wearing jeans.

Arrive on time or 5 minutes late to someone's home. Arrive 10 minutes early if meeting someone, say, at a restaurant. Never arrive late.

Always bring a small hostess gift to a home, one that the hostess is not obliged to use that very evening, such as cake or food, unless arranged to do so.

Wait to sit for the host or hostess or arranger of the event to sit. The seating should typically be man-woman-man-woman.

Sometimes a toast or prayer is offered. Always join in with a toast, but listen silently to a prayer. If the host stands up during the toast, also stand up.

Always say please when asking for something. At a restaurant, always say thank you to your server after they have served or removed any items.

Pass food to the right. Do not stretch across the table, to reach food or condiments.

If asked for the salt or pepper, pass both together, even if a table mate asks for only one of them.

Never intercept a pass. Snagging a roll out of the breadbasket or taking a shake of salt when it is en route to someone else is a no-no.

Always use serving utensils to serve yourself, not your personal silverware.

Do not talk with food in your mouth. Wait until you have swallowed all the food in your mouth.

Always taste your food before seasoning it. It is very rude to add salt and pepper before tasting the food.

Don't blow on your food to cool it off. Ugh. If it is too hot to eat, just wait until it cools.

Cut only enough food for the next mouthful. Oh busboy, don't bite off a "hunk" of food. Eat in small bites and slowly.

Do eat a little of everything on your plate. If you do not like the food just keep silent. It is acceptable to leave some food on your plate.

Do not "play with" your food or utensils. Never wave or point silverware in conversation.

Try to pace your eating so that you don't finish way before others, but avoid continuing to eat long after others have stopped.

Once used, your utensils, including the handles, must not touch the table again. Rest utensils on the side of your plate.

Even if you have dietary restrictions, it is inappropriate to request food other than that which is being served by the host at a private function. If you have serious dietary restrictions or allergies, let your host know before the dinner.

Serving tea or coffee signifies that the formal part of the evening is over. Guests may now feel free to leave, or linger if encouraged to do so.

After a formal dinner party, a thank-you note should always be sent to the host/hostess. For less formal events, a call may suffice.

And to my house guests last weekend, this is absolutely not a hint.

Restaurant watch: Watch your manners when out.




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