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Train the family to pass dishes to the right

April 8, 2012
By ANITA HANABURGH , For The Leader Herald

Pass to the right, pass to the right, pass to the right. The correct way to pass food is to the right. Food should be passed from the left to the right, period. I'm sorry if you are left handed. I'm sorry if your mother doesn't do it that way. I'm sorry if I'm messing up your Easter dinner, but if you want to be proper, correct and with it, food is passed to the right around the table. That's counterclockwise.

As the rules of manner and etiquette have their basis in logic, the glass is put on the right because most people are right handed. We pass to the right because it is less awkward. Try it. If you pass to the left, it is difficult to get the safe angle to take the food with your right hand, the dominant hand, or we block the right hand while passing.

When passing, the food should be offered to the person on your right. That person should serve themselves while you hold the serving piece. The person on the right should then take the plate and hold it for the person to their right to serve themselves. Although commonly done, it is gauche to dish out your own food while holding the serving plate.

It is OK to put the food down on the table between service if the receiver (person on the right) is busy dishing or eating or talking or anything. The receiver can dish the food from the serving plate as it sits on the table.

Be sure that you keep the food moving around the table. Do not be the food dam, with all the serving plates piled up in front of you while you chew or chit chat unaware. Don't be the reason the others say, "I didn't get the potatoes" or "Where is the gravy?" or "Oh, there were rolls!" Keep the food moving until everyone is served everything.

Every serving plate/bowl/basket should have a serving utensil: spoon, fork or tongs. Do not use your own utensils and spread your germs onto the serving plates. Salt and pepper always get passed together even if the person only asks for one item.

When asking for the food to be passed to you, use the name of the person who has the food in front of them. "Pass the beans" makes idle chatter, filling the air with noise while you hope that someone hears you. "Brian, please pass the beans," gets the job done. In this case, when only one food is passed, it may be passed by the quickest route right or left.

It is OK for the hostess/host to initiate a second general passing of one or more items to encourage guests to take a second serving as guests might feel greedy asking for more food to be passed to them personally. Not me, but maybe some guests.

Another half-exception to the right rule is when the host/hostess plates or serves the food from one end of the table. The host passes the plate with the food to the right. It goes to the person at the opposite end of the table. The food is again dished by the host, then passed left, this time, to the guests at the end of the table stopping at the person with the dished plate. The service continues right, then left, until all are served.

So your family says "Who cares?" Why don't we pass the most convenient way instead of getting all uptight about it? Oh busboy, don't you know by now that etiquette and standards are all about order? Haven't you been reading " A" alacarte (Moi) for a few years? Picture your nice family dinner. Everyone is reaching, grabbing, passing, talking, moving the food at want and will. Now picture your beautiful dishes orderly moving in one direction calmly and swiftly around your table. Beautiful, eh? Today, Easter Sunday, you are going to pass that food to the right, right?

"Oh Tigger, where are your manners?"

"I don't know, but I bet they're having more fun than I am."

A.A. Milne




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