Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ms. Ivy's Guide to Table Manners

As I mentioned in the last post, You are Hereby Cordially Invited to Dinner with the Queen - Don't Panic! has been getting a lot of interest! Apparently there are people getting dinner invitations that are a lot more exciting than the ones I get. Who's been invited to dinner at the White House? Come on, spill! I want to hear all about it!

Some people seem to be finding that post when they go in search of guides on manners. So what do you do when you get a nice dinner invitation. How do you act? Maybe I can make a little series of posts out of this.

First, let's start with some basic table manners. You know, the ones I'm trying to teach my own kids with various levels of success.

I try to scare table manners into them with a tale from my dating days. I was on a first date with a guy and we went to the local eatery  and got fried chicken. My date picked up a piece and tore into it like a hyena. Then he talked with huge pieces of meat hanging out both sides of his mouth. Not attractive.

Perhaps it was shallow, but I quickly had not desire for a second date!

You might not be trying to get a date, but at the very least I'm sure you would rather not turn the stomach of the other people at the table. And so, I give you...

Ms. Ivy's Guide to Basic Table Manners 

1. Sit up straight. Don't put your elbows on the table.
You are sitting at the table, not lounging at the table.

2. Put your napkin in your lap. This will catch any crumbs that happen to fall in your lap and you can pick it up and discreetly wipe your mouth if you need to.
But you really shouldn't need to much. Chocolate stains napkins, so try to eat without chocolate drooling out of your mouth. Believe it or not I made this comment just last night, and my kid's aren't little! <sigh>

3. Wait for your hostess to pick up her fork before you take a bite.
There is nothing more frustrating to a hostess than serving the last plate (their own) and sitting down to the table just as everyone else is done and ready to leave the table.

4. Put a reasonable sized bite on your fork.
If you have to turn your fork sideways to get the bite in your mouth or open you mouth so wide that you're in danger of unhinging your jaw - then there's a good chance it qualifies as too big.

5. Chew one bite and swallow before putting another bite in your mouth.
Your fork is not a shovel and your mouth is not a dump truck. And for goodness sakes, don't lean over your plate like you are trying to guard your food and shovel repeatedly without a breath. I understand that is considered fine etiquette for chopsticks and rice, but that's not what we're talking about here.

6. Don't talk with your mouth full.
This can be a tough one. Some dinner companions make it almost impossible to follow this rule. Either they give you very little chance to jump into the conversation, or they give only short responses so you don't have time to eat your bite before they ask you another question. But, if you are taking small bites it will be easier to try to do this discreetly and not show the whole table your mouthful of half-chewed steak.

7. If you're having trouble getting something on your fork, like the last pieces of corn, don't use your fingers to push them on. Use another utensil, like the back of a spoon or your knife.
Okay, I admit to being guilty of that occassionally. If I don't need the spoon or knife for something else I hate to get another piece of silverware dirty. But, for goodness sake, if you cheat on this wipe your fingers discreetly on the napkin in your lap. Don't lick them!

8. Don't pick up your dessert plate to lick it clean.
Even if it was the best chocolate cake you have ever had. Don't Do This. It is not a compliment to the chef. It's just the impersonation of a dog. (And what is it with people letting their dogs lick their plates clean anyway? Eew.) In fact, you're not even supposed to try to get it squeaky clean with your fork, but if you try hard enough you can do a pretty good job and I doubt many people will know that particular manners rule.

So there's a basic list. I'm sure Miss Manner's could find something I have left out.  But this should get your through a meal without scaring off the rest of the diners!

So what did I leave out? Any dining manners pet peeves? Leave a comment!