Last week I had the privilege of presenting "Rules of the Table" at the Minot State University Etiquette Luncheon. Having grown up in a home where my Dad was very particular about table manners, I learned to take an interest at a very early age. Rules of the Repnow home included: 1) We do not come to the table without washing our hands, 2) All caps are removed and hair is combed, 3) We are seated at our regular place, 4) At the table, we do not talk about such things as our cat having kittens! As a child, I took to these rules with ease and began noticing other rules of table etiquette. It has been a life-long interest of mine, and I must say that it has added greatly to my dining experiences.
My first experience in a five-star restaurant came while attending Minot State University. I sang with the male chorus at that time called the Vagabonds, under the direction of Dr. Joseph Hegstad. Each Easter we made a trip to Vail, Colorado, where we performed at a Sunrise Easter service. It was wonderful experience. Dr. Hegstad, and his lovely wife Jackie, made sure we made the most of our journey. This included stopping and singing at several different places en route to Vail; such as Air Force Academy Chapel, various churches, and the five-star restaurant at the Broadmoor Resort. This luxury hotel, where staff give meticulous service to guests, is located in Colorado Springs. It was built in the early 20th century as the "Grand Dame of the Rockies."
Before we left Minot, Dr. Hegstad made sure we all had proper attire: sportcoat, tie, dress slacks, and dress shoes. And of course, he instilled in us the requirement to act accordingly! It was, without a doubt, a life-changing experience for me. Never before had I experienced that many pieces of silverware while dining. As each course was served, our well-trained waiters guided us with ease and elegance. I was hooked-when I returned home, I checked out every book I could find on the subject of table etiquette. Wanting to remain in the good graces of family members, I did not demand that all meals be served with 17 pieces of silverware. I must admit my newly-gained knowledge paid off once while watching "Jeopardy." The category was "the serving table," and I answered all the questions with ease. Plus I managed the bonus by knowing the design of a lemon wedge tray!
Today it seems like good manners are more likely to reside under our kitchen sinks rather than at the dining table. Let's face it- as a society we are not famous for our good manners. Folks eat in restaurants with their caps on, talk with their mouths full, chat on cell phones, and hold their silverware like they have just exited a cave! It is easy to see that etiquette rules are sadly lacking when compared to past decades.
Here are a few very basic etiquette rules to be used while dining: One of the first rules of table etiquette is to place the napkin on your lap to remain there for the entire meal. If you happen to be called away from the table during the meal and plan to return, you should place your napkin on your chair. When you are completely done eating your meal, the napkin is placed on the table. Use your napkin often during the meal to wipe your mouth. It is also good to know that we never use a napkin as a tissue. If you should have to sneeze, turn your head away from the table and use your handkerchief.
When eating soup, spoon your soup away from you to the farthest edge of the soup bowl. Bring the spoon to your mouth and drink the soup from the edge of the spoon. We do not put the whole spoon in our mouths, and we don't slurp. It is proper at times to raise your soup cup and drink from it-especially if the soup cup has handles.
Split Pea Soup with Meatballs
This is a perfect soup on which to practice those etiquette skills. We enjoy split pea soup in our home, and this served with meatballs is a complete and delicious meal. You may opt to serve it without the meatballs. I have also made this with just pork if veal is not available.
2 cups green split peas
6 cups chicken stock or water with bay leaf
cup chopped celery
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots diced
teaspoon dried marjoram
to teaspoon pepper
1 lb ground pork and veal
2 slices smoked bacon, chopped
2 tablespoon, chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
teaspoon dried sage
3 potatoes, peeled and diced
Juice of 1 lemon
1. Wash peas in cool water, rinse well, and place in a large pot. Add stock or water, (If you are using water, you may want to add one bay leaf) celery, onion, carrots, marjoram and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 hour or until peas are tender. Stir this occasionally. Do not drain.
2. Combine ground pork and veal, bacon, parsley, lemon rind and sage. Mix well with hands. With wet hands, shape into small meatballs and roll in flour lightly and allow to set for a few minutes.
3. Gently spoon meatballs and potatoes into the soup mixture. Return the soup to a boil-watch carefully! Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until meatballs and potatoes are cooked. Add the fresh lemon juice to taste before serving.
Since crackers are often served with soup, let us review these rules as well. Crackers are never crushed and dumped in soup. Rather we hold the complete cracker and nibble at one edge while enjoying our soup. When we have completed our soup, it is permissible to leave the spoon in the bowl. If your soup cup does have a saucer, it is also fine to leave your spoon on this saucer.
Once we have used a piece of silverware from the table, it is never to touch the tablecloth again. We place this silverware on the edges of plates.
We do not add salt or pepper to our food until we have first tasted it. It is an insult to the cook to do this. Also salt and pepper are a couple-they travel together when being passed. If someone should ask for the salt and pepper, we never use it before the person who asked for it first.
Often we are presented with bread or rolls at meals. When bread is passed, the first person to take the bread basket offers the basket to the person on their left, when they have take what they like, then you remove your portion and pass it to your right. Bread may be placed on a bread plate if available. Bread is opened with your fingers, not a knife. Bread is broken into bite sized pieces and buttered one at a time.
From time to time, I will continue to share rules of etiquette with you because they are important. Please note that rules for etiquette may vary, and the rules I share with you are ones I have personally researched. I included some quotes that I have gathered in my collection about the importance of manners.
"The difference between a well-bred and an ill-bred man or woman is this: One immediately attracts your liking, and the other your aversion. You love the one till you find a reason to hate him; you hate the other till find a reason to love him." Samuel Johnson.
"Manners are the happy way of doing thingsIf they are superficial, so are the dewdrops which give such depth to the morning meadows." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Repnow is a Rugby resident