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Twelve ways for better dining etiquette

By Staff | Oct 23, 2009

Thank you readers.

I had many responses to my column last week on manners. A gentlemen stopped me on Main Street in Rugby to say, “I am sure glad you mentioned that about men taking their caps off while dining, I can hardly stand to see that being done, and it seems to me men are accelerating at this!” As he walked away my smile was extra big because this gentleman was under the age of 50!

The cloud of uncertainty can linger when you select to write about manners of society. After all, it can be a touchy matter. This gentlemen’s feedback was all it took to roll that cloud away and for me to realize the sky is the limit when it comes to encouraging better daily dining etiquette. Now if you clipped last week’s column, simply marry it with this one and you will easily weather your daily dining etiquette as well as formal occasions.

Here are a few more general suggestions:

1. Drink beverages only when there is not food in your mouth and drink slowly.

2. Do not chew with your mouth open.

3. Never arrange your hair, apply lipstick or use a toothpick at the table.

4. Never place “sticky fingers” in your mouth.

5. Do not place silverware or food on the tablecloth.

6. Do not come to the table chewing gum

7. Do not reach in front of a person to obtain a desired dish. Ask politely to have it passed.

8. Make eye contact when visiting with others at the table.

9. You will earn points by putting dishes of food into circulation. So when you are at the next lutefisk supper make sure the butter in running closely behind!

10. The host or hostess will usually start the conversation. Look interested!

11. Keep bites rather small so that you can quickly empty your mouth if you need to partake in conversation. Talk only when your mouth is empty.

12. Never use your hand to clear crumbs off the table.

Are you like me? Wondering do we serve from the right and take from the left or do we serve from the left and take from the right? Normally, people in the U.S. think that food should be served from the left and removed from the right. This practice was started years ago when all food was served from large platters and each guest was served individually tableside from this large tray. This still can be used today if you serve in this fashion. Most often today, food arrives arranged on the plate and should be served from the right. Pre-plated food, as well as empty plates and clean utensils brought in preparation for upcoming courses, are always placed from the guest’s right side. At the end of the course, these plates are also cleared from the right. Side dishes such as vegetables or dinner rolls are served and cleared from the left. Now that you have gotten this right in your mind, go ahead give yourself a pat on the back for managing this important information so well!

Wine and all other beverages are presented and poured from the right. Since the glasses are placed above and to the right of the guest’s plate this action happens with ease. You may find yourself in a tight spot as we often do at banquet dining. It is important in this situation to let the server act and not you. Let your server handle the glassware and the pouring. Often guests will want to help and this can end up in an unsuccessful connection. No one likes a fumble and especially if it is going to involve getting soaked or stained! If your glasses are too far away for the server to reach they will ask for your assistance.

I would encourage you to take time to reflect on your dining etiquette, and certainly never feel bad because you made a mistake. Simply learn from it and move on. Unless you continue to wear your cap while dining, and then you will have to walk on your knees for 20 miles north on Highway 3 repenting!

Most of us would agree that dining in the presence of good table manners makes the meal even tastier. Remember when you dine formally the tableware is a great reminder of our manners. The look at a formal table is untrammeled and therefore the flow of our good manners should as well. Good manners will take us everywhere with ease and bad manners limit our enjoyment of the world.

I share with you potato knots which are wonderful to serve from the left.

Repnow is a Rugby resident.

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