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Repnow: The importance of table manners

By Staff | Oct 24, 2014

Recently I had the privilege of presenting dining etiquette to a group of Minot State University students and faculty. Over the years, this session has been brought to the students by MSU Career Services under the direction of Ms. Lynda Bertsch. Each year, the students present themselves in business professional dress. Upon entering the room, they are seated at a table with a faculty host. This brings us to the first rule of business and social etiquette – the introduction and the handshake. Following are several etiquette rules that apply not only to business, but often social meetings as well.

1. Always stand when you are being introduced to someone. This is the perfect time to plant your feet solidly and establish your presence. It allows others to see your professional manner of dress and the sincere grasp of your handshake when you meet them. Your handshake should be firm but not tight like you are trying to remove a wheel bolt from a rusted rim. Upon shaking hands, look the person directly in the eye. Should it happen that you cannot stand, you should lean forward to indicate that you would stand, if you could. In the United States, and many other places as well, the handshake is the business greeting. We can relate this socially when we think of the receiving line at a wedding.

2. Always state your full name. In a business situation, you should use your full name, such as Michael Brown. You may then indicate if you wish to be addressed as Mike by saying, “Please call me Mike.” Also if you are introducing a guest, it is important to pay attention to how he or she would like to be introduced. There are many folk who prefer to be called, for example, Cynthia, rather than Cindy or vice versa. Also if the guest’s last name is difficult to pronounce, consider an easy way to remember it. By visiting with him or her prior to an introduction, you will be able to handle this task with ease.

3. Eat soup taking the spoon away from you, then toward you, sipping from the side of the spoon. When you have finished soup, always place the spoon in the saucer under the bowl.

4. Once seated at the table, place your napkin. Remove the napkin from the table and fold it quickly in half. Place on your lap with the fold going toward the table. Your napkin should stay here until you are done with the meal and it should be used from time to time during dining to wipe your mouth or to gently rub your fingers. If you should have to leave the table for some reason and are not done dining, place your napkin on the seat of the chair as this will indicate that you will be returning. More recently it has been acceptable to place your napkin also on the back of the chair as it easier to see. When you are completed dining, place the napkin to the left of your plate.

5. Do not rearrange the table setting. When you are finished eating, don’t push your plate away – rather, place the fork upside down on your plate along with your dinner knife at the 4 o’clock position. The wait staff will then know it is permissible to remover your plate.

6. Cut your entree one piece at a time and set the silverware down on the plate while you eat. Remember to take one bite or a sip of the beverage at a time. It is also important not to point or wave the silverware while talking. Many people have the habit of talking with their hands and by setting down the silverware and placing your hands in your lap, you can avoid these unpleasant aggressive gestures.

7. Break bread with your hands into bite size pieces. Butter it as you are ready to eat it.

8. Once you have picked up a piece of silverware, it should never touch the tablecloth again. A good rule to remember is that we build bridges when we dine. Allow your knife to rest on the edge of a plate.

9. When should I start to dine? What if your food arrives before your host’s food? It is the responsibility of the host to say, “Please go ahead and start.” Other times when the host starts, merely follow in his or her direction. A worthy host will wait until everyone is served before serving him or her self.

10. Salt and pepper are always passed together. Our daughter, Lydia, reminds us at the table that they are a bride and groom- “A couple, don’t you know!” The other day we had a picnic in the Towner Park and I asked for the pepper. She sweetly started to hum the Bridal Chorus as she passed them to me.

11. Start and practice dining etiquette daily with children. This will benefit them in life.

12. Thank the host upon leaving the table. In a business situation, you may send them an email thanking them. If you know that your mailed letter will arrive within one to two days, a handwritten note would be best.

We are living in a time not famous for its good manners. We have all witnessed people talking on their phones in restaurants, churches and so forth. It can be irritating. Recently I was at a funeral and the person next to me was texting about what to bring to the barbecue at the lake! In fact, many people believe we as a society are sadly lacking when compared to past decades. I still recall my dad, my grandpa and my uncles standing when they visited our home and my mom entered the living room for the first time. It stunned me at first because she was not wearing her best Sarah Coventry jewelry. You remember the silver tone starfish pattern with matching brooch, with matching earrings that had the faux pearl in the center of each piece. Later my dad clued me that out of respect on seeing my mother for the first time and her being the hostess, they stood.

I have merely touched on a few basics. Remember, until next time don’t blow on your food to cool it. Allow it to cool naturally before continuing to eat or drink. This will give you time to visit or check out the design on the silverware pattern.

Relaxed Spaghetti Hot Dish

This is an easy way to serve spaghetti and it works well for potlucks as well as even more formal dining. I recently made this for our annual Repnow Day, and the gathered relatives enjoyed it. It is a real hit with children and trouble-free for them to manage on a plate.

1 pound hamburger

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can of tomato soup

1 can of cream of mushroom soup

1 can of water

1/4 cup of your favorite salsa sauce

8 to 10 ounces of spaghetti noodles broken in half and cooked

2 cups mild cheddar cheese, divided

Sautee onion in butter until clear, add hamburger, and brown evenly. Add the mixture of soups, salsa and water to meat mixture and simmer. Once this mixture is heated through, add one cup of the cheese – 1/4 cup at a time and stirring to blend well into mixture. Once all the cheese has been added, allow mixture to simmer slowly. After it has been heated thoroughly, add spaghetti noodles and blend once again. Season to taste at this point. Place this mixture into a 9×13 baking pan and place in a 350 degree oven. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle 1 cup of cheddar cheese over the top of mixture and bake for an additional 20 minutes uncovered.

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