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Let’s Cook: Minding Our Manners

By Staff | Nov 20, 2015

Good manners are just one benefit of a good-natured temperament, and we all know we are seeing less and less of appropriate manners today. The so-called all important “me-me” is everywhere with the attitude of “I can do whatever I want.” For example, folks talking on their cell phones in restaurants, churches, and in public shopping areas with no regard for others. I believe they should install cell phone booths in these places, and if you want to gab to Aunt Mary about why she uses evaporated milk in her favorite recipe, get in the booth, shut the door and have at it. There will be some benefit because you will clearly hear her telling you, “Let it set for 30 minutes before rolling it out.”

Recently at Minot State University, I presented at the annual Career Services Etiquette Luncheon where we celebrated the fact that “having class never goes out of style!” For a number of years, the university has made this available to students with the thought that knowing these basics techniques will aid them in interviewing for a job as well as giving them practical tips for pleasant dining. This year, 125 students, faculty, and mentors were present.

Whether you are eating lunch with a client, texting an associate, interviewing for that first job, or having lunch with Grandma, it is all about how you present yourself. I certainly do not claim to know everything about etiquette, but I will offer to you tips for presenting oneself in business and social situations.

Shaking hands is one of the first things we should do at a business interview and in many social gatherings. Remember the key is that the handshake must take place. I cannot emphasize this enough. In the United States, the handshake is the business greeting. If you want to be taken seriously, you must shake hands. When you shake hands, you should extend your hand with the thumb up. Touch thumb joint to thumb joint. Put your thumb down and wrap your fingers around the palm of the other person. Remember your grip should be firm, but not as if you are closing off a valve on the Bakken Oil field. After all, you don’t want to break any bones! These days both men and women stand when being introduced or when greeting one other. Standing establishes your presence.

Next on the list of important tips is eye contact. In our American custom, we should look the person directly in the eye as you greet them. This contact establishes a point of trust. Have you ever had someone look off when greeting them? We live in a world where we have to make less and less eye contact because we can do self-check-out, order on line, or take a class online. Remember that a few seconds of eye contact indicates self-confidence and trustworthiness.

We have a firm hand shake, eye contact, and next will come a smile. A smile shows that you’re friendly and happy to meet the other person. Don’t be looking like you just got shot out of a cannon or that your lips were recently in contact with a lemon. I believe if you get off to a good start with a sincere handshake, direct eye contact and a smile, this will show others your self-confidence and help you to start an interviewing process on solid foundation.

Once everyone has been seated at the table, place the napkin on your lap. Should you have to leave the table temporarily, place your napkin on your chair as this lets the server know you will be coming back to dine. At the end of the meal, place your napkin loosely on the left side of your plate. It should not be folded or twisted.

At the table, place both of your feet on floor and do not place objects such as purses, cell phones and so forth on the table. Turn off your cell phone or at least silence it. It is important to become acquainted with the table setting. Think of the letters BMW. This will help you remember that the bread is on your left, the meal is in the middle, and the water is on the right. Utensils are arranged at your place setting with the thought process of working from the outside in. Therefore, use the outer-most utensil first.

Soup is usually the first course served. Spoon the 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. Do not place the whole spoon in your mouth. If need be, lean forward so that you avoid dripping on the table or yourself.

Once a piece of silverware had been picked up it should never touch the tablecloth again. You ask what to do? We place silverware on the edge of plates or saucers to rest them. Also, never hold silverware in a fist position.

Crackers should never be crushed–unless of course you are at home alone and watching on TMC “African Queen” and preferably during the scene when Bogart and Hepburn and coming the Ruiki River. Rather hold the complete cracker and nibble with your soup. If oyster cracker are served, merely scatter on the soup.

Salt and pepper always travel as a team; or as Lydia says “they are a bride and groom and they always come together.” If someone asks for the salt and pepper, never use them before passing.

When your salad is served, think of enjoying it in bite size pieces which may require you to use a knife and fork. Silverware is placed on the edge of the plate while we chew. If bread is served with the salad, it should be opened or broken with your fingers. Broken bread is then buttered one piece at a time. When finished with the salad place, the salad fork in the 5 o’clock position with tines down on the plate. This will let the server know you are done.

Tips for the main course: If you have a choice in ordering, select something you know how to eat, is easy to eat, as well as something you like. Don’t blow on food, rather let it cool naturally. Remind yourself to secure food to your fork aided by the knife. Do not push away or stack your dishes. Remember to say “please” and “thank you” when food is passed or served to you. Do not complain or criticize the service or food. Should you have a special diet request, it is best to have prearranged this beforehand. However, if you arrive and something is served that you cannot eat, mention this to the wait staff and they will be able to assist you.

Realize my space is limited here, and that I have merely touched on a few of the practical guidelines to make you look your best. There are plenty of books on etiquette available and I would suggest by starting at the local library.

In the years of presenting at Etiquette Luncheons, I have yet to find on the main menu cheese buttons. I am sure in the early settling of the prairie, there were a several farm hands who interviewed with this meal in front of them! This recipes comes from the KFYR 60th Anniversary Cookbook and was submitted by Ann Moch of Kintyre. It is a good one!

Cheese Buttons

– 3 cups of flour

– 1 teaspoon salt

– 2 eggs

– Milk, to make a stiff dough

Turn dough out on table and work in at least one more cup of flour while rolling. Let dough set so it gets sort of dry on the upper side; it will be a little sticky on the bottom. Cut into piece, flip pieces over (one row at a time) so sticky side is up. Fill and pressed edges and drop into boiling salt water. Don’t boil too hard or too long. Drain and put in warm pan with butter and fry until brown.


– 1 quart dry curd cottage cheese

– cup sugar

– 2 eggs

– Salt and pepper to taste

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