I recently attended a business lunch, and as we nibbled on our entrees and exchanged pleasantries, the topic of etiquette and table manners arose. It made me realize how important proper table manners are, and that no matter how much of a knife and fork aficionado we consider ourselves, it’s always helpful to have a refresher course. Let’s face it dear readers, from dinners with work colleagues to charitable luncheons to celebrations with family and friends, our lives (especially mine these days with a bun in the oven!) revolve around the table and in a way, table manners are a true reflection of ourselves. Table manners extend beyond knowing which bread plate is yours though, as having this knowledge will give you the confidence to enjoy yourself at mealtime, and enable you to leave a lasting and fabulous impression with your fellow diners. And so, here is my guide to table manners. Enjoy!
Holding Your Utensils
- Hold your knife in your right hand, and rest your index finger on the top, blunt side of the blade with the other fingers holding the handle.
- Hold your fork with your left hand, with your index finger on the back near the head, and your other fingers holding the handle.
- Bend your wrists down with the utensils pointing towards your plate, and hold the food with your fork to steady it, while using the knife in a back and forward motion to cut it.
- Place your fork to your mouth to eat, and repeat!
- If you’d like to give your knife a break, place it down on the top right hand edge of the plate and swap your fork from your left hand to your right.
- When you’ve finished the meal, rest your utensils diagonally (11 o’clock) and face up in the middle of the plate.
Tips and Tricks
- Navigating the napkin: When you sit down at the table, unfold the napkin and place it in your lap. If you need to excuse yourself, say “excuse me” and leave the napkin on the seat of your chair.
- B&D: Confused about which bread plate is yours? Look no further than Emily Post’s clever trick: Using both hands, clasp the tips of your thumbs to the tips of your pointer fingers, making a lowercase ‘b’ with your left hand and a lowercase ‘d’ with your right hand. This will remind you that “bread” is on the left and “drink” is on the right – genius!
- To the left, to the left: The salad plate is always on your left.
- Around the clock: Pass food counterclockwise, aka to the right. If the person sitting to your left asks for the break basket or the S&P, you can pass it directly to them instead of circling it all the way around the table.
- Work your way in: If there are multiple forks and knives (oh how I love formal dining!), work your way in, starting with the outer most utensils.
- Patience is a virtue: Wait until everyone has been served to begin eating, and wait until the last person has finished to clear the table or have the waiters clear the table.
- Please & thank you: Always say please and thank you when ordering or making a request of the waiter.
- No ABC’s (Already been chewed!): Chew with your mouth closed and try not to talk with your mouth full.
- Elbow no-no: Strive to keep your elbows off the table while you dine (*it is acceptable to have them on table before the meal has been served and after the meal has been cleared).
- Pass the…: If you’d need the salt and pepper, ask for it to be passed to you instead of reaching across the table and risking knocking over wine or water glasses.
- Setting the table: Take a look at my Tale of Two Settings post for informal and formal table settings.