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MIND YOUR MANNERS
Nobody wants to take on the role of Etiquette Police at the table — but just because no one’s
saying anything when a fine dining faux pas makes polite stomachs turn, doesn’t mean that
everyone isn’t wishing someone had taught the perpetrator some manners.
T E X T BY AN JA M ALTAV
M ost of us have been to at least one restaurant gathering,
dinner party or elaborate fundraising feast where a fellow
diner or two left their manners at home. In fact, recent
polls show that as many as half of Americans believe that the general
population’s good manners are slowly disappearing, and less and less folks
are following (or even aware of) traditional, time-tested rules of etiquette.
Especially when it comes to dining. Sure, most of us know the “start
from the outside and work your way in” rule, but what about everything
before and after you reach for the right (or wrong) utensil? For example,
do you realize the significance of the napkin? Not only is it used as a cue
by the hosts to begin eating as soon as they place it on their lap, it also
lets waiters know you will BRB when placed on your empty chair, and it
signals the meal is over when plopped half-folded on the table. Or how
about those fancy utensils? Do you know the proper position to place
your fork and knife when you’re done eating? 10:20, face up, and pointing
in, respectively. What about if you’re just setting down your silverware
to engage in some spirited conversation (no politics or religion, please)?
Place your knife and fork next to each other on your plate in a parallel
position or cross them like an X. The latter is the proper way to do it in
Europe. Which is something else to consider: Customs vary across the
globe. So what might be totally acceptable in Miami may get you dazed
and confused glances in Mumbai or Milan. Bon appétit!
136 Peaceful Bites
The dining table isn’t your personal desk. Regardless
of the venue or fellow diners, never put your cell phone,
keys, purse or other personal items on the table. Tuck
them away in your pocket or leave them at home or in
the car (with the exception of your keys, of course).
It’s OK to take photos of what you ordered…if you’re
dining alone, on vacation or you make a living trying out
new dishes. Active social media reviewers get a pass,
too…within reason. Nobody wants to let their food get
cold while they wait for you to get the perfect FOMO
drool-worthy photo to post.
If you’re not sure what to order, don’t appear less
cultured by ordering something you’re not sure how to
pronounce. Instead, enthusiastically say “You know, I’ll
have what she’s having — that sounds great!” Even if the
meal turns out to be a dud, at least the person eating the
same dish as you will feel like they made the right choice.