The rules for the polite and expected ways of fine dining may come natural to those born with a silver pacifier, but for the rest of us it can mean a state of awkward embarrassment upon entrance to the royal feast realm.
It is important to follow the etiquette of table manners at a formal and fancy dinner especially if you are to dine with a boss, business partner, co-worker, parents’ in-law, potential/current client, or even a date. The last thing you want is to feel out of place and have people question your manners and flushed cheeks.
Why does it Matter?
The etiquette of fine dining is a silent language of respect, dignity and service. That is why we make such an effort to behave in all the correct ways and also make sure those around the table are abiding by the prestigious honor code too.
For a simple demonstration within modern day society, one need look only to popular movies like ‘Beauty and the Beast’ or ‘The Princess Diaries’ where male beast and female quirky unpopular girl are in need of intense training on how to act properly with the emphasis on table manners, before turning into romantic successful attractions.
Here are a few tips and tricks to reduce the most common uncomfortable mishaps.
No Elbows on the Table
To place your elbows on the table is found to be very rude at a formal or proper dinner table. As if it wasn’t bad enough trying to keep your back perfectly straight on a chair designed for your discomfort, to seem “proper”. You can’t lean forward and use your elbows as support while there is food in-front of you. Different people will give you different reasons as to why including the fact that back in the day people would eat cramped next to each other down a long table and it would cause them to bump and splash food. Another is that the tables weren’t made as sturdy as they are now, so putting weight via your elbows could cause the table to tilt. Basically it is just bad table manners at this point, unless there is no food on the table in front of you.
Tip: Lean back and up right in a proper seating position. It’s a little hard to place elbows on the table and keep your back straight if your chair is at an appropriate distance from the table.
Trick: Whoever you are at dinner with, you may seem too needy or intense and less confident by placing your elbows on the table and leaning forward too much is a thought to keep in mind. Another thing to do is to think about getting stains on your sleeves and how it reminds you of your or your siblings kids, always covered in sauces, all sticky, and fun loving. Fun is not for the serious. Stay focused.
The fancy engineering of a perfectly crisp napkin can, by itself, cause very clear class distinguish in the distressed mind of a newbie to fine dining. So much effort and elaborate folding goes into a simple cloth meant to wipe your mouth with and catch any splatters from your food landing on your clothes can make you question the point.
Tip: Always wait for your host to commence the unfolding of the napkin and place it across your lap. Two things to keep in mind; If you get up to go to the bathroom, put it on your chair, and when you are finished with your meal, place it neatly to the left of your plate. As you can infer, placing it on the table before you are done, can lead to your plate being cleared prematurely.
Knives and Forks
1-The range of Knives and forks on each side of your plate can leave you quite overwhelmed, in a state of panic. Which do you use for which dish? Life can be hard sometimes. Always start from the outside and work your way in with each course served.
Tip: When in doubt take a moment to observe those around you, but be wary of following someone who is just as clueless as you are. If you do find yourself “intrigued” to use whichever looks fitting, best advice, just go for it.
Trick: If anyone asks why you chose the wrong one, be bold and take ownership. It’s not recommended to admit the lack of adequate knowledge, but you can use humor as a tactic to remove the spot light from your break in code. For example, jesting about it being your basic human right to be free to choose the cutlery of your choice.
2-Hold your knife and fork in your hands, cut with your knife not your fork, and don’t use your fork as a spoon. If you need to put your knife or fork down, don’t place them on the table cloth, keep them on the plate in an open arrow formation. When you are finished, push them together with the fork facing upwards and knife facing inwards.
Tip: Utilize the utensils as you should. There is one for each hand, keep them there. When you eat slowly, without being able to rest your elbows on the table, you will need a break to put them down. You will still have food on your plate – keep it between the devouring tools. When completed, close them up.
When cutting your food, unfortunately it is thought to be incorrect to cut everything on your plate in one go. It may make logical sense for time and hassle sake, but not in this regal setting. Cut each bite as it is consumed and take pauses between bites. And of course, chew with your mouth closed. It is a must in every setting.
Tip: Observe those around you. Look to the host. It is customary to eat at the speed of the host. Follow the rhythm.
Trick: If you are a fast eater or are starving, a nifty diet trick is to drink a glass of water before you begin eating. It will reduce the feel of hunger slightly and will hopefully give you time to focus on the difficult task ahead. You can also consider it a challenge in self-control and count the reps of each chew. Set a goal and see how you do. Be careful not to get too carried away with this, you don’t want to daze out miss the conversation completely and end up meditating while sucking the flavor out of the bite.