We are all taught basic table manners from an early age and we do mind our manners most of the time when eating. And if at all we forget to be at our best, our mothers are there to keep us in check. However, there are often social gatherings where we need to be mindful about a few things.

• At dinner parties, wait for the host to ask you to begin and don’t begin before the others.

• If there is a dinner napkin, place it on your lap. If you must get up at any time during the meal and plan to return, place the napkin on the side of your plate. After you are finished, place your napkin on the table to the left of your plate.

• We don’t use too much cutlery on a daily basis so it can be confusing when we attend dinners with proper sitting arrangements, with a number of cutlery set out. A typical rule is to start with the utensil that is farthest from your plate and work your way toward the centre of your place setting. If you see the host or hostess doing something different, you may follow his or her lead.

• Never reach across the table for anything. Ask for the dish to be passed from the person closest to the item. Always use serving utensils and not your own to lift food from the serving dish.

• Never blow on your food. If it is hot, wait a few minutes for it to cool off. Scoop your soup away from you.

• Don’t cut all your food before you begin eating. Cut one or two bites at a time.

• Never talk when you have food in your mouth. Even if you are asked a question, wait until you swallow before answering.

• Keep your elbows off the table. Rest the hand you are not using in your lap.

• When eating bread and butter, break your bread into bite-sized pieces and butter only one bite at a time.

• Don’t gesture with your utensils when talking.

• Eat slowly and keep pace with others to finish at about the same time.

• Avoid burping or making other rude sounds at the table.

• If you spill something at a restaurant, signal one of the servers to help. If you spill something at a private dinner party in someone’s home, pick it up and blot the spill.

• When you finish eating, leave your utensils on your plate or in your bowl.

• Never use a toothpick or dental floss at the table.

• After you finish eating, wait for the others. It is rude to leave the table while others are still eating.

• Chew with your mouth closed.

• When finished, place your knife and fork in the 4:20 position — like the hands of the clock pointing 4:20. Your fork should be closest to you with tongs pointed up, the knife with its cutting edge facing the fork’s tongs.— TN

Published in Dawn, Young World, February 18th, 2017

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