Let’s be honest, staring at an elaborate dinner setting can be overwhelming. But you don’t have to panic. Just follow our easy tips to survive any fine dining experience.
Most people won’t encounter an elaborate multi-tiered dinner setting on a daily basis, but when you do see it out of the blue, our first instinct is to panic. Is that your fork or your neighbours? Which glass is for water? Do you eat the meal when it comes or wait for everyone else to get theirs?
So if you’re like me and over think the entire meal, here are some quick tips for everyday dining.
Start from the outside in
This is one of the most common problems for people that are used to flatware (knives and forks) being brought to the table with each course. On a properly set table you usually see a series of forks on the left side of your plate, and a series of spoons and knives on your right (the table is always set for right handed people). The very simple rule is to always work from the outside in; the cutlery farthest away from your plate is for the first course. If you are still unsure what to do, wait and follow your hostess or host.
Put your knife and fork down between bites
Always take small portions of food at a time and put your cutlery down between each mouthful. When you put your cutlery down, place it on the plate (never back on the table and do not rest it half on and half off the plate); cross the tips of the two pieces (if there are two) or angle it if there is just one. This tells the server that you are not finished. When you are finished, place your knife and fork together in the centre of the plate vertically. The tines of the fork should point up and the blade of the knife should point to the centre towards the fork.
Cut your food as you eat
You should always hold both your knife and fork – you should not cut your food up at the start and then use your fork only (this is an American tradition and is generally fine in America, but not in Europe). The tines of your fork should always point down toward the plate – for difficult foods like peas, you should use your knife to squash them onto the tip of the fork. The fork is not a scoop, do not use it like one.
Do not pick up any cutlery that you drop to the floor. It will be replaced by the server.
Wait until everyone is served before eating
You must not start eating until everyone has been served. If there are a large number of guests, the hostess may indicate that you may begin before everyone is served. If this is the case, you should begin. If you take a mouthful which contains something you cannot swallow, you should excuse yourself and remove it in privacy. Absolutely do not do so at the table and never place it in your napkin or on your plate for all to see.
Taste before you salt
Do not salt your meal before you have tasted it; it is an insult to your hostess. If you do need salt, use the tip of a clean knife (if a salt spoon is not provided in the salt dish) to transfer some salt to the side of your plate which you can use for dipping.
Correct your posture
When you are seated at the table your feet should be firmly planted on the floor in front of you. Do not cross your legs, do not lean back on your chair, and do not shake your feet. Your elbows should be at your side at all times. Sit upright and do not lean over your plate when you are eating; bring your food to your mouth.
Use your napkin correctly
A napkin is used for one thing only – dabbing the mouth. Never wipe your mouth with a napkin, you should always dab. Your napkin should be unfolded and placed on your knees. It is never acceptable to tuck your napkin in to the front of your shirt or dress.
When you have finished eating, the napkin should be placed tidily (but not refolded) to the left side of your plate (but not on your plate).
Some other quick tips:
Don’t make a fuss. If you don’t like something, leave it.
Don’t blow on hot food to cool it down. Wait for it to cool itself.
Don’t smoke at the table unless invited to by the hostess.
Don’t photograph the table, it looks desperate.
Don’t move your plate after your meal has been served.
Don’t treat the servers badly.
Don’t eat chicken or chops with your fingers.
Don’t point with your cutlery.
Don’t hold your fork while you drink your wine.
Don’t overstay your welcome