By Laura Cornish
Ah, meal times. Remember when you were a kid, and you were nagged at the dinner table?
Don’t put your elbows on the table.
Don’t chew with your mouth full.
Don’t leave the table without asking.
Perhaps all that nagging was for a reason. Table manners may not always be the most important thing in your house—some parents drill it into their kids, other families are more relaxed. However, having good table manners at your high school formal means you’ll feel confident in front of others to do the right thing.
The knife, the fork, the spoon
At the dinner table, you will be faced with more than one set of cutlery. The rule is to head from the outside in. This means, for example, the smaller fork on the outside will be used for your entrée and then the larger for your main meal. When you’ve finished a dish, lay the cutlery facing up in the centre of the plate—the universal symbol for Thank you, I’m done.
Your drinking glasses will be to your right. Your bread and butter plate is to your left. Never slice open the bread roll with your knife—use your hands and break off small bites to butter as you go. And as tasty as it is, avoid using those last bits of delicious bread to mop up that delicious gravy. It’s a bit caveman.
You’ll have a cloth napkin, and the waiter will lay this on your lap when sit down. If you leave for a photo during the meal, place the napkin on your chair until you return—not the table. Also avoid putting your bag, keys or camera on the table—they belong in your lap or on the floor.
And despite what you were told when you were a child, there are, in fact, moments when it’s okay to put your elbows on the table: before the food arrives, and after the food has been taken away for tea and coffee. As soon as food arrives, the elbows should be off. Perhaps that’s what your parents meant.
It may seem like a lot of fuss, but practise your table manners. When your big night comes, you’ll feel confident. And you can tell others about it—when your mouth isn’t full.
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