Okay, hear me out: Dinner, but with TABLE MANNERS.
I know I may be dating myself, but I remember when the soft glow during dinner was from candles, and not from the cellphone/device my dinner companion was holding in their hands.
I also have fond memories of getting Thank You notes in the mail instead of a tag on social media, and consulting an actual map for directions instead of referencing Waze.
Don’t get me wrong – I love technology, and I’m grateful for it! Instagram (@ChezChaya) has given me an amazing career and allowed me to connect with people in ways never before possible.
I just miss the Olden Days – you know, before social media replaced socialization.
When we had conversations about life at the dinner table instead of watching our friends scroll through their phones, watching other people’s lives while we waited for the appetizer.
…. back when table manners were a thing.
I know you know what I mean. Going to dinner and NOT seeing –
Someone serving him- or herself with their FINGERS instead of the utensil.
Eating with HANDS!
LICKING. THE. PLATE.
No. Just no. This shouldn’t be so hard.
I know I’m old-school, but this is just not ok. My parents are both European, and table manners were something they were very strict about. When we were growing up, the book Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers was a family must-read.
I was often guilty of various etiquette sins Tiffany cautioned against.
Flying buttresses? Check.
Leaping at my food? Check check.
Fortunately, I grew up and out of it.
Even though I can now get through a meal without committing major etiquette breaches (and avoid embarrassing myself), I look around me during mealtime and see that others are not so fortunate.
I mean, do kids even know how to use knives? And if yes, in which hand?
I don’t mean this as an indictment on people with poor table manners, especially little ones who haven’t been taught. I doubt anyone is out to “get” me through their etiquette practices!
With that said, I definitely think improvement is possible, and that mealtimes would be so much more enjoyable if said improvement happened.
So think of this as more of a Call To Action, an invitation to Bring Back Table Manners.
An Etiquette Renaissance, if you will. A world where we show respect for our surroundings, the people we’re with, and ourselves by displaying proper table manners.
Let’s talk about some Dos and Don’ts.
Don’ts (Really, Don’t Do These):
- Don’t put your elbows on the table. The table is NOT an elbow rest! Certainly not the most egregious offense (just wait), but a basic one that just about everyone will have heard about.
- No cellphones at the table. This is a newer rule, invented by necessity with the advent of current technology. Leave your cell phone in your handbag. This goes for other things, too: anything NOT having to do with the meal should be left off the table.
(I promise, it’s not so bad! You can spend time with friends and family, enjoy a good meal, and Candy Crush will always be waiting for you when you get back!)
- Don’t eat with your hands. Unless you’re following the lead of your host (or you’re a baby with chicken nuggets and a bib), just please don’t. We did this as toddlers. Don’t resurrect the experience during Sunday night dinner.
- Don’t chew with your mouth open. Okay, now we’re getting a little grosser. There is absolutely no reason to give anyone a show of what you’re eating, while you’re eating it. Don’t talk, either – I promise your audience will be happy to wait to hear whatever you have to say until after you’ve finished.
- Please also avoid smacking your lips, loud crunching, and other cringey noises. While we don’t want to see what you’re eating, we certainly don’t want to hear it, either.
- Licking cutlery and plates. I can’t believe I have to explain this, but experience has taught me that I do. I alluded to it earlier but let me be clear: don’t do this. Ever. Your host will be glad to provide you with another serving of whatever-it-was that you loved so much. And I can assure you they would much rather wash the dishes themselves than depend on you to do it. (SEE ALSO: eating out of the serving tray and DRINKING SOUP FROM THE BOWL. Just don’t. Please.)
Okay, deep breath. Let’s try to forget we’ve ever witnessed some of the horrors above.
For a little more pleasant reading material, let’s talk about some lovely, not-gross DOs:
- DO bring a gift. Your host or hostess has invited your over for conversation, a nice meal, and has kindly relieved you of the responsibility of cooking for one night or a weekend. Bringing a token of appreciation is the least we can do, so don’t show up empty-handed. (Check out some of my favorite host gifts here.)
- DO wait for your host to pick up their utensils before eating. If you’re at a restaurant, wait until everyone has been served.
- DO taste your food before seasoning it. Try it, and then add salt or pepper. Seasoning your food before trying it can be insulting to the host, and we don’t want to offend someone, especially after all of their generosity.
- DO help clear off the table. Also offer your assistance in the kitchen. I like the phrase “How can I help?” instead of “Do you want help?” because the former implies that you’re ready and willing to jump in.
- DO use silverware correctly:
- Which utensils to use, and when, can be a source of confusion and consternation. However, a good tip is to start with the utensils on the outside: use the ones farthest away from your plate and work your way inward toward the center.
- Make sure any silverware you have used remains on your plate; it should not touch the table.
- Do acknowledge the host’s kindness and thank them for the lovely meal. You can do this in two key ways:
- Leave your host’s party at a reasonable time so you don’t wear out your welcome (don’t be the last to go!).
- And secondly, follow up with a gracious thank-you note through the mail. Make sure you do this within a day or two after the meal. It doesn’t have to be a long message: address them, thank them again for the dinner, and include a brief but positive comment.
Okay, I think those cover the most important Dos and Don’ts!
Hopefully, the DOs helped alleviate some of the nausea you experienced after reading the Don’ts.
Of course, there are so many other rules: how to hold your utensils, seating arrangement etiquette, and more. I could go on and on. But I feel if you’ve got these basics covered, you’re off to a great start. Implementing the suggestions above will have you feeling more confident at dinners, and your hosts will enjoy your company even more!
I hope you found this helpful!
Now, I’d like to hear from you: what etiquette tips do you adhere to? And (shudder) what is the most egregious table manners faux pas you’ve ever witnessed?
Comment below and let’s talk!