Table Etiquette is an acquired skill. We have been to many formal dinners and been very disappointed to see some of the so-called ‘sophisticated and refined’ people fail at using a fork and a knife. It is heart-wrenching to discover that many people do not even care about the importance of a) a properly laid out table in accordance with the occasion and b) the table etiquette that is required to consume a meal. Here, dinner means food on the table in the most basic of terms. Sad, really. Which is why, we recently did a post on table layouts featuring how to set a basic, informal and formal table. And now, we are doing a post on the basic rules of dinning. Where to start? How to eat? Which fork goes where? And what in the world am I going to do, if there is a fly in my soup?!

Here are the basic rules that you must follow without question:

Placing the Napkin:

First and foremost, as soon as you take your place on the table, the napkin must be placed in your lap. When you leave the table, place the napkin unfolded on the table to the left of the place setting.

Placing Your Elbows:

You are required to sit at the table a safe distance away so that when elbows are bent, your hands are in level with the fork and knives. Sit up straight and do not fidget. When the course is not served keep your hands in your lap. Do NOT put your elbows on the table! The only exception to this rule is between courses when no one is eating and conversation is flowing.

When to Start Eating:

If the server has served you meal first before anyone else, wait. Do not pick up your cutlery till everyone is served. Unless, the host asks you to. When everyone is served; wait till the host announces the dinner open.

Using the Cutlery:

Especially at a formal table setting, this can be unnerving. The simple rule to remember is start your way outwards to inwards and you can’t go wrong. Though it would be a great idea to acquaint yourself with the basic kinds of cutlery. Stay tuned for a post on that!

How to Hold the Cutlery:

Don’t find yourself waving or gesturing with a piece of cutlery. The proper way to use your cutlery in continental style is to hold the knife in your right hand and the fork in the left. Hold the knife, sharp edge downwards with your index finger on the blunt edge. Similarly, hold the fork with the tines facing downwards with your index finger on the back of the fork.

How to Eat:

This is the big bad question. As an important rule, you must eat at a moderate pace matching your fellow diners. While eating, make sure your mouth is closed at all times and that you are making no sounds; neither with the cutlery nor with your mouth.

When to Talk/Drink:

Do NOT talk with food in your mouth, no matter how well you feel you can add to the conversation. Finish your food and then talk. Similar to talking, drink only when you are done properly chewing your food. The only exception to this rule is if you are choking. Otherwise, keep the mouth closed when food is inside.

What to do when you are Done

In continental style dinning, once you are finished, place your knife and fork with the tines facing upwards together on the plate at 4′ o clock position. The fork must face downwards to signal the end of the meal. If you are resting between bites, in the continental style, the fork and knife are crossed in the middle of the plate with the tines of the fork facing downwards.

In the American style, to signal you are done eating, the same position is used as with continental with the exception that the fork tines face upward. Meanwhile, the resting position in American style, maintains that the fork must be place in 8′ o clock position with tines facing towards the left. The knife on the other hand is placed on the outside of the plate with the blade facing inwards.

If you don’t like what you have been served; try your best to finish it without complaint to avoid hurting the feelings of the host/chef. Meanwhile, also, always compliments the cook.

Written by Foha Raza
Assistant Editor.