How To Have A Successful Dinner Party

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As we approach the yuletide, social activities increase.  We are either hosting or being hosted at one social function or the other.  This therefore calls for proper manners at these functions.  Table manners play an important part in making a favorable impression. They are visible signals of the state of our manners and therefore are essential to social success.

The point here is to make you feel comfortable, when you host or accept an invitation to either dine in a home or at a restaurant.  Here are a few tips for a successful outing:

Making Restaurant Reservations:

Restaurant reservations are like any other appointment. If you make a reservation, stick to it. It is adviseable to call ahead if you’re going to be more than 15 minutes late, and cancel as far in advance as possible if your plans change so that someone else can get a table. Some restaurants take credit card numbers to hold reservations and charge no-show fees.

How to use napkins: 

In a restaurant:

As soon as you are seated, remove the napkin from your place setting, unfold it, and put it in your lap. Do not shake it open. At some very formal restaurants, the waiter may do this for the diners, but it is not inappropriate to place your own napkin in your lap, even when this is the case.

The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal. Don’t clean the cutlery or wipe your face with the napkin. Do not use it to wipe your nose!

If you excuse yourself from the table, loosely fold the napkin and place it to the left or right of your plate. Do not refold your napkin or wad it up on the table either. Never place your napkin on your chair.

At the end of the meal, leave the napkin semi-folded at the left side of the place setting. It should not be crumpled or twisted; nor should it be folded. The napkin must also not be left on the chair.

At a private dinner party:

The meal begins when the host or hostess unfolds his or her napkin. This is your signal to do the same. Place your napkin on your lap, completely unfolded if it is a small luncheon napkin or in half, lengthwise, if it is a large dinner napkin. Do not shake it open.

The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal. Place the napkin in loose folds to the left of your plate.

The host will signal the end of the meal by placing his or her napkin on the table. Once the meal is over, you too should place your napkin neatly on the table to the left of your dinner plate. (Do not refold your napkin, but don’t wad it up, either.)

When to start eating: 

In a restaurant: 

Wait until all are served at your table before beginning to eat.

At a private dinner party:

When your host or hostess picks up their fork to eat, then you may eat. Do not start before this unless the host or hostess insists that you start eating.

How to use your silverware and dinnerware: 

Use the silverware farthest from your plate first.

Tthe Silverware rule, is:

Eat to your left, drink to your right. Any food dish to the left is yours, and any glass to the right is yours.

Starting with the knife, fork, or spoon that is farthest from your plate, work your way in, using one utensil for each course. The salad fork is on your outermost left, followed by your dinner fork. Your soup spoon is on your outermost right, followed by your beverage spoon, salad knife and dinner knife. Your dessert spoon and fork are above your plate or brought out with dessert. If you remember the rule to work from the outside in, you’ll be fine.

Use one of two methods when using the fork and knife:

“American Style:  Knife in right hand, fork in left hand holding food. After a few bite-sized pieces of food are cut, place knife on edge of plate with blades facing in. Eat food by switching fork to right hand (unless you are left handed). A left hand, arm or elbow on the table is bad manners.

“Continental/European Style:  Knife in right hand, fork in left hand. Eat food with fork still in left hand. The difference is that you don’t switch hands-you eat with your fork in your left hand, with the prongs curving downward. Both utensils are kept in your hands with the tines pointed down throughout the entire eating process. If you take a drink, you do not just put your knife down, you put both utensils down into the resting position: cross the fork over the knife.

Once used, your utensils, including the handles, must not touch the table again. Always rest forks, knives, and spoons on the side of your plate or in the bowl.

For more formal dinners, from course to course, your tableware will be taken away and replaced as needed.

To signal that your are done with the course, rest your fork, tines up, and knife blade in, with the handles resting at five o’clock an tips pointing to ten o’clock on your plate.

Any unused silverware is simply left on the table.

Dinner Table Dos

1.         Arrive at least 10 minutes early unless otherwise specified. 

2.         It is good dinner table etiquette to serve the lady sitting to the right of the host first, then the other ladies in a clockwise direction, and lastly the gentlemen.

3.         Whilst eating, you may if you wish rest the knife and fork on either side of the plate between mouthfuls.

4.         If the food presented to you is not to your liking, it is polite to at least make some attempt to eat a small amount of it. Or at the very least, cut it up a little, and move it around the plate!

5.         It is quite acceptable to leave some food to one side of your plate if you feel as though you have eaten enough, also don’t attempt to leave your plate so clean that it looks as though you haven’t eaten in days!

6.         Desserts may be eaten with both a spoon and fork, or alternatively a fork alone if it is a cake or pastry style sweet.

7.         Should a lady wish to be excused for the bathroom, it is polite for the gentlemen to stand up as she leaves the table, sit down again, and then stand once more when she returns.

8.         Always make a point of thanking the host and hostess for their hospitality before leaving.

9.         It is good dinner table etiquette to send a personal thank you note to the host and hostess shortly afterwards.

10.       Turn off your cell phone or switch it to silent or vibrate mode before sitting down to eat, and leave it in your pocket or purse. It is impolite to answer a phone during dinner. If you must make or take a call, excuse yourself from the table and step outside of the restaurant. 

11.       Keep elbows off the table. Keep your left hand in your lap unless you are using it. 

Dinner Table Don’ts!

1.         NEVER start eating before a signal from the host to do so.

2.         Forks should not be turned over unless being used for eating peas, sweetcorn kernels, rice or other similar foods. In which case, it should be transferred to the right hand. However, at a casual buffet, or barbecue it is quite acceptable to eat with just a fork.

3.         It is not generally regarded as good dinner table manner to use one’s bread for dipping into soups or mopping up sauces.

4.         Loud eating noises such as slurping and burping are very impolite. The number one sin of dinner table etiquette!

5.         Talking with one’s mouth full  is not only unpleasant to watch and could  lead to choking.

6.         Picking teeth (unless toothpicks are provided) or licking fingers are very unattractive! The only exception to the latter is when eating meat or poultry on the bone (such as chicken legs or ribs). In which case, a finger bowl should be provided.

7.         Don’t forget to make polite conversation with those guests around you. Dinner parties are not just about the food, they are intended to be a sociable occasion!

8.         Do not push your dishes away from you or stack them for the waiter when you are finished. Leave plates and glasses where they are.

9.         Don’t blow on your food to cool it off. If it is too hot to eat, take the hint and wait. 

10.       Never turn a wine glass upside down to decline wine. It is more polite to let the wine be poured and not draw attention. Otherwise, hold your hand over the wine glass to signal that you don’t want any wine. 

Complement of the season

 

Tonye Nria-Dappa