The concept of fine dining might not be that common these days with more casual or informal dinner parties but I believe in the motto of ‘better safe than sorry’. It might be on one of your travels or on a meeting with someone important, where it helps to know the basics when it comes to dining in style. Here are a few tips to help you on your way.
This is one of the most common problems when faced with an array of knives and forks. Rule of thumb- work from the outside in, starting with the first course. Put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls, always back on your plate, never on the table. While we’re on the subject of ‘nevers’, it’s also very rude to point or gesture while still holding cutlery. When you’re done, place them together in the centre of your plate.
While the understanding of wine can take years and years, making yourself familiar with the processes that go with it, is far simpler. For instance, red wine accompanies red meat and cheese and white wine goes well with fish and desserts. While ‘swishing’ and ‘spitting’ are phrases that have now been made popular by television, I wouldn’t advise that you try any of these at the table. Furthermore if you must make a toast, avoid taping your wine glass with any type of cutlery.
Unfold your napkin and place it you’re your lap. Do not under any circumstances tuck it into your shirt unless you’re trying to make people laugh. When you’re finished, place the napkin neatly next to your plate but don’t refold it. If you’re coming back, place it on your chair.
Some dinners have place cards, if not, the safest thing to do is wait to be seated. Let your host or hostess indicate where they’d like you to sit, as a lot of homes have designated places for family members. You wouldn’t want to end up offending grandpa by sitting in his chair.
Keep your elbows off the table at all times. How many times have you heard you mother say this? Well, she was right. Also, keep them tucked in. There’s nothing more annoying than the person sitting next to you, nudging you through the evening.
One of the main reasons why hosts are so finicky about seating is to make sure that everyone is involved in the conversation. So even if you’re seating next to strangers, the right thing to do is to converse with them, both the person to your left and your right.
You should start eating only once everyone at the table has been served, or wait for your host to begin. Bread is one of the few foods you can actually leave on the table, besides which the objective is to have everything remain on your place. In the case of something you don’t like, be discreet. Excuse yourself and remove it privately.
There are a lot of things to keep in mind but don’t let it overwhelm you. Sometimes the easiest thing to do if follow the host’s lead and see what everyone else is doing. Here’s to wonderful dining experiences… Bon Appetit!