Nowadays, it may seem that the principles of dining are an old hat of the past centuries and, that they are too mannered for modern times. But that’s not true. Their observance is an expression of decency, and at least when we are out of the family circle, we should follow them. How to use plates, cutlery and napkins so we do not cause a faux pas? What is the proper body posture and what about the piece of food that happens to fall under the table?
Regardless of the occasion we set the table for, a white tablecloth should be essential. It should extend over the edge of the table for thirty centimeters. Then we can fine-tune it for the given occasion with colorful table settings, napkins or table runners with different motifs (festive, seasonal). Various ornaments such as vases with flowers, candles, stones can contribute to intensifying of the atmosphere, but the decoration cannot be in the way of seated guests.
Plates, cutlery and glasses have their place
Place a dinner plate or a dinner and a soup plates on the table. On special occasions, we can also use a service plate, which is not used for food, but it is reserves a spot for the guest. The plates should be put 2 to 3 cm from the edge of the table.
Place the cutlery next to the dinner plate as follows: fork on the left side and knife on the right with a blade facing the plate. Put a spoon on the right side next to the knife. If appetizers are served, one more set of cutlery is required to be placed from the outside to the main cutlery in the same layout. Dessert cutlery is placed above the main plate. The handles point to the hand that you will use.
Place the glasses on the right above the plates. The aperitif glass is placed as first above the tip of the dinner knife. Other glasses for wine, beer or soft drinks are placed on the right side of the first glass from the smallest to the largest.
The table should not lack the essential seasoning and napkins. The role of the host is to pay attention to proper food serving. Serving begins with the main (most important) person who usually sits at the top of the table and continues with the guests sitting to the right of them.
What (not) to do at the table
Good behavior and following the basic rules belong to both the restaurant and home environment – whether we are dining with family or friends. We should remember the following principles.
What we have been taught
At social lunches and dinners, we should sit straight. Resting your elbows on the table or leaning on them is unacceptable. Even if you are starving, eat slowly and mindfully, cut and eat small pieces of food. Noisy eating and slurping of soup is not a display of decency. We do not speak with full mouth. Also, it is not polite to use a toothpick at the table, we apologize and do this in privacy, for example in the restroom.
Cloth and paper napkins
If there is a cloth napkin, it is placed on the knees. Women should unfold it only in half while men should unfold it completely. Its purpose is to protect us from getting dirty and it also serves to clean around your mouth. If it falls on the floor, we do not pick it up but ask the host or a waiter for a new one. When you are finished with eating, fold your used cloth napkin and place it on the table so any dirt or stains are not visible. A paper napkin is placed to the left of the plate and when we are finished, we put it onto the plate. We never use it as a handkerchief.
How to use the cutlery
Always start eating with a cutlery set furthest away from your plate and proceed towards the plate. We do not gesture with our cutlery and we do not forget the important fact that a knife never goes to the mouth.
If the menu contains bread or pastry, do not bite into them nor cut them. You should break them into small pieces and put them in your mouth. If there is not a bread plate, we can put it on the napkin on the left. We separate meat from the bone using cutlery if using hands at the restaurant is not allowed. In case it is, a waiter should bring you a bowl of water to rinse your fingers. We never put a coffee spoon into our mouth, it is only used to stir the drink, then it should be placed on the coffee plate, it should not remain in the cup.
Accidents and cleaning the table
If our food falls on the floor, it becomes non-existent for us, we do not mention it nor pick it up. Spilling a drink is not something that should ruin your dinner. We can make a joke about it, wipe the spilled water, wine or other drink as quickly as possible with the napkin that is designed for it.
An important principle of dining in a restaurant is that we never stack the used plates and cutlery on top of each other or even place them on a different table. That’s what waiters are for, we wait patiently for the empty plates to be taken from the table.
Enjoy your food and the atmosphere
Whether we are a host or a guest, we should make sure that the basic principles of dining are respected. Having a nice get-together is not just a delicious meal, but also a good atmosphere, which involves both clean and nice table settings as well as the behavior of the individuals behind the table.