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Old school table manners... what were you taught?

My Sicillian grandfather was hell bent and determined to teach his grandkids good table manners. Some of his rules were: napkins on the lap, elbows & arms could not rest on the table, other hand in your lap, chew w/ your mouth closed, no singing at the table (four girls), no eating until everyone was seated and you said grace, sit up straight, etc. He would even stab our hands w/ his fork if he saw our hand was on the table (he didn't draw blood but geesh). 'Course it was perfectly acceptable to sop up w/ bread the juices oozing from our rare steaks or the sauce from our pasta. I even recall that man sitting down to lunch at the table to have soup which he ate out of the pan it was heated in (he should've practiced more what he preached)!

To this day I will shut down completely if anyone in eyesight is smacking their lips. Even as a kid I would turn away and cover my ears!

So, what were you taught? Do you follow those same rules you were raised with or did you let a few fall by the wayside?

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  1. My grandma always said, "Don't sing at the table." I never knew why, so I asked her. She said she didn't know either. "When we were little my daddy told us not to sing at the table, and when my daddy said not to do something, you didn't ask why, you just didn't do it." So I still have no idea why it's bad to sing at the table. (Plus, I know some families where they all sing grace at the table.)

    5 Replies
    1. re: revsharkie

      My Polish grandmother always told me that if I sang at the table I'd marry a stupid man. Despite occasionally flouting this rule, I have to say I'm pretty pleased with my husband.

      1. re: Hunicsz

        My parents always told us not to sing at the table, too. So I vowed if I ever had children, they would be allowed to sing as long as their mouths weren't full. I figure if you're happy enough to sing, you should be allowed to.

        1. re: Hunicsz

          Wow - thats suspiciously like what my Indian Bengali grandmother told me - if you sing while eating you will marry a crazy man... I never sang while eating but I cant vouch for the sanity of a man who would marry me.

          1. re: Hunicsz

            I guess that explains it. As a child, my wife must have sung at the table, regardless of what her family told her!


          2. re: revsharkie

            My mother/grandmother always said: Sing before you eat, cry before you sleep.

          3. We were brought up strictly at the dining table, wait for everyone to be served, ask for things to be passed do not stretch, knives and forks down between mouthfuls, with upside down fork crossing the knife. When finished knife and fork at 6.30pm. Break a piece of bread and butter each piece as you want it. Turn soup plate away from you. Peas to be eaten on the prongs of the fork.

            17 Replies
            1. re: smartie

              Oooh, you listed some I forgot. "don't reach across the table" and break a pc of bread... don't bite your roll. Good ones!

              1. re: lynnlato

                lynnlato, I did extensive study on the history of Italian emigration to Canada, and I'm wondering if the "hands in lap" thing is an example of a desire to integrate into the new country? It is certainly not a criterion of good manners anywhere in Southern Italy as far as I know - and they have MANY, being a courtly and highly traditional society.

                It used to be looked down on in Sicily to dine al fresco - only peasants and gypsies did that. Of course that has changed in Sicily and Calabria. (I'm not of Sicilian origin but both of my main profs were).

                1. re: lagatta

                  Interesting. I kind of always assumed it was just an American thing. Never really associated that with my Italian heritage. I just mentioned he was Sicillian b/c he was a tough dude w/ rules! Ha!

                2. re: lynnlato

                  another one: place napkin on lap as soon as you sit down at the table...plus all those others. I too freak when I see others violating "the manners rules" it's just so ingrained. the roll and butter thing too. I wish all my bothers and sisters were on this they would have many more memories of lessons at the table...now was that good manners. I would rather be singing then learning the rules.

                  1. re: windyday

                    Interesting that you mention the bread & butter. We hosted a couple for a "candidate's dinner," and the wife took my bread plate. Oh well, that is life, and the bread was not THAT exciting anyway.


                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      We were out to dinner with friends last night (at an upscale restaurant) and the table was so crowded that it was difficult to tell whose water glass and bread plate were whose. We all spent a fun 5 minutes sorting it out. "Back in the day," restaurants allocated a reasonable amount of space to a place setting. These days, it seems to be "squeeze as many in as you can."

                      1. re: pikawicca

                        "eat to the left and drink to the right" words to live by....well that and "righty tighty, leftly loosey." ;o)

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          Just encountered the same in three locations - all upper-end to upper-upper-end. I commented to each server that in most restaurants, my party was always given an 8-top, for a party of 4, or a 4-top for a party of 2. I wanted to impress them with the total lack of real estate.

                          In one case, we were a party of 4, and the restaurant had Riedel Sommelier stemware. Our table (standard 4-top) was so over-filled, that we needed to turn in our bread and bread plates, prior to the arrival of the mains.

                          Similar for just the wife and me - the table was overfilled with wine glasses by the third course. The servers had to resort to a side-board, just for our wines, and we had to cycle them, as we wished to indulge.

                          I agree that table tops seem to be shrinking, and table spacing seems to be getting tighter. It's tough to grab all of one's wine glasses, as the behind of the waiter at the next table "cleans" YOUR tabletop.


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            Funny story on the table top sizes - DS and I went to a very small local restaurant and proceeded to order too much food for a 2 top - the waiter actually invited us to move to a 4 top, which was good - the restaurant got crowded, Dear SO joined us and we had enough room for all. So sorry about the other situations you've been thru.

                    2. re: smartie

                      "Turn soup plate away from you"
                      I was always taught that, in addition to all the other mentioned. For some reason it feels so awkward to me. I try to kep it in mind, but often find myself tilting the bowl toward me when I near the end of my soup. Especially if it was really good!

                      1. re: SweetPea914

                        And spoon the soup toward the far edge of the bowl. I guess this is so you don't spill it on yourself, although I still do.

                        1. re: Fuser

                          For Asians, the rule is soup toward yourself. I suppose if you spill, it is more polite to do it onto yourself than upon your host or their table.

                          1. re: JungMann

                            Asians generally use bowls that are cup-like or deep rather than the shallow wider bowls, often called soup plates, in the West. The rule differs just to make your life more complicated.
                            You can pick up the soup cup and drink from it (there's another CH thread going on this) but you shouldn't pick up the shallow bowl/soup plate which you can tilt gently away from you to get the last few spoonfuls of soup.
                            There are some soup/bouillon cups used in the West that you can drink from as well. Now everybody's heads are spinning...

                          2. re: Fuser

                            As a child I was taught "as little ships go out to sea, I dip my spoon away from me."

                        2. re: smartie

                          Along with turning the soup plate away from you: "as the ships go out to sea, I dip my spoon away from me"

                        3. In addition to much of what has already been mentioned (except the no singing thing) we were taught to only cut a mouth-sized portion at a time instead of cutting all of it at once. I understand doing that for young children, but adults!? When I see someone doing that, I cringe a little...it looks so yahoo-ish...

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: pfarrell

                            I can't stand it when friends of mine do this!

                            1. re: pfarrell

                              The cutting of the entire dish seems to be more concentrated in the US, than most of the rest of the world.

                              I once discussed cutting up one's salad with a French chef, and he was horrified. "If any diner had to cut my salad, to eat it, I would have failed." Still, in too many places (in the US), the salad is often half a head of lettuce, and needs to be cut, just to eat. In the course of ingesting it, one might cut a bit more, so as to eat it. Still, the chef's words ring in my ears, when confronted with giant salad "pieces."

                              The exception for children was mentioned. I would also add the elderly, as my wife does need to cut my M-I-L's food for her, and does so en masse, rather than for each individual bite. Still, at 90+, I overlook it. Just having her with us is worth the price.

                              Hunt, who has been known to make a few swipes of a knife at his ill-prepared salad.

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                I don't think the salad really applies as much in my opinion. I have been known to cut my giant tomato wedges all at the same time or the few knife swimpe in a pinch. I am more referring to the habit of cutting up all your steak or pork chop etc. into bite-sized pieces before shoveling it in (not everyone does but it does make your eating go at a faster pace).

                                I agree children and the elderly are the exception. Children need to be taught that once they are old enouogh to weild the knife however that the proper way to eat is not cutting up everything at once (I think this may be the step that was missed in the homes of my friends).

                                1. re: melpy

                                  I do agree, and only brought the salad up, as it might be where I fall down. Otherwise, it's a small cut, eat, small cut, etc.


                                2. re: Bill Hunt

                                  I HATE salads in the U.S. that feature huge pieces of veggies in a small bowl. How is one supposed to eat this stuff? I cut and slash with great abandon when confronted with such a salad, and make no apologies.

                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    I agree, and feel your pain. At best, one ends up with a small mess of sliced and diced veggies. At worst, they end up with a big mess and never get to eat any, as the staff picks it up, before the first forkful.


                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                      I agree entirely. How are you supposed to dress a salad properly if it comprises enormous wedges of leaves?

                                  2. re: pfarrell

                                    Cutting each bite of meat (or tearing each bit of bread) as you go is one of those silly rules that I invariably ignore. Particularly with the bread, as I often like butter on my bread, and spreading a bit of butter on each bite or slice at the beginning gives the butter more time to settle in (or melt, if the butter was refrigerated).

                                    1. re: racer x

                                      The rule for buttering your bread one bite at a time was/is intended for more formal occasions, and not family meals in the privacy of your home. The reason for not buttering an entire roll or slice of bread originated in a time when it was extremely gauche to clean your plate! It was just plain bad manners. In those times, buttering an entire roll or slice of bread greatly increased the risk of soiling linens or gloves of staff/waiters. In those times, formal occasions meant NO bread and butter plate, but did not omit bread and butter. Bread was offered by a servant or waiter, and then was placed directly on the table cloth in the place where a b&b plate would normally be. In those times, servants were common or hired for special dinners, and those who served food ALWAYS wore white cotton gloves. First off, it prevented fingerprints when handling dishes and silver while setting the table, then served the same purpose while serving the meal. Buttered bread left by diners risked staining table linens and gloves. Times are different now. But I do have an aging set of china that simply demands gloves if I don't want the Persian Red borders all smudged with fingerprints. Picnic anyone? Yay paper plates! '-)

                                    2. re: pfarrell

                                      Well, there is solid logic to the admonishment not to cut meat more than one bite at a time. It is simply to preserve its heat until you are ready for your next bite. When you cut an entire portion of meat into bite sized pieces all at once, the smaller pieces lose their heat much faster than the larger whole serving size. In addition to children probably not being able to cut their own food well, cutting it into bite sized pieces at the start of the meal keeps them from burning themselves. There is almost always sound logic behind these "Rules of Etiquette" we are taught as children.

                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                        Ah, Caroline, you're just a fount of history! Now I know (or at least have heard a reasonable reason as to) what was up with those long-stemmed cigarette holders.

                                        As for the cutting of the meat, if a goal of preserving the meat's warmth was the origin of the rule, that's one rule that should just be a "suggestion." Especially for relatively fast eaters like me, who usually dispatch steaks and chops in just a few minutes (a sure sign of yahooism, no doubt).

                                    3. Had to ask "May I be excused?" before getting up from the table.

                                      35 Replies
                                      1. re: whs

                                        My sister and I had to be dressed appropriately and could never appear at the table in hairnets and rollers(yes my children at one time females spent hours with large cylindrical metal contraptions in their hair). We had to sit up straight in our chairs and not cross our legs or tap our feet.

                                        1. re: whs

                                          We didn't have to ask to be excused, but you did have to finish chewing and swallowing your last bite before wandering off.

                                          1. re: whs

                                            Wow. What a throwback. I also had to ask to be excused, and, more often than not, I was told "no" since everyone at the table was not finished eating (another rule). I actually had to train my husband that getting up from the table when others are still eating is bad manners. I always thought that my parents were uptight, but I thank them now....

                                            1. re: diablo

                                              I'm still working on this one. (Training the husband - so that it's consistent with what I'm trying to train the kids! Most of the other ill examples of manners he may use can go unnoticed - but not that one!)

                                              1. re: cackalackie

                                                Yes, same here...it drives me insane when he gets up and I am still eating; makes me feel I need to rush to the next big thing....in my mind, eating (i.e., enjoying my dinner) after a hectic day of work is the next big thing. Not to mention that it is rude....(NB: And I am not a painfully slow eater either).

                                                1. re: jeni1002

                                                  OK, my dad eats twice as much and half as fast as I do. What should I do at the end of my meal if I were to follow this rule? (being Chinese we don't really care when we eat at home.)

                                                  1. re: Teep

                                                    I can't comment on your dinner dynamics, but for me, dinner (or any meal for that matter) is/should be a time window where you relax, connect with your family/SO, and catch up. Living in a culture that promotes eating on the run (think drive-thrus, soups to go, your check promptly arriving at your table as soon as you took the last bite, etc. etc.), having a meal together and not rushing to get yet another thing done takes on a new meaning. For me, it's connecting with the people that I am eating with, listening to their stories, creating a space that is relaxed and stress-free.

                                                    To answer your question, if I am done eating before others (and this does happen occasionally), I continue the conversation that presumably was taking place during the meal. But I won't get up until everyone has finished eating.

                                                    1. re: Teep

                                                      I second Jeni's suggestion. You conversate. That's one of the main purposes of dining together. It's about more than the act of eating the meal. Plus, it allows time for proper digestion, something most people allow little time for.

                                                      1. re: diablo

                                                        Again, cultural differences come into play here. Confucius has said "No words when eating, no talking when sleeping." So conversation is NOT "a main purposes of dining together", at least not for our family at home. (When going out, we would talk while waiting for the food or the bill, but those "gaps" don't exists at home.)

                                                        1. re: Teep

                                                          This has now sparked my curiosity - forgive my ignorance, but then what is acceptable in this context? Getting up and doing your dish?

                                                          I've always believed in context-sensitivity: being attuned to one's surroundings and adjusting behavior to meet the demands/idiosyncrasies of these surroundings. Following your argument, if talking is not something you do while dining, and this is acceptable in your context, why wouldn't the reverse be acceptable in others?

                                                          1. re: jeni1002

                                                            I did not say it's not acceptable in other context. My original question was what should *I* do if I were to follow this rule of not leaving the table until everyone is finished, and I'm only saying that "converse" is not one of *my* options. I usually get up and fiddle around in the kitchen (we eat in there) until my parents are done.

                                                          2. re: Teep

                                                            This is very important - I facilitate at international seminars, where part of the training is having the participants form cooking teams - this could be a subject in itself. I noticed that not only East Asians but also South-of-Saharan Africans don't converse while dining - unless they have spent some time in the West. Unlike Europeans, people from the Americas (North, Central and South) and several other groups.

                                                            1. re: lagatta

                                                              when i was in ukraine back in the early 90s, there was a group of us (americans) sharing a meal with a host group of ukrainians. we were laughing and having a good time and trying to converse with the host group when one of the ukrainians leaned over to me very quietly and said, "here in ukraine, we do not talk while we are eating. we wait 'til we are finished"

                                                              1. re: fudisgud

                                                                People in the Ukraine enjoy their meals quietly. It's a feast for all the senses -- undistracted. I prefer light conversation while dining. I despise loud tables! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzLtF_...

                                                                1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                                  I recall this memory while I was an exchange student in Ukraine & I actually enjoyed it. Food is a blessing to them, as it truly is.

                                                                  1. re: JayVaBeach

                                                                    i think that's lovely - i just wish someone had told it to us before we sat down to eat because we were so horribly embarrassed!

                                                                2. re: fudisgud

                                                                  Wow, I'm Ukrainian but I've never encountered that. Yes, when children sit down to eat their parents usually tell them to not talk with their mouths full, but it doesn't apply when you have guests over. In fact, we always had lively conversations at the table when people came over for dinner (which was often ;-)) Spontaneous singing was also quite the norm.

                                                              2. re: Teep

                                                                Gosh, I never even thought about that, Teep. I don't know then. If that's the case maybe leaving the table is a good idea.....

                                                            2. re: Teep

                                                              My guess is that you eat fast because you live fast. Probably a stressed lunch hour with other things to do besides eat. Busy breakfast, if you have time for one at all. Why not intentionally try to slow down at family meals and take time to savor your food. AND your dad! In today's world, it's one of life's greatest lusuries.

                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                Also because my dad has fewer teeth than I do!

                                                              2. re: Teep

                                                                Whatever it is, do not sing! See earlier replies on what is likely to happen, should you do so. [Grin]


                                                          3. re: diablo

                                                            I too was required to ask to be excused from the table. I think this is a great rule for children. One my hubby was obviously not taught and it irks me to no end when he departs the table once he is finished eating. Especially since it is only the two of us. He can't seem to understand why it bothers me. If I'm going to take the time after I've worked all day to cook a meal, I want to sit and enjoy the meal and prefer not to do so by myself. It's very disrespectful IMO.

                                                            1. re: ebmalon

                                                              I'm guessing your hubby's a grown-up? Why not have one of those adult conversations? Seems like a fairly easy case to make.

                                                              1. re: ebmalon

                                                                I would have a problem being expected to ask to be excused from the table. On the other hand, to me, it's not polite to want to leave the table before everybody is finished eating, and more importantly, while there is conversation to be had.

                                                                1. re: ricepad

                                                                  While I agree in theory about "before everybody is finished eating," Mr Pine eats exceptionally slowly and I eat fast (he'd say exceptionally fast). Add to that the fact that he eats about twice as much as me, so it's a looooong time. I do excuse myself and putter nearby so we can still talk (well, usually), but it's excrutiating to sit and watch for another 20 minutes or more.

                                                                2. re: ebmalon

                                                                  Yes, that was part of the drill, though I cannot recall my father abiding by it. Heck, we felt fortunate that he dined with us, and was not out fishing, or at the 19th hole on the golf course.

                                                                  Even at my advanced age, I "excuse" myself, when leaving the table.

                                                                  Now, I am often blind-sided, when a young lady at our table, just pops up, and disappears. Normally, I will stand, or attempt to do so. Still, it seems that they come and go, and with great speed and often stealth.

                                                                  We do not need to know where they are going, but it IS nice, when they make a little announcement , that they ARE leaving, even if they plan to return.

                                                                  Just my observations,


                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                    Those young ladies just aren't what they used to be, huh? '-)

                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                      Well, some are, but then some are not...


                                                                  2. re: ebmalon

                                                                    my ex did the same thing. i'd have him over for dinner. he'd scarf his food down, then would go lay or sit on my couch. i cried what the hell... and he gave me the lameass excuse he was tired. yeah, well, maybe i'm tired from cooking you a great meal. the least you could do is sit with me. i'm not eating my broccoli by the individual flower or floret.

                                                                    1. re: Emme

                                                                      emme, please remember to add "cooking strike" to your repertoire. ;-)).

                                                                3. re: whs

                                                                  We had to ask if we could leave the table but it didn't necessarily have to be phrased just like that. Sometimes we'd say "Can I get up?"

                                                                  1. re: PDeveaux

                                                                    Should I have phrased it thusly, the reply would likely have been, "of course you CAN, but until permission to be excused has been given, you MAY not."

                                                                    Semantics, yes, but I would have gotten the message.


                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                      Semantics I wish more people would follow, Bill.

                                                                      We always got a similar answer if we asked "Hey Mom, can I do this/make that/call this person?" Her response was always "I don't know - can you?"

                                                                      Perhaps that's where the game "Mother, May I?" came into being. :-)

                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                        This rule bothers me, I teach Spanish and for teaching the to be able verb for so long and not teaching the to permit verb, I always default to "can I/can you" hmmmph!

                                                                  2. re: whs

                                                                    Me, too. We were generally allowed to be excused, because my dad is a painfully slow eater, and my mother couldn't justify making us all sit at the table for ages while he finished. Also, after all the kids had been excused, they got caught up on each other's day. But sometimes I see friends' children get up and just leave the table without asking, and I'm always shocked.

                                                                  3. I too was taught to eat with one hand on my lap -- generally the left. So imagine my surprise when I went to Paris as part of an informal student exchange my grandparents had arranged and the madame of the house firmly grasped my hand in my lap and placed it on the tabletop, at the edge. She told me that in France it was impolite to have one's hand on one's lap and that it belonged resting on the table at the fleshy part right below the wrist and definitely not at the elbow.

                                                                    18 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Fuser

                                                                      no talking with food in your mouth; using the fork correctly (i.e. not gripping it in a fist and "stabbing" food); using a knife to cut food rather than sawing at it with the side of your fork (still a pet peeve of mine) and definitely no elbows, as has been mentioned!

                                                                      I too lived for a time with a French family - the thing with keeping the other hand on the table just below the wrist was explained to me as a way (obviously historical!) of showing your fellow diners you weren't about to draw your sword or a knife at them from under the table...

                                                                      1. re: briedemeaux

                                                                        oh yeah. That reminds me of the first time I went out to eat with my husband. He grabbed his fork around the the handle in his fist. I looked at him and said, "No farmer's clutch on your fork." It immediately broke him of that habit. (And he married me anyway, go figure :-) We used the same admonition on the kids as they grew up and "no farmer's clutch" has become a family etiquette standby.
                                                                        I would say my No. 1 peeve is people eating with their mouths open. I find it absolutely disgusting and completely lose my appetite. It's everything I can do to just not flee the table.

                                                                        1. re: Fuser

                                                                          Fuser, so sorry you just missed the long ex-thread about that topic. Deemed too "chatty". Farmer's clutch makes me think of that American Gothic couple by Grant Wood -- at the table with the vittles!

                                                                          1. re: Fuser

                                                                            My sister grips her fork around the handle. It looks as if she's afraid her steak is going to run off the plate and she has to hold it down. She likes it rare, but not that rare. She also cuts it up in pieces before she eats. Drives me crazy, I can't believe we were raised by the same people.

                                                                            1. re: janeann11

                                                                              The other admonition for the kids was "no dog-bowling," referring to the habit of putting one's head about two inches from the bowl and slurping the food up that way.

                                                                              1. re: Fuser

                                                                                Dog-bowling!!! That's sooo funny! Those people usually have about 10 other bad manners too. God save me from dog-bowlers! That will be the new term in our house. Thanks for the laugh.

                                                                                1. re: Fuser

                                                                                  That is good, amusing and funny.

                                                                                  How about 'FHB' gently called out as we sit down.

                                                                                  'Family Hold Back'

                                                                                  Four hungry sons do need to be reminded when guests are present .

                                                                                  1. re: Naguere

                                                                                    Dog-bowling and FHB: I love how CH expands my vocabulary :)

                                                                              2. re: Fuser

                                                                                This is exactly what we were taught - apparently its considered lazy and rude to have you hand on your lap - both your arms and hands should be at attention with the fleshy part resting your arm to the table. We were taught no nose blowing at the table, no yawning, no saying I am stuffed, but satisfied, no hats, no books, NO LIP SLAPPING or eating with your mouth full. And to this day If I see anybody slapping lips I give them the death stare. No making sounds with your fork or knife on your plate - nor when you stir something - you had to avoid the sides in order to be silent. The worst was we had to eat everything and my mom grew up on a farm in chile and there were just things that my brothers and I wouldnt eat. My grandfather on my dad's side put nails on the table so that my dad and his siblings couldnt put their elbows up- because the worse thing was having our elbows on the table I guess. My dad is a softee we never had anything like that - but I am glad my parents were strict with us - there is no where I go now where I dont feel comfortable or dont know what do do. My husband grew up in Rural Illinois and his upbringing wasnt too different.

                                                                                1. re: Ljubitca

                                                                                  Haaa! So funny. "give them the death stare"... I love it! I totally do the same. And you reminded me of yet another rule... no scraping your teeth on your eating utensils. Again, to this day if someone is sliding their teeth on their fork I cringe!

                                                                                  "No Hats"... another good one!

                                                                                  1. re: Ljubitca

                                                                                    To add, no blowing on any food to cool it. Soup could be stirred, as you describe, to dissipate the heat, but no blowing. Closest that I come is smelling the food to make sure that I get all of the aromas. Smelling of any food was considered poor manners, in my youth. Still, I want to take in all aspects of the dish, from the sight, to the smell, to the taste. My mother would probably turn over in her grave, but I have good justification for this particular infraction.


                                                                                    1. re: Ljubitca

                                                                                      When my father was young at the dinner table and put his elbows on the table, my grandmother, his mother, lifted his arm and banged his elbow on the table. He never did that again and used that story to teach my brothers and me a manners lesson. I have used it with my kids and now with my grandkids.

                                                                                  2. re: briedemeaux

                                                                                    When I first saw this clip I gasped because I thought to myself ... 'How un-ladylike to grasp a fork that way'. To Jessica's credit she sat there and ate with some degree of elegance, but her fan [Holly] displayed that 'Farmer's clutch' grip that was very unbecoming. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOheHY...

                                                                                    1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                                                      Oh my gosh.
                                                                                      We didn't have strict rules at the table growing up. People often comment on my eating and how "polite" and lady like I am, but it's nothing I learned, mostly just common sense and perhaps things I picked up watching TV or something.

                                                                                      1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                                                        She was in the hospital, give her a break! (as annoyingly pointed out by rachel ray several times)

                                                                                      2. re: Fuser

                                                                                        That was my feeling exactly when corrected. After 40 years of having this ingrained, it has been tough to break. I still find my left hand slipping below the table. Old habits...


                                                                                      3. Pretty much the same stuff that others have mentioned. Here's an interesting one: Always put knife and fork side by side in the middle of the plate between bites. Fork with tines up means you're not done yet; tines down means you're done. Never heard of this anywhere else (until smartie's post).

                                                                                        No stretching across the table. Very important. Once my sister reached for the salt right across in front of my face instead of asking for it, so I bit her on the arm. (I was 8, she was 6.) She yelled, of course, but Mom just said "What did I tell you about reaching across?" 35 years later I still feel rather victorious about that one.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: misterbrucie

                                                                                          For me, the unensiles were placed side-by-side, but on the upper edge of the plate/bowl. Knife edge always faced me.

                                                                                          Now, some dinnerware makes this difficult, but usually not impossible.

                                                                                          Also, if there is a saucer, the soup spoon should rest in it, when not being actively used. If there is no saucer, then it is placed in the bowl, with the handle obviously resting on a dry portion of the side.

                                                                                          Here again, some dinnerware, and some flatware does not lend itself to his sort of action. In a restaurant, I usually comment on this. One restaurant, recently reviewed, changed their dinnerware for soups. I guess that I was not the first to comment. Their old dinnerware looked great, but was tough to use properly.

                                                                                          When we go to purchase flatware, we spend quite a long time using them in almost every way. The general ergonomics are very important, but also how these balance on dinnerware is important too. I'm a NOMA guy, but then I have to actually USE the stuff. What might look good in a display of art is one thing; what works well is too often another.


                                                                                          1. re: misterbrucie

                                                                                            Non, non, non!

                                                                                            Tines up = done. parallel, angled off to one side.

                                                                                            Tines down = still eating, just as if you were about to pierce the next bite. Also, tines down with base of implement (fork, at left) at 7 or 8 o'clock and knife at 4 or 5 o'clock.

                                                                                          2. That's funny about the "no singing rule." I don't remember hearing that as a child, but when my girls were little that was a biggie for us!

                                                                                            As a child I was told to never leave the table until I was excused, no smacking, chewing with your mouth closed, and napkins firmly in laps. The hands and elbows wasn't such a big deal at home, but for sure, never in public. And no reaching, pass food clockwise, always starting with daddy first, and ask for things politely or the parents became deaf! And never pick up your bowl to slurp that last bit of soup! UGH!

                                                                                            My late FIL was a terrible smacker and always spoke with his mouth full. It was so disgusting that I could not eat across the table from him, or I would start to gag, discreetly, of course, but I would inevitably end up with my eyes downcast and my food untouched. My youngest DD is so sensitive to noises people make when they eat she will leave the table (breaking on of the rules of not being excused, but , , ,)

                                                                                            My grandfather thought that if you didn't belch at the end of a meal, then that was an insult to the cook! (Old country etiquette.) Luckily my dad didn't follow that rule!

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: danhole

                                                                                              My dad did--even before he knew anything about Old Country etiquette. (He's never been to any Old Country.) And by the time she was ten years old, my sister could keep up with him! She got away with it at home, but never at Grandma's.

                                                                                              My dad isn't consistent, however: while a nice, healthy burp is apparently quite acceptable, he absolutely would come unglued if anyone passed gas at the table!

                                                                                            2. -Napkins on the lap
                                                                                              -No reaching for items, you had to ask for an item to be passed
                                                                                              -No taking food before my dad served himself
                                                                                              -sit up straight
                                                                                              -no elbows on the table(if you did you would get a smack on the elbow bone with a fork from my dad
                                                                                              -chew with your mouth closed
                                                                                              -finish everything on your plate
                                                                                              -ask to be excused from the table after the meal

                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: swsidejim

                                                                                                Not 100% that strict but very close...

                                                                                                1. re: swsidejim

                                                                                                  Napkins have been mentioned, though not in detail.

                                                                                                  For me, they should be folded across the long dimension, should there be one. The fold goes toward the diner, with the open end away.

                                                                                                  When many hosts/hostesses place a napkin in a diner's lap, it is most often a triangle fold. I change this immediately.

                                                                                                  Now, at risk of bringing up a long-since dead thread, I always fold the soilded part of the napkin inwards, and place it on my chair, or preferably on the chair's arm, should I leave the table. I was taught that at no time, until the meal was finished, would a used napkin every be placed back onto the table, regardless of what shape it was folded in. Much debate raged, and some good points were made on all sides.

                                                                                                  Also, I like dark napkins, when one is wearing dark clothing and appreciate when a restaurant notices this.


                                                                                                  1. re: swsidejim

                                                                                                    I've noticed in several restaurants that the server will bring an extra napkin when I have already placed mine on my lap. like I was trained to do !

                                                                                                    1. re: betsydiver

                                                                                                      At several restaurants, I have observed a replacement of the napkins, even when placed over the arm of the chair. No problem with that.

                                                                                                      Now, either lint-free, or black napkins with dark clothing is almost a must.

                                                                                                      Wife pulled a server aside and mentioned the lack of "black napkins," as she almost always wears black. The response was, "our white napkins are totally lint-free. If you have any issue, please let me know." All of this conversation was in whispers, but I appreciated the response.


                                                                                                    2. re: swsidejim

                                                                                                      Eat at least a couple bites of everything on your plate, even if it's something you don't like, to be gracious to your host. In the same vein, unless the host is a close friend and asks for your opinion, the food is always "very good" or "excellent."

                                                                                                      1. re: Antithesisofpop

                                                                                                        Good point. I "push" some things about, so that nothing looks untouched. I do taste everything, as I have been impressed by the prep of some items, that I would never have ordered, prior.


                                                                                                    3. Pretty much all the rules listed. I also have thanked my parents for forcing this ettiquette upon us, especially during formal occasions (wedding, work dinners etc..)

                                                                                                      We had to sit up straight and keep our hands and elbows off the table. I wish that was a universal rule. People who slouch over their food and chew with their mouths open still are a pet peeve of mine.

                                                                                                      1. These are all great and are reminding me of one's I forgot to list. Wow! There are so many.

                                                                                                        It has also reminded me of my godmother's son who was much older. He would eat quadruple decker pb&j's and also eat his cereal out of a giant mixing bowl. I used to just stare at him in disbelief and wonder how and why he was permitted to do so. Ha! He probabably thought to himself, "what's with this kid?"

                                                                                                        1. I was brought up with most of these rules, with the addition of no books at the table - important in a house of bookworms. Things like no elbows on the table were relaxed at home, but at restaurants we were always to use our very best table manners. And when eating at someone else's home we had to try a bite of everything, no matter what, and always say something complimentary and keep our negative opinions to ourselves.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: mordacity

                                                                                                            Oh, yeah, I had forgotten about the no books rule. We were a household of bookworms, also. I think my parents used it to their advantage by requiring us to eat everything on the plate before we could leave and go back to reading our books!
                                                                                                            Oh, and we couldn't say something was "yucky" or say "eeew" about anything, especially at someone else's table.

                                                                                                          2. Holding the fork and knife with the knife in the right and fork in the left, using the your pointing fingers on the top of each utensil and at a slight slant. Neither the fork or the knife were to be held in the palm of our hands. I can relate to "shutting down"! The way Chef Tom Colicchio holds his utensil drives me crazy! I cringe when he eats!

                                                                                                            No sawing the meat with elbows flying, keep the elbows close to the body. Which leads to NEVER cut all your meat up first. Ever. to this day, even feeding my children, a few bites cut at a time.
                                                                                                            No slouching or leaning in your chair
                                                                                                            General rules

                                                                                                            No talking with food in your mouth.
                                                                                                            No elbows on the table one hand down. Not always that it couldn't reappear, just did not belong on the table as a resting stand.
                                                                                                            No hats no rollers and dressed cleanly hands washed

                                                                                                            Passing the food rule, no reaching, and absolutely no " short stopping" we had to wait until the requester was done with it, and then we could use whatever it was they asked for, but they were first. Butter, salt, whatever.
                                                                                                            To eat soup with the soup spoon, one thing I always got talked to about, I don't particularly like a reg soup spoon or fork, I prefer tea spoon and salad fork or chop sticks. Which I can and do use now!

                                                                                                            Any noises that were considered bad taste period. It never happened. Which led to if you didn't like something, you kept it to yourself. If we were asked how we liked something if it were new, we could be honest with our answer but no one sat there and whined that they didn't like it. We ate what was on our plate. And if you took it, you owned it.

                                                                                                            It's not that my parents were particularly uptight, but we did ask permission allot. I remember asking if I could "dunk" my bread in my soup bowl. Which was okay, I just always asked first. I had this flash back the other day I met with some clients over lunch.. all of us had a first course of minestroni soup, they enjoyed the bread with butter up until then, and I waited until the soup came and asked if they minded if I "dunked" my bread. Bad habits are hard to break!

                                                                                                            Never blow your nose on the linen (special) dinner napkins or at the table. Excuse yourself, and come back.

                                                                                                            We used to have to ask to be excused, and push the chair back in. I still push the chair back in no matter where I am. And to wait for all to be finished with dinner before doing so.

                                                                                                            And finally, to always thank the person that prepared the meal absolutely a must even if it was my mother.

                                                                                                            19 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                                              I forgot the "push the chair back in" one. That still grates on my nerves when someone (i.e. husband) doesn't do that! And blowing your nose at the table - EGADS! I can hear my mother asking "Were you raised in a barn?"

                                                                                                              1. re: danhole

                                                                                                                I hate to see chairs sticking out! Even if we're out for pizza, we all push our chairs back.

                                                                                                                yeah,no kidding that blowing your nose thing, fastest diet you'll ever see me go on. Absolutely destroys any thoughts I had about enjoying a meal!
                                                                                                                A visiting uncle did this, I thought my Mom was going to pass out! I sure remember the lecture later we got on poor manners and how we were to never do that!

                                                                                                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                                                  Those of us with sinus problems would never be able to eat if we adhered to this rule. My nose runs frequently. Although I exercise formal table manners for the most part, this one has always been a problem for me.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Jase


                                                                                                                    I also have the runny nose problem, but I dab with a tissue, and if I have to, run off to blow. It's a challenge, no doubt! My dad would let out big old honkers during meals and it really turned me off.

                                                                                                                    1. re: danhole

                                                                                                                      Which reminds me of the time I was out with a friend and she blew her nose into the linen napkin at the restaurant. I didn't even know what to say to that.

                                                                                                                      1. re: danhole

                                                                                                                        Ah, yes. The sinus problem. I also will excuse myself to the bathroom to blow, sometimes midcourse. It doesn't help that I frequently order soup :) I figure my tablemates would excuse the midcourse dissapearing act faster that the table nose blow. It's pretty gross.

                                                                                                                        1. re: diablo

                                                                                                                          there is an article in the ny times this week about chronic rhinitis - folks with the condition including myself should really see an ENT a few times a year - there is no need to suffer - and yes get up from the table if you have to blow - if its just a runny nose then dab.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Ljubitca

                                                                                                                            See, I would just never be at the table. Yes, I dab at my nose with a hankerchief. I carry one with me at all times. But when you're completely stuffed up that you can't breath or taste anything, I'm not leaving the table the whole night. I just blow quietly and place the hanky back down on my lap.

                                                                                                                            I figure it's either someone thinks I'm rude or they just never see me the whole meal.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Jase

                                                                                                                              My husband's got sinus problems, as do I. The problem is when the "dab at the nose" goes to a full-blown "runny faucet, going into a honking goose" with the noise. Anything more than a slight dab sends me running to the ladies' room. Bringing undue attention to oneself at the table was a big, BIG no-no.

                                                                                                                            2. re: Ljubitca

                                                                                                                              Thank goodness there are others like me out there. It's like someone turns on a little faucet in my sinuses when I eat....especially soup and I love soup. I have to make at least two
                                                                                                                              trips to the ladies room to blow.

                                                                                                                              A co-worker was so amused at my restroom trips she said "you have one of two problems: 1. Cocaine; or 2. Bulimia." I assued her it was neither just really crappy sinuses.

                                                                                                                        2. re: Jase

                                                                                                                          Miss Manners says there's nothing wrong with quietly blowing your nose at the table, 'as long as one doesn't study the contents of one's handkerchief.'

                                                                                                                          I LOVE that one!

                                                                                                                          1. re: toodie jane

                                                                                                                            Well I guess that is the rub...how can you resist. Best not tempt oneself.

                                                                                                                            1. re: toodie jane

                                                                                                                              Horrible! If you have a bad cold, do not even get to the table, please.

                                                                                                                              1. re: toodie jane

                                                                                                                                And this is one reason that a gentleman should always have a clean handkerchief available. If my wife's allergies are acting up, I'll make sure to have a couple of additionals. Still, I would urge folk to leave the table and go to the "facilities," if at all possible.


                                                                                                                            2. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                                                              Agree. Chairs need to be placed back, beneath the table. Though probably not called for, even when hosting the normal 10-top at a charity even, should guests leave, I'll go around the table and place the chairs back into place - just habit.


                                                                                                                          2. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                                                            Yes, was pretty much the same at my house. except the hand in the lap part or putting knife and fork down between bites... always had to use fork (left hand) AND knife (right hand) we were never allowed to just eat with our forks (and fork in right hand was a definite no no). Cut one bite size piece at the time but don't put silverware down during bite... My mom would stab my elbow with her fork if I would have it on the table. Don't start eating untill everybody was served. when you are done put your knife & fork at 4 o'clock. No reaching, no reading or watching TV while at the table.... and you would not be excused until everybody finished eating. Once everybody was finished eating we had to help clean up and do the dishes.
                                                                                                                            Whoever cooked didn't have to clean. (which is still a rule in our house)
                                                                                                                            I'm very glad my parents were strict about the etiquette...

                                                                                                                            1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                                                              Fortunately, I was allowed to try it, but then push it about some, so that it "looked" like I had actually eaten it.

                                                                                                                              If I was asked, I was to say something along the lines of "it was very good. I enjoyed it, but have eaten all that I can, because everything was so good."

                                                                                                                              Now, growing up, I was very often the only child in the group, as my parents dined with adults. I may have been 10, before I ever dined with another near my age. There was good to this, but also some not so good. I had been endroctinated in what my parents expected of me, and what they, and their guests, did around the table. When I went to Boy Scout camp, I was totally lost. I learned to keep my mouth shut, and just observed. I'd regale my parents with what I'd seen, and they would explain that these "kids" would some day learn.

                                                                                                                              Most of this served me well, until I was faced with the "left hand in the lap" bit, when dining in the UK/Europe.What a blow! Now, my mom was a DAR, and tenth generation US citizen. I do not think that she ever dined in Europe, and that she did things, as she was taught. I still let the hand slip, but admonish myself to get it back up!


                                                                                                                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                                                                YES! to all of the above, with no books, no hats, no toys at the table!

                                                                                                                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                                                                  If we were guests at someone's home we were to taste everything also, not say I don't like that but possibly be allowed to say"No thank you; I don't care for any"

                                                                                                                                2. I had a Sicilian grandfather who could have learned a thing or two from yours Lynn! I saw Emily Post's grandson on something over the weekend and he said elbows on the table were perfectly acceptable. My husband's sisters are all lip smackers and it makes me gag. I go off on my daughter if she smacks her lips. I also insist on very clean hands and "inside voices".

                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: southernitalian

                                                                                                                                    I forgot, we called it "using your church voice"

                                                                                                                                    1. re: southernitalian

                                                                                                                                      Ha! Yeah, I have an uncle and a cousin who are lip-smackin' professionals. It almost seems intentional... as if they're trying to make as much noise as possible or challenging one another. Even with ice cream. They'll have it all over their faces. Grown men who are extremely successful. Always made me wonder how they made it through business dinners, etc. It kills me. Like fingernails on a chalk board. :-)

                                                                                                                                    2. My family of 7 was casual about setting the table- placing silverware was like pitching horseshoes. I still set the table the same fastidious way I learned in boarding school. Knife blade in, spoons in order of use, soupspoon above, waterglass, bread plate. Too young then for wine glasses.

                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                        I also went to boarding school for some of my education. In addition to all the strict manners I've read so far, we were forbidden from using the back of the chair as a backrest. "Sit up straight" meant exactly that -- no touching. There was a nun at each table who conducted dinner conversation, participation was mandatory.

                                                                                                                                        To this day, I have a horror of bad table manners. Is there a universal law that children on television commercials must eat like slobs? I have yet to see one of them hold utensils correctly.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Sherri

                                                                                                                                          Me too and one of our rules was "Ladies do not eat on the street" - heaven forbid you'd be caught eating an ice cream on the way home from the little stretch of shops we were allowed to sign out and visit after school!

                                                                                                                                          In addition to the rules many others have mentioned, at home, we had to eat three bites of everything on our plate before we were allowed to leave the table (assuming everyone else was done). Many a time were the three of us still sitting at the table - though my sister was particularly adept at feeding her bites to a plant or the dog.

                                                                                                                                      2. I grew up in a Korean family, so our table manners were a bit different than American ones. I couldn't eat until everybody older than me ate (including kids just a year or two older than me). And until the age of seven, I didn't realize that chewing with your mouth open or slurping was considered rude.

                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                          Slurping, hate it ! Coffee, soups, whatever. We were told to abstain from slurping. I wouldn't say it's rude, I'd just say it's bad table manners. Dining shouldn't be a symphony of slurping sounds, I guess.
                                                                                                                                          Tom Green makes light of it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAGjyG...

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                                                                                                            It depends on the culture you're raised in. In chanoyu, it is good form to slurp your last sip of the formal tea before passing the cup, In Saudi Arabia, it's considered polite and a compliment to burp after a meal. The critical thing for me is to familiarize myself with the customs of whatever culture I'm going to be socializing in.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                            That is interesting, regarding the "pecking order: of the meal. I had never heard that before. Now, I have always ascribed to not eating until all of the ladies at the table have begun to eat. Also, when hosting, I always wait until the last person has been served and is beginning to eat.

                                                                                                                                            Thank you for sharing,


                                                                                                                                          3. My English grandparents had more etiquette rules than I care to remember, but my favorite is no laughing at the table. If someone laughed at the table, they were sent to walk around the garden to compose themselves. On one particular occasion my grandfather even sent my grandmother to walk around the garden.
                                                                                                                                            Fortunately my mother did not enforce this rule while I was growing up. I would eventually just have taken all my meals in a box in the garden.

                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                            1. re: marmite

                                                                                                                                              No one could have finished a meal at our house if that rule had been enforced!

                                                                                                                                            2. I don't mind elbows on the table as long as you're finished with what's in front of you. Silverware hanging off the plate drives me up the wall.

                                                                                                                                              1. The most onerous (and oddest) was at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo, circa 1958. At lunch, we had to "break our bread." this meant tearing off bite-sized pieces of sandwich and consuming same. No biting of sandwich permitted. Try doing this with a salami or bologna sandwich! How wierd was this, and where did it come from?!

                                                                                                                                                1. Oooh! Many, many of these rules were in place at the table when I was growing up too. They're relaxed a little bit since all the 'kids' are now over 40, but I'm amazed at how much they've stuck with me. Once I had a colleague comment that I was the only person she knew who could eat soup without making a sound.

                                                                                                                                                  Keeping elbows off the table was reinforced with the following ditty:

                                                                                                                                                  Mary, Mary
                                                                                                                                                  Strong and able
                                                                                                                                                  Take your elbows
                                                                                                                                                  Off the table.

                                                                                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: eddieandcleo

                                                                                                                                                    We learned it as Mabel, Mabel ....

                                                                                                                                                    Once I became a parent, and a parent of a kid with ADD, another rule was added: you can't start eating before you sit down.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: 512window

                                                                                                                                                      My mother would tell us “Listen to your Auntie Mabel – keep those elbows off the table!” (or in company, just “Remember Aunt Mabel.”) Also, when my sister was little, I remember Mom saying, “Listen to your Auntie Rose – remove that finger from your nose!” I suppose she must have used it w/ me but while I was too young to remember.

                                                                                                                                                      The one I remember that no one has mentioned yet was not putting anything out in its package. That is, milk had to be poured into a milk pitcher, juice into a pitcher, butter put on a dish, etc. My husband thinks this is crazy but I still think a table looks much less appealing w/ a half-gallon of milk, 2-liter of soda or cereal box sitting out on it.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: meg944

                                                                                                                                                        Absolutely - it's just the two of us - and a tiny dishwasher (mechanical!) - but everything gets put into a bowl or a serving piece before being set on the table. Also - always cloth napkins. We do reuse them during the week, unless we've had a particularly messy meal.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: eddieandcleo

                                                                                                                                                      We learned:
                                                                                                                                                      "Keep your elbows off the table, little children,
                                                                                                                                                      Keep your elbows off the table little children,
                                                                                                                                                      We have seen you do it twice ,and it isn't very nice,
                                                                                                                                                      Keep your elbows off the table, little children"

                                                                                                                                                      Then in case of a third infraction:

                                                                                                                                                      "Round the table you must go, you must go , you must go
                                                                                                                                                      for you are ROTTEN ROTTEN ROTTEN!"
                                                                                                                                                      and the offender had to do a lap of shame around the table.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: WCchopper

                                                                                                                                                        Another little ditty is...
                                                                                                                                                        "Mabel, Mabel, if you're able,
                                                                                                                                                        Get your elbows off the table."

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: WCchopper

                                                                                                                                                          OMG were you then beaten with a wire hanger?

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: SweetPea914

                                                                                                                                                            We did this at big family reunions, so it was especially fun to catch a grown-up in an infraction and then force them to run around the table. All in good fun. My mom was actually much more of a task master at home! If we tipped our chairs too many times, we had to finish our meal standing up...or put our hands in our food we had to sit on the offending digit.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: SweetPea914

                                                                                                                                                              "No wire hangers! No wire hangers ever!"

                                                                                                                                                        2. Start with fork in right and knife in left, switch to cut. Must put knife down after each bite is cut. If I had ever tried to at "European Style" and keep my knife in my right, my mom or grandmother would smack my hands with the back of their knives. Hurt like hell.

                                                                                                                                                          1. The cardinal rule- thank the preparer of the food for their effort!

                                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Gin and It

                                                                                                                                                              This is the rule that if we forgot it, heaven help us!

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Gin and It

                                                                                                                                                                In Norway we say "Takk for maten," thank you for the food.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jentami

                                                                                                                                                                  Og welkommen til bush. (Welcome to the table.) of Jeg er skrub sulten. (I am wolf hungry.) men aldri jeg er ful! Norwegians laugh when English speakers say I am full, because ful in Norwegian means drunk.
                                                                                                                                                                  Har en riktig God Jul!

                                                                                                                                                              2. Manners in general and table manners specifically were instilled in us as soon as we were old enough to sit at table with adults. Sit up straight, no elbows on table, napkin on lap, hand not used for eating in lap, silverware used from the outside in toward the dish. Because salad in our house was always served after the main dish, salad fork was next to dish on left. Still is. Please and Thank You prevailed, along with May I. When the children were finished, and had homework to do, we asked to be excused from the table. ("May I please be excused?") There was always joy and laughter around the table. Dinner was a time for the family to catch up on the day's activities and enjoy the delicious food prepared. Although pretty much the same "rules" were in effect for all meals.

                                                                                                                                                                1. All of the strictest and most archaic of Japanese and of European-American manners.

                                                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                    do you still say "itadakimasu" and 'gochisosamadeshita"?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                                      I think the first one is "Thank you for the harvest" right? what is the other?

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                                        When I was a kid, we used to say those...actually, "gochisosama" (dropped the 'deshita'). One time when I was about eight, my grandparents were eating with us, and I simply said, "Sama", and started to get up. My dad admonished me sternly, "Say the whole thing," at which time I said, "whole thing." That got me a genkotsu...but my grandmother thought it was the funniest thing she'd ever seen...she retold that story at when Mrs. ricepad and I got married.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                                          Its usually "bien provecho" around here these days.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. Table manners were situational when I was growing up (as in, whatever I was doing at the time was the wrong thing). If I started to take food and eat, I was told to wait until everyone was seated. The next night when I waited, I was told to "eat while the food is still hot". Another was about leaving the table when finished: one night it would be "Nobody leaves until everyone is done eating". The next night it was "If you're done, put your plates in the sink and leave so the grown-ups can talk."

                                                                                                                                                                        The only rules I can recall that didnt have an 'equal and opposite' rule was to eat around the plate; I should eat some meat, then some vegetable, then some rice/potato, etc. I shouldnt eat all the meat, then all the potato, then all the vegetables (as if I EVER ate all my vegetables!). And "The meal isnt over until the kitchen is clean".

                                                                                                                                                                        I did figure out a few things without being told: Dont take seconds until you've finished what you have; Dont take seconds until everyone has had firsts; the silverware should NOT be set on the table after it has been used; no one wants to see how well I chewed my food; the table cloth is not a napkin.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. So nobody else got "Put the book down" all the time? That was the number one thing my Mom fussed at me about. No reading at the table.

                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: danna

                                                                                                                                                                            I think in our house the book never got brought to the table - I used to hide mine in the bathroom in case I got send there as a punishment!

                                                                                                                                                                          2. Amazing to hear all these again. I still do most of these things without even noticing - eg waiting to eat until everyone is seated, thanking the cook, asking to be excused and pushing the chair back in. I have sort of become accustomed to the different ways of using knives and forks - we had knives on left, NO siwtching, cut one piece at a time, "don't hold your knife like a pencil", don't overload your fork etc...
                                                                                                                                                                            I think the no singing/.laughing rules come from an aversion to displaying the semi mangled contents of one's mouth....no reading as the meal was a social and not merely a nourishing event.

                                                                                                                                                                            to this day I CANNOT STAND - " schmalzing " (face low to plate, audible parting of tongue from roof of mouth, smacking lips), chewing/speaking with a full mouth (ofter associated with the aforementioned) and....waving ones fork around to punctuate the conversation. Causes nausea, loss of appetite, urgent need to ask to be excused.....very good for dieting!

                                                                                                                                                                            1. Oh, here is one my husband pesters me about. Sometimes when eating people the food is served family style (that is, not plated in the kitchen.) My instinct is to pick up the dish in front of me and pass it to the person next to me without taking anything first. This just seems more polite (I assume I learned it when quite young) but he thinks it is odd and I know sometimes people have asked “don’t you want any?” If everyone does it my way then everything winds up back where it started and everyone is fed, so I am not sure what the issue is. I will do the same sort of thing when the two of us are alone (that is, want to offer food to him first) and it annoys him. Does anyone else do things that way? I should ask my sisters, but keep forgetting, as it seems natural to me until someone brings it up.

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                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: meg944

                                                                                                                                                                                You eat people??

                                                                                                                                                                                I don't know about that, if you're talking about the grand festival of passing that happens at the beginning of the meal. At our dinners people pretty much start whatever's in front of them by taking some and passing it on. (We also pass clockwise, which I think may be an aberration.) The only exception to this is if there's some kind of casserole or something that can't be passed. In that case, whoever it's sitting in front of gets people's plates passed to them to dish some up.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                                                                                                  Ugh. It won't let me edit, either.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Well, that might explain why others can't relate to my situation! :)

                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: meg944

                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm chinese and we are taught to graciously serve our guests before serving ourselves. Even something as simple as tea. I would pass the plate and serve the first person, without taking any.The first person i served should be smart enough to serve me. but if they don't... one of my girls would tell them to put something on mommy's plate. lol and the plate moves on.

                                                                                                                                                                                  So, in my eyes you are being very polite, gracious and hospitable. Btw, your hubby should serve you first. Since, you are polite to do the same for him. Before putting food on his own plate.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Chinese men from my generation did that. We would mutually put food on each others plate. I would do the same for him as he did for me. It showed our mutual respect for each other and taking care of each other. There was a special intimacy in that little ritual. Especially at a family dinner, Dim Sum or at a restaurant. I can't speak for the younger Chinese generations. They are more Americanized. lol

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jade628

                                                                                                                                                                                    Such a nice, polite tradition.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jade628

                                                                                                                                                                                      Yeah, but I have an uncle who takes this so far to the extreme that it becomes rude! He'll turn the turntable so the rice is in front of him, then insist that everybody start passing their bowls to him so he can fill them. In the meantime, that turntable can't be turned so no other food can be served until he's finished doling out the rice. Mrs. ricepad tells me he's just being polite, and we should honor his attempts at being the patriarch (which he's not!). I, OTOH, just get ticked off. After all, he's my uncle, and I know he's doing it because he's a control freak! At least he doesn't insist on serving *everything* to everybody....

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                                        My grandfather did that!! Thank God it's just family meals and holidays and not everyday. But growing up as a child, at home, my dad always did that too. And when he wasn't home, my mom did it. I just realized after reading this post that I do it too in my own home. lol I get all the bowls fill them and call everyone to the table and pass it out. lol OMG, I'm so Chinese for an ABC!! Sik fan la!!

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jade628

                                                                                                                                                                                          Don't lose too much sleep about being 'so Chinese'! If you were THAT Chinese, you'd be eating potatoes, the better to go back...

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Taught many of the same rules...add one...eat your food first, drink your beverage after. Another words, don't drown your food with drink. Have tried with my kids but times are different unfortunately.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. All of these, and then some were learned by yours truly. I lived with my Grandparents growing up, and learned everything from Grandma. boy, She could REALLY come up with some doozies! The biggest offences were: Eating before everyone was seated and Blessing was said by Grandpa, elbows on the table, ham-fisting the utensils and talking with your mouth full. But, the biggest no-no was NO JUMPY LEGS! Some people don't even notice with they bounce their knee up and down, while they eat. This was driven home -very- effectivly one Christmas when an extended cousin (who was known to do this, and Grandma dreaded him!) who had such a jumpy, bouncy leg, he knocked the underside of the table hard enough to send glasses of milk spilling across the food! Grandma almost had a coronary, and after he left, us kids got sat down and talked to, about WHY manners are so good!

                                                                                                                                                                                      BTW: Emily Post -would- be brought out, and we were read to, to instill the finer details in me. I didn't mind it all that much, but my poor brother! It would make him crazy, he was so bored with it.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Oddly enough, my husband- when we first met, did the whole knee-thing at the table! I really thought things were looking bad, and had to say something about it, to him. He's gotten so much better these days. He knows how it grates on my nerves, and he tries to keep a handle on it.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. at my grandparents' there was a rule that we couldn't drink water until the soup was finished. So water was brought to the table after the soup course.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. When we ate with our hands, we were not supposed to use the left hand. But as I disliked getting food on my hands, we generally ate with utensils, so most of the rules were similar to the Americans': bless your food, break your bread before buttering, cut small portions, don't stuff your face, chew with your mouth closed, finish everything on your plate, no elbows on the table, do not be first to reach for food, do not take the last of anything without offering it to your elders, eat everything offered to you (or at least try it), praise the cook no matter how awful, place your utensils in an X formation if you're still eating, on the sides of your plate if you're done, etc. Probably in a nod to our stereotypically Asian heritage, we also had to be told not to read at the table. Mostly I learned by example and simply ate the way my family ate.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Some of the rules I was taught, I found exceedingly archaic and I confess I still don't know what to do with my left hand when I can't keep it on the table. But now when I see someone who lacks table manners, I can't thank my parents enough for setting me on the right path early on!

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                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                                                                            NEVER touch or play with your hair at the table...or kitchen. if we entered a dinning or food area with a hair brush...big trouble.

                                                                                                                                                                                            in addition to all the others. cross your legs at the ankle not at the knee.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. jfood has a few from his weird childhood, but here are a few:

                                                                                                                                                                                            - only dad gets iced tea
                                                                                                                                                                                            - children should be seen and not heard. that's right children were not allowed to speak at the table
                                                                                                                                                                                            - one child clear, one child washes, one child dries
                                                                                                                                                                                            - be careful with the tin glasses with iced beverages. they will stick to your lips and cause some pain when you pull it awauy

                                                                                                                                                                                            good news is that none of these are part of his life now

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                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                              You really were not allowed to speak at the dinner table? Ours was a free-for-all -- if you made the best argument, you won, age didn't matter. It was hard-core debate, and I loved it. Scared the heck out of visiting friends, however. Dinner at our house was always tasty, and always contentious. I've continued the tradition with my own kids, and I have to say, they're pretty sharp. Dinner in our house is never boring.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                Sounds like our house. No TV, no phone calls during dinner, etc. The only excuse to get up was the reference shelf in the kitchen to settle arguments - The US Constitution, some history reference books, dictionaries in a couple of languages, an atlas, sports stats, etc. - right there with the cookbooks. You better be able to back up your argument with facts or you were going to get killed. Never boring!

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                                                                                                  that's so true!! we did that too!! too Funny!

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                                "- be careful with the tin glasses with iced beverages. they will stick to your lips and cause some pain when you pull it awauy"

                                                                                                                                                                                                LOL! OK, instaneous thought that came to mind was Flick with his tongue stuck to the flagpole in "A Christmas Story". I think that was a good rule, jfood. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                  also done in "dumb and dumber" -- a fine cinematic tour de force.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                                  For me, it was somewhat similar. As I was so often the only child dining, I was allowed to speak, when spoken to. Since I was the only child, most of the adults induced me into conversation. To this day, I still converse, while dining. This is especially true, when I am the host. Depending on the seating arrangement, I will include all diners in conversation. When it does not permit, I usually spend an equal amount of time with the ladies to my right and my left. If I am fortunate, my wife will be to my left.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I have seen other replies on silence while eating. I cannot imagine that, but that is just how I conduct dinner. Maybe I have a lot to learn.


                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                                    That whole children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard thing is total bulltoot in my opinion, Jfood. Horribly dehumanizing, and children ARE human! It's conversing with those one cares for (or reading a good book when one is dining solo) that makes mealtime delightful -- no matter HOW old someone is.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    And why did only DAD get iced tea, for crying in Manhattan!?

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Sparkina

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Please note that jfood said that he grew up with those rules, but does not enforce them now. I think you're preaching to the choir.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Sparkina

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Certain topics were not deemed suitable for the dinner table..."Little pitchers have big ears"

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Many of the replies so far have made me chuckle, but others have made me somewhat sad. Some people in this thread really really had it tough at the dinner table. I had very overprotective and strict parents, but fortunately for me, I wasn't subjected to any INCOMPREHENSIBLE rules at the dinner table. I was taught to be well behaved, to clean off my plate, and I was excused only when I asked politely. After reading some of these replies, I guess I was one of the lucky ones.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I will say this though. One rule that made me laugh here was the person who stated that they were subjected to NO singing at the dinner table. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined anyone belting out a few lines of 'Old MacDonald had a farm ...' ... before, during, or after scarfing down a meal. The thought of that is simply hilarious to me.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                                                                                                                                                                        When my girls were little they would burst into song at the drop of a pin, and I would fuss "no singing at the table!" So then they would start playing "footsie" with me, which became a new rule - You do NOT mess with Mama's feet at the table. They knew it drove me crazy, LOL! We had lots of fun at dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        And that reminds me of another rule - Don't eat with your fingers (unless it was appropriate.) One time my youngest picked up her pork chop and started chewing on it. I said why in the world do you think that is okay to do. She said that when she ate at a girlfriends house that is how they ate them. So after that it was "No eating like a Smith!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                                                                                                                                                                          We didn't really have group singing, but I am one of those people who's always got a song in my head and sometimes it comes out. So I might be sitting at the table, and start singing some little ditty, and then I'd get called on it. "Don't sing at the table."

                                                                                                                                                                                                          The old-timers around here (Iowa; my great-grandfather mentioned upstream was from Illinois) say there's a proverb about it, something about crying later if you sing at the table. I don't remember exactly what it is; I'll ask one of them next time I see somebody.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. I was brought up Sicilian as well. Many of the same rules that you mention, were applied to us.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          We had to ask to be excused from the table, however, we couldn't do that until everyone was finished eating. We always ate together as a family no matter what day of the week it was.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I learned that it's not polite to blow on your food or do the reverse blow to cool off food you've already put in your mouth. You're supposed to wait till it's the right temperature instead.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: alliebear

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Right - my husband still 'catches me out" on that one occasionally!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. This thread has been very interesting. Having been raised by European Holocaust survivors who experienced starvation in their lives, we were REQUIRED to eat everything we put on our plates (hence all of our family is overweight!). Mother was adamant about trying new foods/recipes on us and the family rule was that you had to at least try it. My father was in retail and ate dinner at home 3-4 nights a week. Those nights were much stricter, the food was better and more formal. You had to have nice clothes on when my Dad joined us for dinner, no jeans or shorts. Absolutely NO TV. We didn't begin dinner till CBS News and Uncle Walter (Cronkite) shared what had happened in the world that day.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              We were required from an early age to know things about world affairs, my parents were (are) news junkies and you better know what was going on and have an opinion you could defend. I think they were trying to raise labor negotiators or lawyers (didn't work).

                                                                                                                                                                                                              When I married into my DH's hoity toity Chicago family, I discovered arcane rules about etiquette like no scraping of plates at the table, no shouting, very different from my own family. They fancy themselves aristocrats and have "airs", very quiet, demure and retiring. No controversial discussions at the table. Very European in the handling of silverware.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              To this day, I can't eat in a car or over the sink, I need a tablecloth or placemat, napkin, silverware and glass cup (unless outdoors), even if it's only me. I miss the boisterous dinnertime conversation, as there is only 3 of us at home now and very often only DH and me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. Don't lick your knife! Seems like the past few years I've been seeing younger co-workers doing this quite often. Drives me nuts!

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I actually remember my grandma once saying, "Lick that knife off before you stick it in the jelly!" Didn't want butter and crumbs in the jelly, you see.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  But we MIGHT be rednecks...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    re: licking:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'll never forget going out to breakfast at a cafe, glancing at the next table past us and seeing a man pour ketchup on his plate, then lick the threads of the ketchup bottle before replacing the cap. Horrors. I guess he forgot he wasn't at home, alone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    My grandfather taught me that one. I can still remember him explaining how rude it is. I also cannot stand the noises some people make when they eat, I'm very sensitive to noise, and often I will have to leave a restaurant because people at other tables will be doing it. We're not cows, you know, close your mouth. And no slurping.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I try , I try , but after 40 years , I still find myself licking off my knife from time to time . Drives my wife nuts . Thing is , I can't stand to get food , or juices , or butter , or jam or anything , on the table or tablecloth . Lesser of two evils thing for me . All the aforementioned rules applied growing up , plus many , many more . I still have an urge to throw my coat over a puddle when I see a woman approach one , I have to ( always ) walk on the street side of the sidewalk unless walking with my father , and I am a compulsive door-holder-opener for women and children .

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: GoalieJeff

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ummmmm.... Not to be too nosey, but how would you get butter or jam or anything else on the tablecloth? Tradition says you rest a used knife on your plate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I've recently observed a few 20-somethings using their knives to convey food to their mouths! In nice restaurants, too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: meatn3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          God, my DH does this. Kills me every time...especially if we're dining out. I actually said something to him the last time.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. My Vietnamese grandfather would always yell at me for putting my hand in my lap. I learned "table manners" from a Christian (American) school but when I had meals with my grandfather and placed my hand on my lap he would ask, "what are you doing with that hand?" So no i generally have two hands on the table.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: digkv

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I was taught:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            * Elbows on the table - big no-no
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            * Hands on my lap - equally big no-no
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            * Wrist on the table - OK

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: digkv

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              What's the official Vietnamese rule on slurping ? I always assumed it was fine to slurp the noodles out of your pho , how else do you get them out of the bowl without spraying the table with soup ( yuck ) ? Slurping soup at grandmas house in my family was verboten , but at dinner tonight people were slurping pho ga all over the place .And yes , in our eastern European family , both hands were to be seen , and children were to be seen and not heard , unless spoken to . The king of all high crimes however , was spitting something out . Grounds for banishment to the garage . Seriously . No dinner , just get out , heathen . That and take all you want , but eat all you take , something my son has real issues with .

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: GoalieJeff

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                My take on it the slurping rule is that without slurping, it would be very difficult to eat pho and thus it perfectly acceptable. However, in most Vietnamese restaurants it is doubtful that you'll hear loud slurping and the such so yea, slurp when necessary but I think in today's Vietnamese-American culture it's slowly fading out and becoming a sort of faux pas.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. What is the origin of the "no singing at the table" rule? I learned it (and also now enforce it), but have no idea of its practical basis.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I assume it's because singing interferes with conversation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Pikawicca, what if the conversation(s) were operatic ?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    it might also cause you to choke while inhaling -- food down the windpipe!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    No singing at the table !?!? How about no singing , period . ( Unless outdoors ) And no pierced ears ? Because , according to dearly departed grandma , only Gypsies pierced their ears and sang indoors . Loved her to death , but there are two rules I can do without .

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. My parents weren't obsessive about table manners other than the basics - eat with your mouth closed, don't gobble, don't talk with your mouth full, and dinner time is not a race to see who can finish first. I also learnt that when you're finished with your plate you put the knife and fork together in the middle, and that you should try to keep your arms close to your sides when you eat so you don't poke your tablemate in the ribs (I'm left-handed so I used to bang elbows with my brother quite often!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. In addition to all the other things cited here (except the one about the singing!), I was taught always to use my napkin to wipe my mouth before taking a drink--presumably so that no food particles would stick to the glass.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Many of these are the same for me. Most after all, just seem like good manners. We alos however could not talk during dinner - breakfast and lunch were okay, but not dinner, unless we were spoken to. And forget singing !

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. My grandmother taught me most of my table manners, and one of the rules I haven't seen others mention is that you should wait till your hostess picks up her fork to pick up your own.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: katydid13

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yes, that was always the case with us (and Mom or whoever did the cooking was the hostess when we ate at home). Also, it was the obligation of the hostess to observe guests and, when appropriate, repeat any faux pas that might be committed in a casual way, so that no one would be embarrassed - e.g., this meant using the inside fork for salad if a guest had done so, and could extend to drinking from the fingerbowl or even breaking a wine glass ("Oh pish, these wretched glasses have always been too hard to hold onto properly!).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: katydid13

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I forgot about that one. We always had to wait for the lady of the table to pick up her fork and when we were done, we had to line our knife and fork up together to indicate to whomever was clearing the plates that we were finished. My grandparents had money and formal meals were served by a live-in couple. My grandmother had a little bell she would ring when she wanted someone to come from the kitchen, but then she got the idea of putting a button under the carpet that she would hit with her foot and it would buzz in the kitchen. She was forever trying to hit the damned thing and could never find it, which was actually rather funny to watch as she wiggled around trying to find the button. But then she'd step on it inadvertantly and someone would come from the kitchen and she'd have to apologize ...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Fuser

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I think waiting for everyone to be served, and waiting for the hostess (or mom) to take her first bite are GREAT rules, and should be applied more often. I occasionally go to dinner (under duress) with a group of someone else's relatives who like to order "separate checks" so the food inevitably arrives in shifts. If my dish come out first, I wait until the others are served. But the others, if they get their food first, dive in like hungry dogs regardless of who else has been served. The small children in the group are not learning anything from this either, but the last time I ate with them all and I was served ahead of some others, I had a little chat with the 7-year-old sitting next to me and explained why I was waiting until he and his mom got their food before starting. He thought that was a very nice thing to do. They CAN be taught!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I don't understand why "separate checks" dictates that the food arrives in shifts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. My parents came here from India when they were in their mid 30's. I was never taught any table manners...learned the basics from TV shows! I am sure there are many families in India which teach Western table manners but for many, I don't think this is a big deal especially when it is customary to eat with hands (washed clean & with right only). Then of course there are traditions such as in joint families, a DIL doesn't eat until in-laws have eaten. The only thing I remember my mom telling me was "don't drink so much water".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I've lived in the States for a long time so I don't know what kids are being taught in India today. Also, the times in the US have changed too. The message everywhere is "drink lots of water" so I let my kids drink all the water they want at dinner as long they eat a proper meal. They barely drink water otherwise:-( Water bottle in lunch box sometimes comes back unopened. Also, the notion of not reading at the dining table? Many kids these days don't read enough...I'd be thrilled if my daughter read a book at all! I wouldn't care where she read, as long she read:-) Of course, I would not encourage reading at the table outside my house.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. Only thing my dad insisted on was to never leave the chopsticks sticking out of the rice bowl when finished eating. Always leave them flat across the bowl or on the table. And use the opposite end to pick up food from shared dishes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. I was taught that fork tines should be placed down on plate when finished, up while still eating. I know servers in restaurants don't know this.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I've also heard that if you get a piece of grizzle, to put it from mouth to fork and place it back on the plate. That is sometimes a dilemma for me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. My parents didn't like the way I cut up my lasagna as a kid. My mother would make a tomato sauce, cottage cheese, and ground beef lasagna. Before taking any bites I would reduce the lasagna to a homogeneous mass with knife and fork. This way I could shovel the food in as fast as possible. No need to slow down to use the knife again. Barely had to chew at all. A short-lived habit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Lynn, I'm very surprised about the hands in lap thing. That is far more British (and British North American) - hands in lap is bad manners in Latin Europe.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Ljubitca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          My understanding of the one hand in the lap thing is that that is an American custom and that in Europe/Latin America one's hands should always be visible, i.e., not in the lap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Wrists resting lightly on the table, fork in right hand. My Dutch grandfather had a whole ritual involving the consumption of fish--if I can remember, I will share.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I was taught to eat European style. i.e., fork on the left, knife on the right, no switching of the fork to the right hand. I think hand in the lap is an American affectation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We were taught no elbows on the table (the reminder was, "Joints on the table will be carved! which always cracked everybody up.) No talking mid-chew, and no starting until everyone was served. The exemption to that is if your host or hostess says, "Please start, it will get cold." But it's still polite to wait. I always notice if someone digs in before everyone has their plate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              When finished, the folk and knife go together at 4'olock. If there's room, they can go straight across, but otherwise at an angle so they don't fall off the plate when it's removed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Meals in my family were a very stern affair -- no laughing, joking, etc. But everything else was pretty standard -- no eating before everyone is served and head of household, guest, or host, depending on the situation, has begun to eat. No getting up from the table until everyone has finished. Etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        My two biggest pet peeves -- as in, I will pay for the absence of these abominations -- are chewing with one's mouth open, and what I call the "greedy grab." Growing up eating family-style vs. individually served plates, maybe I was trained earlier as far as sharing a plate of food and knowing when to stop. Everyone knows the "greedy grab" -- from people who are repulsively focused on "getting theirs," or act as though you are going to take the plate away from them at any time. I hate this so much that I actually broke up with a boyfriend because he loved sushi, but every time we went out to eat, he would shovel as much in as possible, pull pieces in while chomping as fast as he could, and even grabbed a piece away from my chopsticks because it was the last one (my third piece or so, bc I couldn't stop staring at his disgusting habit)! A lot of times, these things speak to character.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: link_930

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          My father always taught me to sit at the end of my chair -- not sure why, but now it is an annoying habit in restaurants where there isn't enough space for people to walk past you....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: link_930

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Ha! The "greedy grab." That ticks me off, too. My oldest daughters BF is one of those, but I didn't realize until we all had crawfish. The 3 lb platter was 50% good size and 50% not so good, and I was shocked to see him dig through, pick out the largest and inhale them like air. I couldn't believe how fast he ate those bugs! My DD saw my expression and managed to snag a couple big ones for me, but NEVER again! What a pig.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: link_930

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I totally know what you mean. Whenever we have extended family functions it's always scary with how fast the food is being eaten. Sometimes it seems like they can't even enjoy the food because they're eating so fast.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Link 930's post reminded me about Family Hold Back.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Remember when you had guests and suddenly you weren't sure if there was quite enough food for everybody? So you quietly told everyone to take just a little bit less when the platters and bowls were passed to make sure that everybody at the table got some?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I hate when people at the table eat so fast that they're going back for seconds when some at the table have barely begun to eat anything on their plates. These are the people who usually start chowing down before all the dishes have been passed at a meal.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              And then they're on to thirds, finishing off the food without caring if anyone else wanted a second helping. Oink, oink.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                LOL, that makes sense! :D
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                That first paragraph really does apply to how my family was. Except in that case the hosts' kids pretended that they weren't hungry until all the adults were done with their food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Even as a university student, I always hated the use of "free food" as an enticement -- generally, a lot of us aren't starving, so I wonder why we don't we have a bit more pride than to show up just for the food, without regard to other guests? Seriously, who raises kids who turn out like the "oinkers" in MakingSense's post?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My DH grew up in a family of 4, Mom & Dad and 2 boys. They could buzz through 5 lb. roast beef dinner with all the trimmings in 15 minutes flat and thought nothing of heaping tons of food on their plate. This was shocking to me, as my family valued conversation, polite table manners. Even more shocking because they considered my parents the "immigrants" since they came to the US in 1953 where their family arrived in 1865.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Took a lot of work to slow down DH - but you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Now THAT is one skill I'd like to have. I eat so slowly that I have to pretend I'm done just so I don't hold up others, and I'm hungry all the time! My best friend can finish off her burger, fries, and three drinks before I even get halfway with mine. In a group setting, not so ideal, but neither is sitting there with a growling stomach! I've left dates early before just because I was so hungry!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I guess we all have to find a good medium.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. -No elbows on the table
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Keep your napkin on your lap
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Keep your left hand (if you're righthanded) in your lap
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  -No "boarderhouse" reaching across the table
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Break off a piece of bread before buttering it & eating it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  -If you have to spit out a piece of food, put your napkin in front of your face
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Keep your mouth closed when you chew
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Soup bowl tilted away for those last few drops
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  -No slurping
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Only cut one piece of food at a time before eating it
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Ask for permission to be excused

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  14 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ctflowers

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I would just qualify this by adding that if you are not in the U.S., don't keep a hand in your lap - rest your wrist on the table.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      How on earth does one eat with one hand in a lap? Or talk, for that matter?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Well, while I don't eat that way, the traditional U.S. (I'll refrain from saying American) rule is that if one is not using a hand to use a utensil, that hand should be in one's lap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          ..."the traditional U.S. (I'll refrain from saying American"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Just curious, what the difference b/t U.S. & American? Cuz I said "American" up above in reference to the hand in the lap! :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: lynnlato

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            When I lived in Canada (where I believe Lagatta lives), I noticed sensitivity to the use of term "American" to refer to people living in the U.S., since in a way, any one living in the Western Hemisphere is "American".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yes, I live in Montréal (Québec). I have also lived in Italy and in France.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "Or talk, for that matter?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          That is funny, My Mother is a 'hand talker" On occasion I have held her hands during conversation when they are flailing about and she forgets what she was talking about completely!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          i was taught that keeping a hand under the table while eating is *extremely* rude. this whole thread, with where your second hand is supposed to be, is really funny to me!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I was taught to sort of keep the left hand in my lap or wrist on the edge of the table. The point my mom seemed to be making was to keep your hands out of the food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: WCchopper

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              oh the rule was wrist on edge of table, ready to pass dishes family style, or handle cutlery, having both hands in view at all times unless handling one's napkin. i understand not wanting hands in the food, my impression was that it was considered impolite to hide one's hands (actions) under the tabletop, while the rest of the meal, conversation, everything, was "above boards." i have a friend who was taught to always put her off hand in her lap at the dinner table, & now the habit gets her in trouble when she hides one hand at the card table!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I guess we were learning "hybrid" manners!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: WCchopper

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  well after reading so many posts from folks taught to keep the off hand in the lap, i'm wondering what exactly the "american" way is-- i can't be sure, because my grandparents, the rule enforcers, were immigrants. keeping the off hand on the table seems to be the norm in continental europe, keeping the off hand off the table is the norm in india. . .

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, I'd have a horrible time eating in company in the Middle East or South Asia, as I'm left-handed, and we know what the left hand is used for in those cultures!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      No, I don't know what the left hand is used for "in those cultures." Please educate me on what you think you know.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. I was brought up with pretty much all of these rules, but I notice little has been mentioned about place settings. When I go to restaurants that wrap the silverware in the napkin, I compulsively must unwrap and make a proper place setting with fork on left, knife on right blade in, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        As for the glorping noises made by some while eating, there are a couple of folks I know who will never be invited to my house for a meal again, the sounds were so repulsive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: weezycom

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Being caught off guard by glorping is no fun. Usually we eat with the relaxing sounds of TV entertainment news, maybe 80's pop music, or heavy metal on the stereo. A surprise moment of background silence can make chewy-swallowy sounds a little horrifying if you aren't accustomed to hearing them. A few moments of internal wincing is all I can take before I have to put on the Duran Duran.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. so I don't see this one.....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          where the salt goes, so goes the pepper. so if you ask me to pass the salt to you, you'll also get the pepper. They travel as a pair. drives me crazy when I see them separated. But it's a short drive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          also, as for the hands on the lap versus in sight, my german friends say it's rude to have your hand in your lap because it looks like you're "feeding the dog." And yes, even if there is no dog!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          today on Good Morning America, there was a butler ettiquette segment, and the rule of waiting until everyone is served to eat was said to be false.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          and no hats!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: eLizard

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "today on Good Morning America, there was a butler ettiquette segment, and the rule of waiting until everyone is served to eat was said to be false. "

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I think that might depend on how many people are at the table - was that mentioned?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The only rule I've ever heard about when it's okay to start eating is that guests should never start to eat before the hostess begins. That was carved in stone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I think I've read that when it is a table of 8 or more people, it's acceptable to start eating once that number of people have received their food. Otherwise, I agree with you about the host/hostess point.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  What I think I've read/heard, Ruth, is that it doesn't depend on the number of people, but rather on what's being served and the setting. Here's what I think I've learned:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  At a privately hosted meal, one always waits for the hostess. However, if there is a course that demands being eaten immediately, and waiting for her would compromise that (and, yes, probably often due to the size of the guest contingent), it is her prerogative to ask folks not to wait for her. And they should respect her wishes, based on the premise of appreciating all the effort that has gone into preparing the meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In a restaurant, it is the staff's responsibility to make sure all guests in a party are served in a close enough interval so that no item would be ruined by waiting for every person to be served. If that means the restaurant has to have two or three or twenty servers bring a course to the group, that's its job.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I don't know if I'm right about all this, but this is what I've learned. It's very difficult to feel confident about the finer points, sometimes, because I hear variations of etiquette from different sources. I think it was easier to know when there were one or two arbiters, e.g., Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MaggieRSN

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I was always taught that it is never okay to begin eating before the hostess, no matter what the number of guests. Of course, this put the onus on the hostess to plan a menu that would live up to this requirement, so souffles were pretty much not a first course option. It was also the hostess' responsibility not to formulate a guest list beyond her staff's abilities. It's a two way street. Guests have responsibilities, but so do the host and/or hostess.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I love the guest's responsibilities of 19th century England. Class was not the determining factor. All guests were expected to be prepared to contribute to the after dinner entertainment. Kept a lot of kids on piano benches, and a lot of elocution teachers in business! But it was a wonderful rule. Can you imagine those rules being observed today? Retire to the drawing room after dinner to hear Iggy play air guitar and Sammy play his iPod...! <sigh>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Longstanding Thanksgiving tradition in my house: All guests are required to play charades after dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        i love charades, but most people today don't want to play any games. we did venture into a cranium game last month after a big family gathering, but it was just us gals and the kids. the men don't want to participate. trust me, it is hard to play cranium with under age-13 kids! they don't even know what some of the clues refer to! <so, i guess that's why we cover for our young "partners". while it was an abbreviated game -- some getting cranky, plus some wiggly-worms -- it was fun nonetheless!>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Heh, I grew up in the 1980's and 1990's and my cousins and I had to trot out our party piece on the piano/cello/violin/voice every time we went round to my Great Aunt Kathleen's house at Christmas. Critical appraisals were given and performances compared with the previous years! Suspect it's still going on but I haven't been back home for Christmas for a while.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. re: MaggieRSN

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        You can start if the last person to receive their meal says you can, "Don't wait for me!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. My child rearing expereince happened during the early 70s with extraordinary parents & very formal grandparents. My siblings & I learned at an early age the importance of fine manners & which fork was for which course & so on. Literally, my "old school manners" were continued during my Episcopalian boarding school expereince enhancing the tradition & I am glad that I have "manners" - it's amazing how many folks today who have lost this fine detail.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Chewing with your mouth closed sounds nice in theory, but in reality it's not that simple. Ever see someone eating with mouth completely -- completely -- closed? Did you hear him breathing in and out of his nose? Not a pretty sound, is it? Aha! That's what happens when you teach this simplistic-sounding but actually dumb idea to kids. They end up breathing through their nose, which is actually just as bad as the lip-smacking if you think about it. The answer is to open your mouth a little bit but not so much that there is smacking. This is how you eat and not make noise, AND not have food visible in your mouth. But no one in this blog is saying this. Incredible.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jsedlock

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If you have a reasonable amount of food in your mouth, breathing through your nose quietly is not a problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jsedlock

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      gotta say i don't think it's too hard to chew with the mouth completely closed, breathing through the nose with no sound. this is being married to someone who's had his nose broken 6 or 7 times, and sometimes has breathing-normally-through-the-nose problems. he is completely capable of eating in polite company with mouth completely closed, not making disgusting nose noises, or disgusting mouth noises. my kid brother, otoh has never had his shnozz broken and smacks his lips in a way that's completely repulsive. oh well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        yeah, ok. i guess i've been putting too much food in my mouth, cuz i'm the one who's been guilty of this in the past. it's harder when you're eating a big sandwich -- you kinda have to put a lot in your mouth sometimes. i hate that i've done this around people! i must have sounded like an f--ing pig! why is it so hard for me? you can't tell me you can keep your mouth completely closed and have NO internal smacking noises and/or nostril breathing whatsoever! there has to be a little bit of mouth-opening to let out the pressure. come on! plus, there IS a way to talk and eat at the same time, tactfully. you see people on TV do it all the time, you just chew a little bit on one side of your mouth while talking, and you only talk in one-word or short sentences at a time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jsedlock

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Maybe you've been putting too much food in your mouth, and maybe you haven't. The question that comes to mind for me is whether you may be consfusing what YOU can hear while you're chewing with what other people can hear. Have you asked your family what they hear? There is no possible way to chew quietly enough that you can't hear yourself chew.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jsedlock

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            i also think that there are some situations, esp when eating "a big sandwich" that some mouth noise is totally acceptable! LOL! it's not like they serve dagwoods in fine dining restaurants, i don't think anyone would fault you for making some noise when eating a big sandwich at a casual place. i agree w Caroline that you yourself can hear yourself eat when others across the table can't. ask someone you're not self-conscious around for feedback-- "hey, dude, do i make a lot of noise when i eat?" you might be totally fine. it does help to take littler bites, though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              All of this makes me want to run to a farm somewhere in rural Iceland and be by myself and eat sushi every day and read books by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn et. al.!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: jsedlock


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              LOL, jsed. I'm worried about the consequences of this pressure you're describing. In my mind's eye, I'm seeing heads exploding and chunks of muffaletas flying around the room. ;-) (teasin' ya, no offense meant.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I truly don't believe there is any circumstance in which it is considered courteous to speak, even a syllable or two, when food is in one's mouth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Regretfully acceptable and even morally necessary, yes, to do so, to call for help if a dinnermate needs the Heimlich maneuver, or if one happens to notice that the curtains have caught on fire. Manners be dam*ed, under those eventualities!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              But, otherwise, no. I urge you, don't let what you see on television today be your guide. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I agree with you re the big sandwiches. They're tough for all of us, and especially subs or even clubs with big sheets of lettuce and tomatoes with obstinate skins. And the fact that those are usually made with toast complicates things further.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I expect this is one of the reasons big sandwiches don't show up on more formal menus at private dinner parties or luncheons or at formal restaurants. The trick is to use your teeth as a instrument to break off a *small* portion, which sometimes mean you have to forego getting something from every layer in there at once. We're not shoveling coal into a furnace, after all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The reason to make that small enough bite is so that your companion or the waiter only has to wait several seconds, and not a half-hour, for your response if they accidentally ask you something just after you've taken that bite. Notice I said, "accidentally", because they also have a responsibility in this. Etiquette also stipulates that we don't *knowingly* ask someone a question that requires a response at the moment s/he is putting food in her/his mouth. Courtesy is a team sport. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Nibble in public, gobble in private ("public" meaning, if even one other person is with us, and "private" meaning, not another soul in the county). Gobbling with abandon is never a good idea, not so much because of etiquette, but due to issues of self-preservation. We don't want to get ourselves into a situation in which we need the Heimlich maneuver, since nobody will be there to aid us.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I agree with Caroline that we can't avoid hearing ourselves chew. I generally find that people who care enough not to want to sound like a pig to others, don't. I'd bet you're just fine. But if you're not sure, Caroline's suggestion that you ask someone close to you makes a lot of sense to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MaggieRSN

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                So right about courtesy being a team sport. I don't know how many times people have said something to me (insofar as I'm expected to respond) just as I'm taking a bite of something particulary chewing-intensive. This is the height of rudeness. Not only is there an awkward pause before my response, I look like a freakin' idiot chomping away while everyone's staring at me. As for making noises while I eat, I'm much better at listening to myself, and thus am eating more quietly. Especially challenging for me, though, was learning how to eat particularly crunchy snack chips quietly. The key is putting an entire chip, or a piece of a chip, if too big, in your mouth, and enclosing your mouth entirely around the chip/piece of chip before biting down and chewing, thereby lessening the "crunch" sound considerably.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jsedlock

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Has anyone ever figured out where the wait staff lurks while waiting for you to have your mouth full before they come to your table and ask if everything is okay? I have NEVER had anyone ask me that when I didn't have a mouth full.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    lol! unfortunately some of the corporate chain server training leads to this, i think. the servers are supposed to ask how the food is within the first 2-3 bites & it can result in a more preemptive habit on the servers' part that comes across as predatory or rude-- on the other hand people really look for a reason to ding the server's tips--from the servers' viewpoint, at what time can s/he approach with a quality check question when someone *isn't* physically eating-- it's a MEAL after all? we'd all agree that after everyone has finished isn't appropriate-- what if there was a problem/mistake?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: jsedlock

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Well, my feeling is the server KNOWS who s/he will be asking the question of, so it is possible for them to either step up to the table, smile, wait until the person to be questioned has swallowed and THEN ask, or just don't bother. A brisk "Everything okay?" and they're gone like a flash doesn't cut it for me. And nooooooo--- I am not shoveling food into my mouth the entire time I'm at the table. It IS possible to ask when I can answer. When it's hit and run, I just figure they didn't want to know anyway.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      One of the problems here is that a server doesn't necessarily have time to lurk near a table and wait for everyone to not have food in their mouth in order to ask them if everything is okay. They usually have more than one group to serve... Not only don't they always have time to stand aside and wait, but patrons generally feel awkward with their server staring at them, waiting for a lull to ask them how their meal is. A little patience and courtesy from both sides is important.... In my opinion, it's okay to cover your mouth and respond to the server's question, or ask them for something if you need it. Or, in my case, to nod your head enthusiastically and give 'em the thumbs up sign! But, as others have said, it's best not to shovel so much in your mouth at one time that a response in a situation like this is difficult to get out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MichelleRenee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Not sure about this, as they can almost ALWAYS come to the table, just as everyone has a mouthful - maybe it's just bad timing?


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. One thing I haven't seen, regarding being served rolls - break it if it's warm, cut it if it's cold. Anyone else know of this one? The rules I grew up with were very similar to most here. My dad came from a 'no talking just eat' house, and my mom grew up with strict, British manners. We were eventually allowed to talk at the table (my mom argued with my dad about how uncivilized a conversation-less meal was), but any laughing brought out the yard stick, stored behing my dad's chair, which he brought down on the table to scare us into no laughter (but in later years just caused more laughter). The yardstick never touched us, just 'threatened' our fingertips.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: thenurse

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I was taught that hot or cold, break off a small piece of bread, butter it, and into the mouth. Cutting bread on a b&b plate was frowned on. My family was English, and I grew up in California. I wonder if there's a regional/nationality component involved?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I was taught the same thing and my family was just plain old American (U.S.). We were never allowed to cut the bread.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I agree with fuser, Caroline. I don't think it's a national distinction, at least. We were taught never to cut bread, and always to break bread products into portions small enough for one mouthful. And that would be monitored closely to ensure it adhered to my mother's more civilized criteria, not our younger, greedier measurements. :-).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Her family was English, too--until about 1620. (Well, strictly speaking, I'd guess we'd say they were English until the Declaration, eh?) But, seriously, my friends and I were all taught the same growing up in the Northeast as you were in California.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MaggieRSN

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Maybe it's all traceable to Emily Post? '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Caroline, why has Emily abandoned us in this age of cellphones, when we really neeeeeeeed her?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. My cousin and I were not allowed to put our elbows on the table, slurp our soup or drinks, talk with food in our mouths, wear hats at the table, or, perish the thought, blow our noses at the table. That was the height of bad manners.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. French from France manners 70 yrs ago: No elbows on the table; no talking unless addressed to; no singing; not starting before the eldest did; not cutting salad with a knife; using a fish knife when appropriate; asking for something out of reach; using bread plate and not biting your roll; asking for permission to leave the table. One distinctive difference: the left hand wrist should rest on the edge of the table, not on your lap (this seems to me to be typically American or British).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My children were born and raised in Canada. I let go of the fish knife and I made the salad manageable. For the rest, I stuck to it and I think that some of it they taught their own children. They do not feel frustrated or mistreated. The good thing is that they behave and can go everywhere without shame.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Then you're the exact right person for me to ask, lamaranthe. When I spent time in Paris as a kid, I was told by my French host family to tear the bread and put the portion that I didn't eat on the table next to me. Not on a plate, on the table. And we didn't use butter, either.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Is this correct?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Entirely different subject: I've had to physically restrain my husband from getting up in a restaurant and snatch some young lout's baseball cap off his head. He says it's grotesque manners, and that even during World War II, when every other person in a restaurant was a soldier, they never wore their hats at the table. They checked them or kept them in their laps.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I must admit that I cringe when I see some Johnny Cool wearing a BACKWARDS baseball cap in a restaurant --often with their parents sitting right there. Isn't this taught anymore?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: SSqwerty

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My father immigrated to the US more than 40 years ago but never learned old-school American table manners. I learned proper manners through constant embarrassment at school and church (since no one was culturally equipped to teach me at home), and the distinction between our eating habits only makes me even more sensitive to the way he eats when we sit at table.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      He basically uses his mouth as a monstrous straw to suck everything in, instead of extending his fork or spoon another 2 inches into his mouth. One time we were at a Mexican buffet and he made these tacos. Instead of biting down on the shell and then closing his mouth and chewing, he had to suck the meat out of the shell with a huge slurping sound and then devour the shell noisily while make huffing sounds through his nose; he really gets a good workout when he eats and usually starts sweating. Then of course, pieces of meat usually go flying in every direction—if they land on his shirt he happily uses his fingers to plop them right back into his mouth. His idea of properly eating pasta is to take the entire 12” plate and use a fork or spoon to shovel it into his mouth. He usually stuffs his mouth full of food, tries to talk (which ends up sounding like muffled moans which only engender “What? What?” from his hapless partners at table), and then goes into a coughing fit which brings up more food which he then puts back into his mouth. It’s just barbaric and truly sad because he actually has two advanced degrees from US Ivy League schools.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Since I was raised in the US and realize the value of good table manners, I have tried to tell him to adopt some American eating habits my entire life but this man just does not know any compromise. Although he has never openly said so, he considers my advice foolish and only thinks about his own satisfaction when eating. If we eat at home, I usually try to finish my meal as quickly as possible and I avoid eating in public with him. It’s sad. I wish he would just try to change his habits just a little.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: xorlonston

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Funny; my paternal grandfather was American, and he would wrap his hand around his fork, plunge it vertically into his meat, and then proceed to cut it up into little pieces before eating. My mother, who had two very proper English parents, was horrified, but she also told us that it is the height of rudeness to tell someone they have bad table manners.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Besides the many things mentioned above, we were taught "European" style - knife in the right, fork in the left, no switching. If you were holding your knife, fork tines had to be down; if you put your knife down, fork tines were to be turned up. No scooping food with your knife on to up-turned tines - only the back of the fork. No mopping up sauce or gravy with bread (perhaps that's why we had Yorkshire puddings so often, as that was allowed.) Bread was broken with your hands, and then buttered on your plate, not in the air. Sounds of mastication were to be kept to a minimum, and no slurping - except for spaghetti, which the kids were allowed to slurp up, although my parents would never do it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        We did differentiate between "house" rules, and "party" rules. With the former, which only applied to family meals, we could pick up bones, eat the marrow, and chew off extra bits, etc. At someone else's house or a restaurant, that was all forbidden.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And I totally agree with the poster who talked about no commercial containers on the table. My mother thought that was extremely vulgar. Most sauces and condiments were put into small containers, although ketchup, for some reason, was always left in the kitchen. You could take your plate in and pour (no plastic bottles back then!) the ketchup on, but you couldn't bring the bottle into the dining room. (And I remember my mom's old rhyme: "Shake o shake the ketchup bottle; first none will come, and then a lot'll.")

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I was brought up to sit straight, chew with your mouth closed, do not start eating until everyone is served, etc...pretty much the basics.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I think my mom had it rough. Her grandfather was Jewish and sometimes insisted on six-hour services when they were eating. My mother said only her grandmother was allowed to leave the table during this, to heat up the food that had gone cold during his sermon!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      19 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: allie_in_wonderland

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This is a very interesting post, I love reading all the threads. I was raised with with the same rules as most of the US-born posters - And I am grateful that my parents gave my brother and me such good lessons- I can go anywhere and feel comfortable with all the appropriate table manners.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        My question is how do other posters (nicely) deal with hubands/SO's who have manners that just grate on your nerves? I hate to be a nag to mine, but my 60 yr old, very educated SO has manners that make me shudder and cringe! And yet, he thinks his sons' manners are terrible ( they are!) but not his! He uses his elbow as a resting post, eats soooo fast (wolfs it down before others are even served), shovels it in, takes part in ablsolutely no conversation, and then takes his napkin off his lap and puts it on his empty plate...and moves the whole thing to the edge of the table. This happens at home, at relatives' homes, and in restaurants. I think his colleagues and English boss may notice this lack of manners. Since many of the posters on this thread seem to have the standard strict manners I have, do you all have partners that have the same?? If not, how ( or did) you cope/grow accustomed to? I don't want to be a nag, BUT.....it grates on my Emily Post nerve! Any suggestions from other Mannered CHs?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: anthrochick

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think that most people's habits are ingrained for life by the time they reach five years of age. I have bad habits of my own which I wish to change, but as all know, it's pretty hard. I once read a book that true habit change takes about 30-60 days of constant daily attention to truly work.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In the case of your SO and my father, they just don't see the issue. Does your SO notice that his eating habits make you cringe and have you mentioned it to him? In the case of my father, I've mentioned it to him many, many times but he just doesn't see it as an issue. I daresay he'll be a happy dogbowler until the end of his days. The only way I can cope when we eat together is force myself to think intensely about something else and block out the noise of juicy mastication. Good luck to you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: xorlonston

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            xorlonston, An interesting thing happened last night over dinner, as i was trying to use your advice and think about something pleasant while overlooking the super-quick dog -bowling of said SO. In the minute that we had together before he scarfed down his food and burbed, I told him of this thread. We then had this very interesting conversation of our parents' table manners & rules....they were identical! Identical! All the same nice manners! I was purposely subtle in the telling of my family's etiquette, and of the many posts on this thread....trying to be kind....as I have raised this topic with him before and he has gotten hurt feelings and has said I acted morally superior ( that is true). It was very interesting to see that he had been raised with the exact same rules. But somewhere along the adulthood route, he dropped them. I don't think he realizes how rude/crass his habits are to people, my family or me. He is very educated and worldy, but these eating habits make him look like a gross, inconsiderate oaf. And I am left eating alone with no conversation. When we are with other people, it is even more akward. Just wondered how anyone else dealt with this issue????

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: anthrochick

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I can fully appreciate your pain, anthrochick. As an adult now, I only have to visit my parents every once in a while, but you have to eat 2~3 square meals with your SO every single day.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I have of course, directly confronted my father about his eating habits, and like most people under direct attack, he just shut his brain down. A friend of mine suggested that unless I phrased in a way which seemed like I was trying to help him, and not overtly express my disgust, he would not change. That's certainly good advice. It's like trying convert an enemy to an ally: you certainly wouldn't say "You'd better be my friend or I'll kill you." That'd only harden them up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Some of the explanations offered to me by my father include, "Well, I'm relaxed at home, so I'll eat the way I want. If you don't like it, get out. This is my house [Yes, pop, it certainly is. And you plan never to have houseguests again you are more than welcome to continue to act in this puerile fashion.]. When I eat in public, I have great manners!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              What he doesn't realize is that laxity in table manners at home spreads like a decay until he is doing the exact same things in public: chewing with his mouth open, upending unfinished food from plates and bowls into his mouth, vacuuming food in with the dreaded slurping action, and coughing over other people's plates with turning his head and covering his mouth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The man in SO intelligent, I figured that I could appeal to logic. So the other day we did meet up in public for a meal, and he of course coughed about 20 times over all the food on the table. After the other guests had gone to the restroom, I told him quietly, "Dad. Please consider this. Coughs carry germs around, yes? So wouldn't it make good sense, would it not be logical that if you covered your mouth when coughing and turned your head in a direction facing away from other guests and the food on the table there would be less germs spread about?" He just harrumphed and continued his normal habits and coughing up a storm--on our food no less. Insufferable!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Good luck to us both, anthrochick.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: xorlonston

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                get him on camera. sometimes people just *won't* realize how they look to others until they see it themselves. "omg do i really chew like that? is that really the sound of my slurping and belching?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                i also think that people who rudely hoover their food have adapted to scarfing while everybody else at the table is having a polite conversation (i'm thinking of my kid brother here). and it's only natural that other diners ignore the slurping grunting person at the table and talk amongst themselves "ah yes, maribelle, aren't we just, too-too civilized, we'd never mention, well, you know. . ." but it's kind of the duty of the other diner(s) to engage in conversation that forces the oafish person to slow down and respond (hopefully bothering to swallow and speak without his/her mouth full). eating in silence, or having a conversation which excludes the messy eater while trying to ignore the bad manners, may actually make it worse.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I tend to eat quickly, far too quickly sometimes for decent manners. My brother can do the same, although we both try to slow down. But growing up, there was a lot of tension in the house, and dinner was the worst time. We were allowed to be excused after we had finished eating, mostly because our father ate so slowly, it would have been cruel and unusual to make us wait for him to finish. (He could easily spend an hour and a half on a sandwich and cup of soup). So we learned that by eating as fast as possible, we could get away from the drama as fast as possible. Even now, it's hard not to rush, and any sort of friction at a meal will speed me up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: xorlonston

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  xorlonston, I think you have it worse than I! Wow! I feel YOUR pain now. My SO doesn't slurp or farmer -clutch or cough on food. To your point, I have tried a few times to be "helpful" to my SO, but I must have done a pitiful job...it came off badly. He felt condescended to and said I had a moral superioriority. He didnt see it as helpful or necessary. I don't know if he doesn't see his manners as poor/needing improvement, or he just doesn't see good manners as important. Hmm... I actually think it is both. He eschews many "civilized" things as unimportant /frivolous...yet he takes his sons to task for their poor table manners. I almost wish I could be so rude myself and say, "what happened to the good manners your parents taught you? You have lapsed into oafdom!"...but that would be unkind, rude, and mean ( but i sure would like to be so straightforward).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Maybe I should take SoupKitten's tip to video him , under the guise of some other occasion? He might Get It. ( After all, he does criticicize his 2 sons' poor manners....including their dog-bowling...and blames it on his ex-wife's refusal to give any training to them, of course.) If he doesn't Get it, I would be loath to point out any ill manners in said video...and would have to come up with another CH plan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: anthrochick

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It's really like the pot calling the kettle black if your SO tries to discipline your children for poor table manners but doesn't follow them himself. I think videos are a great idea. I remember having this done to me as a teenager, and I was like "wow, I do that?" SoupKitten's right: people really don't believe unless they see. You could make it unobtrusive, just say that you wanted to videotape the kids and their dad together.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Unfortunately, I think my father falls under the "you can't teach old dogs new tricks" category. He came over to visit us yesterday and started lip-smacking a pear from our fruit basket. I had to relegate him to my SO while fleeing to the restroom (3 rooms over) until he was finished eating. The amazing thing was that I could hear the smacking even 3 rooms away. I don't know. Maybe he has to hear it to enjoy it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: xorlonston

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Xorlonston, your lipsmacking tale reminded me something I had forgotten... my parent's constant nagging about my "clanking my teeth' on the drinking glass. It was constant nag, nag, nag..every meal. I hated to drink anything. They said I was "clanking" my upper and lower teeth on the glass when I drank. I had no idea what they were talking about! I felt like a horse with big ol teeth trying to drink from a glass. I practiced drinking with my lips curved inwards; I tried drinking with my mouth open. ..neither worked of course. This went on from about age 8 to 16. At age 16, I got contacts ..and the clanking stopped! About 6 mo later, my parents figured out that the "teeth clanking" had actually been the drinking glass clinking on my eyeglasses as I drank! I don't remember them apologizing very much; they thought it was funny; I was scarred for life, LOL!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                3. re: anthrochick

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DH, when I first met him, was the ultimate picky eater & very partial to drama about it -- loud gagging, choking etc. (Fortunately he did keep his mouth closed while eating.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  After we had known each other a while, DH began experimenting with new foods, liked some of them & wanted to go to restaurants more often. The gagging appalled me & I didn't want to put other diners through it, so I sat down & explained carefully not just that loud gagging grossed people out (he knew that already & didn't care) but how to avoid it: take only a small bite of any new food that might not be to his taste, keep it in the front of his mouth until he felt sure, & have the napkin at the ready for rapid & discreet removal if needed. Otherwise, no public eating. I felt like a condescending beast but did it anyhow.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  He has not gagged since.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I do still use the rather strict manners my parents taught me when eating Western food. As far as other people's manners, if it's not disgusting or upsetting others at the table, it's OK with me. Ex-husband was from Pakistan so I learned to eat with my hands (or rather hand), using small pieces of bread as a scoop, which can be done quite daintily & efficiently with practice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It's possible to do most things (aside from smacking, coughing over everything, gagging loudly & a few others) discreetly, & it's always handy to pick up something new. One of my Japanese friends, when eating a quick meal at a Japanese place, carefully folds the paper in which the disposable chopsticks are wrapped into a sort of triangle, in which she puts the ends of the chopsticks when she has finished eating. "So ugly." She's right, it does look better.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  What I find awkward is this, especially when having dinner at someone else's house:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  People who do not follow the basic rule of conversation (for those who talk at dinner -- we were expected to): choose topics that interest & include others, or at least don't throw one out generally without getting everyone up to speed on who's who. Example, with outsiders present: Some minutes of silence, broken by "Pass the salt." Salt passed. Five more minutes of dead silence. "I saw so-and-so yesterday after church." Long pause. "He had an operation on his gall bladder. It got infected. He was in the hospital for six weeks." Not only do outsiders not know so-and-so, they could doubtless do without hearing about his internal arrangements.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  One more thing: anyone who has to deal with a left-handed spouse, child etc. knows that the U.S. switching-hands eating style is tricky, though it can be done backward. European style works much, much better for the left-handed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mshenna

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The switching-hands style? What is that? Do you mean, holding the fork in the left hand to cut, then switching it to the right hand to pick up food? If so, why would that be any different for a left-handed person than for someone who is right-handed?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: racer x

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Euro style means you keep your cutlery in the cutting position here, & just cut up your food as you need it. When you switch your fork back to your right hand to eat what you've cut up, U.S. style, you're back to using your non-dominant hand. (Try doing it the other way around, if you are right-handed; it's really awkward.) My father was left-handed & found it much easier to eat European style.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mshenna

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Oh, I think I see. So in the Euro style, the knife must be kept to the right side of the plate, even if that means that a left-handed person is cutting with the non-dominant hand? That is really taking protocol to ludicrous extremes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It would be wonderful if the rule-meisters could agree that (a) the diner should be able to hold her/his utensils however it feels most comfortable,so long as none of the other diners is harmed in the process, and (b) even though it may make sense (as a matter of convenience for the host) that the standard setting should have the cutlery to the right, the left-handed diner should feel free to reverse the setting on being seated (assuming that the host has not already done this for the diner, being unaware of her/his lefthandedness).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: racer x


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I almost inhaled my Montrachet, with a couple of your lines. It was truely a LOL experience.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I do understan, though I am a right-handed "American." I keep attempting to keep up with my multi-cultural wife, when in the UK/Europe, but almost poked my eye out. About then, I revert to my old, "American" ways, and am done with it. I cannot see the need for any harm to come of a dining experience, especially my own.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thank you for the laughs. I hope that I have not stepped on any toes, because I saw great humor (humour to those playing along at home in the UK) in some of your comments. I just hope that they were intended.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            But, Bill, I wrote that in all seriousness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: racer x

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Racer X,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Then I must apologize. I must have laughed at totally inappropriate moments. However, with my warped sense of humor, many lines struck me as quite funny.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Intended, or not, thanks for the laughs.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: racer x

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            My father said he found it easier b/c one does a lot more forking into the mouth than cutting, generally, so he got to use his dominant hand more often. I'm right-handed but learned to eat that way when I was a child & we lived in England for a while. I liked it better b/c I was unusually clumsy & less switching around meant fewer chances to drop anything: parents frowned upon dropping silverware &, if no outsiders were present, sometimes whomped upon the dropper too. (This last is not recommended but presented for historical accuracy only.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: mshenna

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        As a left-handed person I couldn't agree more with you that the European style of eating is much more friendly to us. I discovered it as an young adult (a friend returned from Europe and was eating like this and I thought she was a Neanderthal - little did I know, Ha!) but I was a quick convert to the European style of holding eating utensils. HOWEVER, I keep my knife in my left hand and my fork in my right. I've never heard that you must have the knife in the right hand and fork in left. Hmmm....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: lynnlato

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          That was how I learned it (but I'm right-handed) -- my father (left-handed)tried it & found that it worked for him too, but perhaps it depends on whether you do more cutting or forking up? Either way, it's more efficient than that whole ballet of cut-put down-switch-fork up-repeat. Also, your knife is not left alone on the plate for your younger brother to flip onto the table (disregard if you are not 10 years old/do not have a younger brother).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. We had pretty strict rules at my house. We were taught the fork in left hand rule and no switching. When I grew up and was fortunate enough to get invited to a few state dinners (I had a friend in the protocol office) as a seat filler, I was very happy that my parents had been so strict with us. Because they were several people who clearly did not know many of the most obvious points of etiquette.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I am trying hard to do the same with my darling son, but not nealy as succesfully.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: pengcast

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Pengcast, I completely agree with you. I went to one of the most exclusive and oldest boys' schools in Canada (it celebrates its 180th anniversary next year), and while I brown-bagged it the first two years, for my last two years, I was on the cafeteria plan (pay one price, load up your plate, come back as often as you want - for a growing boy, my parents thought this was a bargain!). I was appalled by the table manners of many of my peers: chewing or laughing with their mouths open and full of food, never asking for anything to be passed, but just standing and grabbing, attacking their meat with such lustiness one might have thought they were decapitating voles rather than transferring nourishment to their mouths, waving knife and fork around as they spoke, etc. I am no longer surprised when I hear there's a thriving business in teaching grown-up executives proper table etiquette - these boys were supposed to the sons of Canada's most rich and powerful, and they behaved as if they had been raised by stevedores.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: KevinB

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I realise this post is eight-plus months old... but when I was at boarding school in Switzerland it was full board (of course), and some of the things we were told to do by the staff were very different. We had to file in and sit down, then stand immediately back up as one and recite "Bénissez-nous, Seigneur, ainsi que la nourriture que nous allons prendre...", then sit down again as one. We were only allowed to sip our drinks after each few bites ("ça aide la digestion") and had to wait for the proviseur (I guess he would be called the "dean" in English) to pick up his utensil before we could begin to serve ourselves. If any of the teachers stood up, we all had to stop eating, set our utensils down, and stand up until they'd left the room (or had sat back down).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Eating American-style (with fork in right hand and utensil-switching) was called "manger à la barbare" and was forbidden, and if you dropped food on yourself you were sent immediately -- whether you were done or not -- back to the dormitory to change. (The horror of the call of "TOI, retourne à l'internat!" resounds still in my head.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Then if dishes needed to be refilled (the pots of chocolate in the morning stand out) we were to raise them above our heads. I thought it was the rudest possible thing to do, but time erased it from my mind until the first time I went to dim sum and someone held up the tea pot for refill, and held up the bill for totting up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yet because our parents were only allowed to call during meal times, there would be continual announcements over the tannoy of "Becky Perkins, cabine deux," "Jean Lafontaine, cabine quatre," "Lise Beaulieu, cabine cinq," etc. If you were new to French you learned VERY quickly what your name sounded like when read by the unapologetically monolingual telephone operator and the numbers une, deux, trois, quatre, cinq and six, and you learned to have a very quick conversation so your food would not have been cleared away when you returned.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      That sounds like a wonderfully formal education. Considering that the location was in Europe, I can understand most of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The cup above the head eludes me, but I guess one had to be there to fully understand. I can imagine the possibility of scaldings and such, but maybe it is not as I envision.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Some aspects do translate to my upbringing, especially all diners waiting until someone is served. For me, that is all of the ladies at the table, especially the hostess. No "headmasters" for me, but maybe I just missed too much.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It's the same, as people are joining the table. I stand, until the last lady is seated, especially if I am hosting the table, or the even. This does get to be a bit of a hassle, on occasion, as some of the ladies are "working the room," my lovely wife included. Still, until they are all seated, I feel obligated to stand in their attendance. It also makes moving their chairs back and helping them be seated, much easier, should no other gentleman be available.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for sharing your experiences. It is always nice to learn different takes on things that we too often take for granted.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Ah, I think I was unclear -- we were served from communal platters set on the table, so if a platter was empty (or a pitcher of chocolate), we held the empty platter or pitcher above our heads so that the staff would come take it and refill it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Most probably I missed your statement and my imagination ran wild. I see what you are speaking of now. I had visions of one holding an empty cup/mug above their heads, and an underclassman pouring, while the vessel was still raised. I could imagine "payback!" Thanks for the clarification. It now sounds much safer.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. my parents always told me that if I had bad manners and was invited to the white house, the president would send me away.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Halie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Hee, must be one of those parenting universals... we are always telling our little Chowpup to pretend he is at the White House using his Very Best Table Manners. Then we debate whether we are eating with Sasha and Malia, or whether we are all heads of state eating with the grown-ups.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I sincerely hope that whoever said manners are more or less set by age 5 is extremely wrong. Our little guy still can't manage all sorts of refinements that we fully expect him to attain by adulthood. It's just silly, not to mention dispiriting, to harp on about where the tines of the fork go and how the napkin should be folded when the kid is still working on eating soup without the use of fingers. Children develop at all different rates -fine motor skills, socially, etc.- and I don't think it's even close to reasonable to expect everyone to be on the same, rather formal, page by kindergarten.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mawrter

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I believe manners can continue to develop well into adulthood: an embarrassing situation or moment can be a great teacher.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: OCAnn

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Well, yes. After an unfortunate incident in my early 20s at a Chinese restaurant, involving a lobster claw in a slippery sauce, me insisting on using chopsticks & the lobster claw sailing off the plate & into the v of my black v-necked top, where it hung, suspended & swaying gently, until I could stop laughing long enough to retrieve it ... after that, I learned not to be so pretentious or at least to practice in private first. But in all seriousness, learning better habits as an adult or a child is really just a matter of paying attention -- & if at age 5 you are able to get your food from your plate into your mouth without being (a) disgusting or (b) too messy, you have the basics down.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mshenna

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          My junior year in high school, our French club earned money to take us all out to dinner at the upscale Le Bistro in D.C. I ordered L'Escargots. Was presented with these weird little things and tongs, with a little fork. Managed to grasp a shell with the tongs, but as I was attempting to extract the snail, the tongs slipped and the shell flew across the room onto the bosom of a haughty matron. Biggest culinary gaffe of my life (thank god).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Is it wrong that I laughed so loudly at this? My co-workers think so. Thanks -- I needed that tonight.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              pikawicca, i laughed, too. hey, i know those shells can be very slippery!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Holy cow, Pika - what a moment. I can actually empathize, though, because I did something similar -but not the same- at about the same age.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I was out with my family at a fancy restaurant that had a bi-level dining room - the better to exploit the view of the creek outside. (See link below for photo of new resto in same location.) I was wearing a dress with a cummerbund that was originally too loose. My mom re-did the hooks for me. I was still growing, though, and I hadn't worn it for a season or two, so the cummerbund was pretty tight.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                We ate. Heartily. By the time dessert was through the cummerbund was *really* tight. I was okay, though, sitting up as straight as possible, sucking in my stomach - and hey, you're supposed to sit up straight with your gut in *anyhow*, right? All good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Then someone said something hilarious and I burst out laughing - and "burst" is really the right word, because that's just what happened. I popped right out of the cummerbund and the little hook FLEW clear across the room, over the table of an older couple and plopped right into the man's plate. I was mortified, my family was hysterical -- but even worse was the thought that the poor man might *ingest* the metal hook. So we appointed my dad with the mission of discreetly slipping over to their table to make sure the man didn't eat it. The man had the last laugh, though, because before my dad made it over to their table, he'd already scooped up the hook, wiped it off with his napkin, and arrived at our table. He offered the hook to me with the absolute most deadpan, "I believe this is yours, young lady?". I don't think the etiquette books cover this one, but I did manage to choke out "Thank you. I beg your pardon!" before practically crawling under the table with embarrassment. Fortunately 1) the man didn't die, 2) he & his wife thought it was funny, and 3) we left after that.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: mshenna

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                i'm almost 50 and those are my criteria.....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. It amazes me that there are people out there who were never told-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          close your mouth while chewing, no clanking spoons and forks, no sucking air between your teeth, no nose blowing, no slurping, etc. Mouth noises make me want to gag and ruin the meal for me. I don't much care how you hold your utensils, or at least I can live with your choice as long as you don't make those damn mouth noises! That goes for nose noises, too, and we have us some bad hay fever at this house. No mercy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          And for crying out loud, don't say anything about how much or little food I'm eating! Don't you have your own meal to eat???

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. No singing? Holy cow....you would have hated my childhood. SINGING was a requirement. As a matter of fact, your god given talent was shared at the dinner table. Poem reading, singing, eye rolling, laughter!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I suppose if your entire family has the same manners, they are good manners!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            My kids must sing, laugh and if that's considered bad form by some--lighten up and eat!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My whole family - all four of us - will bust out in a chair dance session usually started off by my 7 yr old son. We always have music playing, it's a requirement. Pap-Pap would be shaking his wooden spoon if he saw us!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: lynnlato

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Gosh, I wish I had seen your reply back in Dec.! I was beginning to think we were the only family of music lovers! If my house is quiet, there is usually trouble of some sort. Sing, laugh, dance but silence-no thank you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  LOL! I was just laughing to see this thread still out there and alive. Then saw your comment. Yep, if the house is quiet people are either sleeping or up to no good. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: lynnlato

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Good to "see" you lynnlato. It's always nice to find a comrade on CH!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm still enjoying your blog.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Likewise, HillJ. Glad you're still tuning in.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. what never fails to irritate me without fail is when people get up from a table and scrape it rather than lift it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              the sound it makes is enough to make me feel really angry...and unfortunatly i live above a woman who does exactly that from morning till night and it drives me to despair.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              now to be fair i have a set of drums which are set up directly above her living room and i can only imagine the frustration my drumming causes her?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              but according to her it doesn't bother her which amazes me.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              but perhaps it shows i am less tolerant and long suffering than she is.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              for the first time in 8 years i stamped down on the floor when she dragged her chair a few minutes ago...i'm hoping she will figure out that i'm indirectly trying to communicate a message in that i am finding her chair scraping habits hard to endure.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              i have put up with that kind of nusiance for decades in my previous homes and my patience is wearing thin.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              this is one of the long standing problems created by man.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              the fact that humans are forced to in high rise flats under and above each other, makes it inevitable that people will unintentionally get on each others nerves.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              believe me even with the best will in the world to be tolerant and long suffering towards one another, sometimes all it takes is a simple scaping of chairs across floors, to make one become angry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: scc48

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                We put felt pads on the bottom of our dining room chairs so that when you pull them out from the table they are quiet and they don't scratch the floor. Maybe you could find those at the hardware store and put them on for her. Anyone who doesn't complain about a drum kit over her head is either a saint or deaf!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. When invited for dinner (and I know there was a piece published on this), I was taught to ask if I could bring something, thinking a side, salad or dessert would be requested.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                When invited over to my boyfriend's parent's house for dinner (they were having steaks), we asked. The mom's reply, "bring your own steak and beer". Is that rude or am I loosing my mind?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mpepper72

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If she was being serious, thats unbelievably rude. But it sounds as if she was just being playfully crass......but then again you know her better then I do. Thats something I would say to a good friend or family member, completely joking of course!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mpepper72

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I have a friend who has a house with a big pool. As a result the summer get togethers are always at her house. We have a summer of bring your own protein to grill and a side dish to share. This way she doesn't always have to foot the bill for being the hostess. My friend invited a new neighbor to join us once, who whispered to me that she thought it was rude to bring your own protein and If you can't afford to entertain, then only entertain when you can. Needless to say, she didn't need to worry about what protein next time. Some rules are meant to be broken. Oh and my father's favorite pet peeve...you bring your drink up to you...you don't go down to your drink....as I just lowered my head down to the straw in my Shirley Temple.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Fascinating thread!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    My ex and his family had the absolutely WORST table manners you can imagine - so bad that I ran out of excuses when asked to dine with them. A bit surprising that they couldn't conduct themselves properly at the dinner table...seeing as they ran with high society. Even worse is that they didn't tip! Ever! $400.00 meals at exclusive restaurants with impeccable service and not a dime for the waitstaff!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Anyways. Maybe I'm mistaken, but I haven't seen anyone post about not licking your fingers?! I find it as gross as lip-smacking and slurping.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: hypertomatoes

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      They NEVER tip? Be glad that he's your ex! That's way worse than lip-smacking and slurping.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Let's see...my sisters and I were not allowed to come to the dinner table with our hair in rollers (as someone else stated--we were of the large, straighten your hair rollers), nor were we allowed to bring reading material to the table--EVER--that was a huge pet-peeve of my dad's. We had to chew with our mouth closed, elbows off the table, and we had to ask to be excused. Those were the manners we had to follow--what we didn't do was speak softly because I come from a very large Irish family in which we needed to yell to be heard..so although we may have been well-mannered in some areas--we were just a bunch of tinkers in others! Slainte!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jarona

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        My parents were strict. We ALWAYS had to sit when eating (to this day, the sight of toddlers running around while eating makes me crazy) and learned to use a knife and fork (fork in left hand, no switching) at a very young age. No hats at the table, ever. We were not allowed anything but water (and later wine) with dinner. Milk and juice were for breakfast only. At formal dinners, we spoke only when spoken to and had to sit for the duration of the meal. No elbows on the table, no chewing with mouths open, were standard. We also had set mealtimes: breakfast, a 10 o'clock recess snack at school, lunch, a small cookie/fruit right after school, then dinner. Otherwise, the kitchen was closed and off limits. To this day I'm shocked at my in-laws raiding the fridge in the middle of the night.