A little secret of table manners is it doesn't matter what fork you use. The salad fork is smaller because the course is lighter, but unlike actual manners, the proper fork has nothing to do with peoples' feelings. So go ahead and look as foolish as you want using the wee spoon to stir your tea (or, gasp, pinning it to the side of the glass to take a sip) because it won't hurt anybody. But. BUT! There is a host of overlooked table manners that are chewing my nerves lately so let's forgive my puns and brush up, shall we?
1. Serving plated meals to guests in your home is rude. Plated dinners are for black tie events, weddings and restaurants only. Why? Because when you load another adult's plate for her you are making a commentary about what she should be eating. Even if you aren't trying to imply your friend should be limiting her carbs (maybe you're in fact trying to be generous with the beef) it might feel like a dig.
Loading someone's plate for them is a great way to get kids to try new foods, which is another reason you shouldn't be doing it for your guests. People over the age of 21 know if they like lima beans or not. Allow your guest the grace of not leaving an insulting pile of them on her plate or be forced to choke them down to please you. Family style or buffet is how to serve a dinner party. (Kids and spouses are excluded from this rule, of course.)
2. Do not clear anyone's dinner plate until everyone has finished eating. Also, don't push your plate away or pile garbage on top of it until everyone has finished their meals. Why? Because the person not finished will feel rushed. And awkward.
As a server for many years I was trained to remove plates from tables ASAP, but that is the opposite of polite! I'm so tempted to make a snobbish "Americans in their damn chain restaurants" comment but hello, I'm sitting here in a rhinestone-encrusted tank top that says "sugar" across the boobs. Just try to remember when you go out to eat that dining is as much about the company as the food.
3. Do not talk with your mouth full unless it is to yell FIRE. If you can pause enough to put the bite in, you can pause to get the bite down. Yes, this directive might be common knowledge, but so is "save for retirement" and "don't pick your cuticles". (Go ahead, look at your thumbs. I'll wait.) It ain't like I'm lady Di myself, but in the words of Chandler Bing, there are other people.
4. A piping hot, deliciously fragrant eggplant parmesan is sitting in front of you and your fellow diners. Yum, right? So don't announce to the table how great the sushi was at lunch. Talking about other food while you are eating food is like being in bed with a first date* while talking about your other date.
Look, we all know we have eaten food before, but mentioning it at the height of enjoyment of this food is rude. Why? Because in order to enjoy the eggplant parm, people need to be in the moment. If they are thinking about soy sauce as they take a bite of marinara they are going to wretch a little. Not good!
5. Never correct an adult's table manners. (I'm the internet, I don't count.) Isn't it just fascinating what I said about clearing the dishes? I'm sure you'll remember it, oh, when a server takes your friend's plate away, right after the thought runs through your mind that maybe the last fry isn't soggy. Don't do that.
Instead you should "like" this post on Facebook so your homies see it in advance. See? Solution! Also, shameless plug.
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