A good diner is a person who knows and behaves according to these simple rules of good table manners, so as to be admitted with pleasure to any banquet, bearing in mind that the table is the place where the masks fall off and without good etiquette you are left naked in front of your fellow dinner companions.
- An invitation is not to be made either too early or late.
- Before the meal begins, it is not correct etiquette to wish ‘bon appétit’ or ‘buon appetito.’ In France and the United States, for example, this is not considered a failing. This custom, which dates back to the Middle Ages, was used by noblemen and feudal lords to distribute the remains of their lavish banquets to their servants and even to the less well-off. On this occasion, the master of the house wished the poor ‘buon appetito’ (good appetite) in order to ingratiate himself with them. Therefore, using it at the table today is akin to speaking down to our guests, especially if it is the host who wishes them a good appetite.
- The moment of the toast, the glasses do not actually touch and no cheers are said, an expression strictly banned from the table. Simply raise the glass with a smile.
- Wait for the host/hostess to start eating, who in turn will have taken care to see that everyone has helped themselves.
- Use good sense, in cases where unfamiliar are presented, observe with a casual air how the host/hostess uses them, whose task it is to open the celebration, after making sure that all the guests have taken their places and have been properly served.
- According to the rules of table manners, you should maintain an upright posture at the table, resting your wrists on the edge of the table, on either side of your plate. Do not extend your legs or cross them, but keep them together and gathered.
- It is not the head that bends over the plate to get as close as possible to the food, but it is the food that is brought to the mouth, using the cutlery correctly.
- Keep your elbows close to your torso when eating. It is very unpleasant to have a neighbouring diner’s elbows in your space
- When eating, the cutlery used should always be left inside the plate, never placed outside, even if only the handle is on.
- It is good etiquette to place the cutlery properly, because its position will provide the necessary information for correct serving. Cutlery placed at 8.20, with the tines of the fork pointing downwards, will indicate that you are taking a break. Cutlery joined at 6.30, with the fork tines upwards and the knife blade facing the fork, will invite the waiter to collect the plate as the meal is finished.
- Do not brandish cutlery in the air, even when the conversation becomes livelier.
- Don’t talk with your mouth full, a rule that is taken for granted but never applied enough. To encourage this, just bring moderate portions of food to your mouth, which will give you enough time to swallow before engaging in conversation. Think of the embarrassment if someone asks a question and has to wait for an answer because of your mouthful of food.
- Noises of any kind are forbidden, whether they be related to chewing, swallowing, gurgling when drinking, or any sort of sucking sound while eating. Also, don’t rub the cutlery together or knock then against the plate to spear the food.
- Avoid swallowing a whole glass of water, wine or any other drink in one go. Drink in small sips.
- It is not good table manners to use toothpicks at the table.
These are some of the suggestions of etiquette for people who understand that a convivial occasion, such as breakfast, lunch or dinner, is a privileged moment of acquaintance, sometimes decisive in the conclusion of a business deal, in initiating a negotiation or in seducing a person. Food feeds on the rituality of gesture and behaviour. Knowing the rules of good table manners at the table will therefore make you more relaxed, confident and focused on the objective.
Photo credit: Nils Stahl