Etiquette at Hand with Carrie Glenn

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Etiquette at Hand

with Carrie Glenn

~ Dining 101~

Need to know:

*As often as possible, practice at home with a formal or informal setting

(thus ensuring that when called upon, your skills will be sharp!)

*Follow the host/ess cues for: when to sit, when to begin drinking, when to begin and finish eating, and retire from the table

*With each course, wait to drink your wine or champagne until the host/ess does in case he or she wants to make a toast.

*Hold all stemware by the stem, even red wine glasses

*Sit from the right side of the chair and sit up straight but relaxed

*Unfold napkin under the table then place on lap

*Anything dropped remains on the floor and politely ask the server or host/ess for a replacement

*Lean forward from the hips rather than bending down to eat

*Pass items with two hands, and salt and pepper always together

*Take small bites so conversation can flow easily

*ALWAYS wait for hot soup to cool enough to eat rather than to blow on or stir! Otherwise you may be perceived to be impatient

*Once you have used a utensil, NO part of it may touch the table again

On to a Fabulous Dining Experience

Posture: straight back but relaxed, two hand widths from the table, elbows close to the body, feet below and not extended out under the table or wrapped around chair legs


  1. After the host/ess lifts their napkin, use your left hand to pull yours under the table to unfold. Lay it on your lap folded in half with the folded side close to you.

  2. Though you should plan to stay at the table for the entire meal, if you must leave, lay your napkin in your chair. This indicates that you are returning.

  3. Clean your fingers between the inside folds of the napkin. Never lick them!

  4. Use the napkin to pat or dab your lips and the corners of your mouth.

  5. Wait until you are rising to return your napkin to the table. As you lift yourself from the chair, grasp your napkin with your left thumb and forefinger in the center of the fold. Allow the napkin to drape in natural folds on its own and place on the left of your plate if your plate is still on the table or where your dinner plate had been (formal) with the edges towards the edge of the table.

The Cover: Just looking at your place setting will inform you how many and what courses will be served. A complete cover will likely ensure that you are attending a full seven-course, formal dining event.

  1. Appetizer: note the only fork on the right side of the plate, placed at the right of the soupspoon or at an angle with its tines in the soupspoon.

  2. Soup Course: indicated by a soupspoon on the right and a sherry glass at the right end of the goblet line up.

  3. Fish Course: to be eaten with the fish fork and fish knife. The far right goblet is for the white wine that is served with this course.

  4. Sorbet Course: served with its own spoon, this course may be presented to clean the palate and a few bites will do just that. Resting and finish position for the spoon is on the service place where it was when it arrived at the table.

  5. Main Course: to be eaten with your largest fork and knife and the wine glass next to your water is for this course. For less formal meals, the main course may come after the salad course. You will be able to tell which comes first by the placement of your largest fork and knife: if there is another smaller fork and knife between the largest and your plate, then indeed, your main course will come before the salad.

  6. Salad Course: served with slightly smaller fork and knife than those served with the main course. Water is the drink of preference with this course and is served in the goblet just above your main and salad knives. Never cut your salad (unless it is an iceberg wedge or some otherwise large lettuce).

  7. Dessert: the little fork (tines pointing to the right) and spoon (spoon bowl pointing to the left) just above your plate promises the delight of this course to be enjoyed with champagne and usually accompanied by a toast (or several toasts).

  • Also included in the Complete Cover are the bread plate and bread knife. Place a small serving of butter on your bread plate. You may break your bread in half and then break off one small bite at a time, butter, and eat. It is also acceptable to cut your bread in half horizontally and place a pat of butter in the middle so that it will melt.

American and International Styles of Eating with a Fork and Knife

It wasn't until the 17th century that forks were used. The wife of an Italian nobleman did not like to eat meat with her fingers and so the two-pronged fork was created to please her. It did not catch on easily or quickly but now is standard for many cultures. We will take a look at the two proper and accepted methods for eating with a fork and knife: the International Style and the American Style. International Style is often referred to as European or Continental (or even European Continental!) and is used worldwide. American Style, or "zigzag" is used in America and was actually the original way everyone used a fork and knife until the late 1800's when French etiquette demanded a change. The term "zigzag" refers to the switching of the fork from left hand to right after cutting. There are a few differences in the rest and finished positions to take note of, as well as hand placement at the table when it is not handling a utensil.

American Style: the fork is used to pierce the food with the left hand and the knife is used to cut it into up to three bites at a time. The knife is laid across the top of the plate, blade toward center of plate for its resting position and the fork is switched to the right hand to eat with the tines pointing up. The left hand is placed on the lap (warning: some cultures are offended if you remove hands from the table top once a meal has started). When taking a moment to chat, the fork is placed like the hands of a clock at 5 o'clock with the tines up and in the center of the plate. Finished position: to indicate you are finished, the fork and knife lie side by side at 4 o'clock, fork closest to center of plate, tines up, and knife with blade pointing towards center.

International Style: like American Style, the fork is used by the left hand and the knife is held in the right. Only one bite at a time is cut and the knife is used to manage adding vegetables to the back of the fork (if desired) before eating. Tines remain pointing down and the knife remains in the right hand. There are two resting positions. Crisscross the fork (tines down) over the knife (blade toward the center of the plate) so that the handles hit the plate edge at about 7 o'clock and 5 o'clock and the tines and end of blade are in the center of the plate. If there is too much food to manage this, simply lay the fork (again, tines down) and knife (again, blade toward the center of the plate) along the sides of the plate. Rest wrists gingerly on the edge of the table. Finished position is exactly as described for American Style, only the fork tines point down.

Soup: Fill spoon no more than 2/3 full, scoop away from your body, and gently wipe the bottom of the spoon along the edge of the bowl furthest from you to avoid dripping. For American Style dining, lay your left hand in your lap and for International dining, rest your left wrist on the table.

Thank you so very much!

Thank you for the opportunity to share my knowledge of lovely and useful dining practices that will enrich your dining experiences now and in the future. It is my wish that you had fun and enjoyed the lesson and that you find ongoing value from your investment. I certainly learned much and appreciate you!

Topics Covered

Today we practiced International and American styles of eating with a knife and fork: how to manage the knife, resting and finished positions, and where to place our non-dominant hand - whether in the lap or resting its wrist on the edge of the table.

We practiced sitting and standing (and waiting for our gentlemen to pull out our chairs!)

We practiced pulling our napkins on our laps, how to properly lay it on our chair, and how and when to lay it on the table.

We practiced waiting to sip our drinks until the hostess, how to hold our flute by the stem, and had fun making toasts.

We discussed the need for good dining etiquette and its role in opening doors and gaining us access to those whom we may not otherwise approach without these skills.

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Cheryl, when I saw this I thought of you standing by your chair when you returned from your car and started cracking up! Just wanted to share. Thanks again!!! Carrie

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