Table Etiquette

Imagine your son or daughter as an adult at an important business dinner. Spearing the meat with a fork, your fledgling executive saws vigourously. The beef, slippery with sauce, shoots across the pristine tablecloth, spraying the senior managers wine glass with mushroom gravy before landing in a colleagues lap.

Why has no one ever taught this young person how to eat?

It’s a question many businesses are asking these days, as fresh recruits make their way into the corporate arena armed with impressive degrees but dining manners more suited to Bart Simpson. Frankly, it’s because a lot of kids never progress beyond their 10-year-old skills level. Many children grow up eating in front of a TV or in the car on route to soccer and eating out involves a burger and french fries. But table manners don’t happen by osmosis. Like other life skills, they have to be taught.

    The tween age is the perfect time to hone fine dining skills. If your 10-year-old text messages like a concert pianist or is champion of the computer joy stick, the kid can master a knife and fork. And figure out whether to pick up the water glass on the left or the right. And learn how to eat soup and stay dry.

Manners start at home
Manners aren’t meant to suck the joy out of eating. Knowing how to stickhandle the utensils without fear or embarrassment adds to the pleasure. Encourage kids to laugh and talk at the table, between bites, of course. If you were a TV or eat-in-the-car kid yourself and don’t know the finer points, let the adventure begin for everybody. All it takes is a little practice and willingness to learn.

American or Continental?
It’s your choice. In American style, you put your knife down, switch your fork to your other hand and eat your bite. In continental style, you cut the piece of meat and eat it without switching the fork to your right hand. And if you’re still cutting up your child’s food, stop now! PC

Test Your Tween’s Table Savvy With Our Quiz:

The Tools
1 Unfold your napkin and put it on your lap:
a) when you start to eat
b) as soon as you sit down at the table
c) save it in case you spill something

2 Find your salad or bread plate:
a) on the left
b) on the right
c) above your plate

3 Find your beverage glass:
a) on the left
b) on the right
c) on the right, above your plate

4 Use silverware:
a) in order from the inside out
b) in order from the outside in
c) from the biggest to the smallest

5 If you’re not sure what fork to use:
a) guess whatever seems right
b) ask the person sitting next to you
c) copy your host or your parent

6 If you’re served pizza in a restaurant, eat it:
a) with a knife and fork
b) with your hands
c) using fingertips only

7 When you’re finished eating:
a) leave your knife and fork together beside your plate
b) place your knife and fork together across your plate (parallel to each other in the four oclock position)
c) wrap them in your napkin and leave them beside your plate

The Skills
8 Cut your food in bite-sized pieces:
a) all at one time so its easier to eat
b) a few at a time
c) one piece at a time so you don’t look greedy

9 It’s okay to talk with your mouth full:
a) during dinner conversation
b) never
c) when you’re not sitting down at the table

10 Take sips of your drink:
a) while chewing; it helps wash the food down
b) in between bites, after swallowing
c) it doesn’t matter

11 When eating a bread roll:
a) slice it in half like a sandwich and butter both sides
b) pick up the whole roll and eat it like an apple, buttering as needed
c) tear off a small piece from your bread roll, butter and eat one small piece at a time

The Social Graces
12 Start to eat your food:
a) as soon as you’re served so your food doesn’t get cold
b) when everyone at the table has their food
c) when your host starts, if you’re a guest

13 If you must remove something inedible from your mouth:
a) use your napkin to cover your mouth while you remove it and place it on the side of your plate
b) wave it about so everyone can see
c) excuse yourself and go the bathroom; you don’t need to explain

14 If the salt is out of reach:
a) grab it for yourself; you don’t want to interrupt anyone who’s eating
b) ask whoever is closest to pass the salt please
c) do without salt

15 If you don’t like the food:
a) tell whoever cooked it that you don’t like it so they wont serve it again
b) leave it uneaten on your plate
c) push it around a bit and feed it to the dog when no one is looking
d) be a good sport and taste it

16 After the meal:
a) ask to be excused from the table
b) leave the table quickly so you can watch TV
c) help clear the dishes if you’re at home
d) thank whoever cooked the meal, even if it’s your parent
e) put your plate on the floor for the dog to lick

Answers:
1. b; 2. a; 3. b and c; 4. b ; 5. c; 6. all are correct; just have plenty of napkins
7. b; 8. b; 9.b ; 10. b; 11. c; 12. b; 13. a and c; 14. b; 15. b and d; 16. a,c and d are not only correct, theyre admirable

Ratings:
13 or more correct: Fit to eat with royalty
8 to 12 correct: Nearly ready for public viewing
7or less correct: Join the dog under the table

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