Good Manners at the Table
Making and Keeping Friends
Have you ever realized that most of the meals we eat - even between meal snacks - are eaten with other people? It is because of this fact that table manners are so important. They may even have an effect upon your success in making and keeping friends. A new acquaintance may either receive a pleasing impression of you by noticing that you use good manners or be embarrassed and annoyed by your careless ways of eating.
Mealtime in the Family
Have you ever noticed that some people seem to have two sets of table manners - one for home use and another for use in public? It is much easier to eat properly when away from home if you make a practice of using good manners at the family table. You can have a better time at a dinner party or a school banquet if you are accustomed to practicing all the approved ways of eating that are involved. The best way to be sure you use good table manners in public is to make them a habit. Then you can forget about them and enjoy yourself.
Getting Ready for the Meal
As a matter of courtesy everyone in the family should be ready when the meal is served, so that other people are not kept waiting and the food is served at it's best. Come to the table promptly.
See that your hands and face are clean and your hair is neat. You may need to allow time enough to change clothing or take a shower if you have been working or playing actively.
If you are a guest for a meal in another person's home, do not be late. Be sure to arrive at least five minutes before mealtime. If you come too early, of course, you may interfere with the many last minute preparations.
Your Place at the Table
Unless you have a regular place, as you will at home, pause at the table until the hostess tells you where to sit. Then stand behind your chair until each person has been placed. It is correct for a boy to help seat the girl who is at his right. At home or in public a boy should seat his mother. To do this, he should pull her chair back, then push it forward as she sits down in it. At the end of the meal he should help her to rise-standing behind her chair and pulling it slowly back as she rises and steps to the side.
If no boys or men are present, a girl may help to seat an elderly woman. It avoids confusion if all persons are seated from the left of their chairs.
Your chair should be placed far enough from the table so that your chest is not against the table edge, and close enough so that you can sit all the way back in the chair. Sit up straight, keeping both feet on the floor. Have you ever noticed the awkward appearance of a person whose legs were crossed or were twined around the frame of the chair during a meal?
Your hands should be kept in your lap when you are not using the tableware. You should not put elbows on the table while eating, but you may rest your forearms on the table edge.
Your share in making mealtime enjoyable.
With your hands in your lap, wait courteously and quietly until grace has been said. During the meal take part pleasantly in the table conversation. Avoid arguments or discussion of unpleasant subjects.
Do's and Don'ts of Meal Conversation
Do talk about...
... activities of the day
... news items
... anecdotes and stories
... interests of others
Don't talk about ...
... yourself all the time
... operations and medical or dental experiences
... controversial subjects
... unpleasant happenings
... illness and death
Do's and Don'ts at the Table
... sit far enough back in your chair so that your body does not touch the table, but not so far from the table that you are likely to drop food in your lap.
... keep your feet on the floor, and never on the legs or rungs of the chair.
... keep your left hand in your lap when you aren't using it, and avoid putting your elbows on the table.
... leave the silver alone unless you are using it in eating.
... pass food to others before helping yourself.
... accept all food served to you, and try to eat at least a small portion of everything.
... ask to have something you want passed to you, but don't reach across the table.
... use your fingers to take bread from the bread plate-not your fork.
... say "No, thank you" when you do not want another serving of food.
... when passing your plate for a second serving, leave your knife and fork on the plate- fork with tines up, knife with blade toward the fork.
... when you have finished, leave the plate in place with knife and fork across the plate.
... tuck your napkin in your clothing
... motion with the silver
... stretch or yawn at the table
... pick your teeth (even with a toothpick) or roll your tongue to dislodge food from your teeth.
... talk about unpleasant topics, discus your diet, argue, or quarrel.
... say, "I'm full" or "I'm stuffed" when refusing food.
... put a knife in your mouth.
... pick up food or silver dropped on the floor.
... pick up food dropped on the table.
... when dining in the home of another person, don't ask for a second serving of food, but you may accept one if it is offered.
During the Meal
If you are at ease during the meal, you will enjoy more thoroughly the food you eat. It is important that you know how to eat various foods correctly and what to do when you have finished.
Good Manners While Eating
The girl or boy who wants to use correct table manners when eating needs to remember some general rules for all occasions when food is eaten.
1. Cut only one or two bites of food at a time.
2. Bring the food up to your mouth without bending your head down to your plate to receive it.
3. Put only small portions of food into your mouth at one time.
4. Chew food quietly and with lips closed.
5. Refrain from talking with food in your mouth.
6. Eat slowly but don't dawdle.
7. Chew food thoroughly, and avoid washing food down with liquids.
8. Use a bit of bread as a pusher when necessary, but never use a finger for this purpose.
Some foods are difficult to eat, and it is a good idea to find out how to eat them correctly. A general rule is to use a knife to cut and spread, a fork for anything that can be picked up with a fork - that is, not too liquid, and a spoon for soft, liquid foods. Use a fork or spoon, not your fingers, for all juicy, greasy, or sticky foods.
When you have finished
Always place the knife and fork across the center of the plate when you are through to indicate that you have finished and to make it easier to carry off the used plate and silver. At the end of the meal you may fold or crumple your napkin, depending upon whether or not you will use it for another meal, and place it on the table at the left of your plate. When you use a cloth napkin at home, you will probably fold it for use at another meal. Families have different ways of keeping the identity of each person's napkin. In some families napkin clips are used.