Manners Matter 9

Table Manners

By Ron Ross


When you eat by yourself you may gobble your food like a hungry pig if you want because no one cares. But when you eat with someone else, and especially when you eat in public, table manners matter.

In 1922 a writer named Emily Post wrote Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home. You might not believe it, but it became an instant best seller followed by several updated versions over the decades that followed. I don’t know who is writing her stuff today, but in 2014 she came out with a new updated version titled, Emily Post’s Etiquette with Illustrations, and she has a website – Pretty modern girl, don’t you think?

Table manners are an important part of mannerly living so I checked with and there I found a page titled, “Top Ten Table Manners.” I hope Ms. Post doesn’t mind, but I have decided to list them to remind both of us that table manners matter.

Top Ten Table Manners by Emily Post

Table manners have evolved over centuries to make the practice of eating with others pleasant and sociable. With so many table manners to keep track, keep these basic, but oh-so-important, table manners in mind as you eat:

  1. Chew with your mouth closed.
  2. Keep your smartphone off the table and set to silent or vibrate. Wait to check calls and texts until you are finished with the meal and away from the table.
  3. Don’t use your utensils like a shovel or stab your food.
  4. Don’t pick your teeth at the table.
  5. Remember to use your napkin.
  6. Wait until you’re done chewing to sip or swallow a drink. (Choking is clearly an exception.)
  7. Cut only one piece of food at a time.
  8. Avoid slouching and don’t place your elbows on the table while eating (though it is okay to prop your elbows on the table while conversing between courses, and always has been, even in Emily’s day).
  9. Instead of reaching across the table for something, ask for it to be passed to you.
  10. Take part in the dinner conversation.

Here are two final tips for good table manners that my mother taught me:

Use the right utensil. Some day you will be invited to a dinner party where the hostess has set a variety of utensils at your plate. Deciding which knife, fork, or spoon to use is easier to figure out than you might have thought. Use the “outside-in” rule which says, use the utensils on the outside first and work your way inward. Or easier yet, wait until the host or hostess starts eating and use the same utensil they use.

Wait to start eating. In most cases it is polite to wait until everyone has been served before you start to eat whether you are eating at a restaurant or in a home. If everyone has not been served (usually at a large table of guests) the hostess may tell those who have been served to go ahead and eat.

Lest you think Emily Post was a stuffed-shirt high society snob from a past generation, she was not. “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.” She wrote. “If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”


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