Basic Dining Etiquette

WITW: Basic Dining Etiquette That You Were Probably Never Taught

Ever been seated at a restaurant and seen more than one set of knives and forks? Or maybe you were at a leavers ball and you couldn’t enjoy your meal because you weren’t sure what the right table etiquette was. Here is some basic dining etiquette you were probably never taught but you should know:

What Goes Where?

First things first, it’s a good idea to know what goes where. A simple way to remember this is by using the words ‘left’ (four letters) and ‘right’ (five letters). Even if you’re not going to a fancy restaurant, at least you can set up the dining table the right way.

The Grub: I used to always get confused about whether my drink should be on my left or right. But it’s simple, use the ‘left or right’ principle. ‘Drink’ has five letters and so does ‘right’ so place your drink on the right side. And since ‘food’ is a four-letter word like ‘left’, place your plate on the left.

The Cutlery: The ‘left or right’ principle works with cutlery too. The word ‘fork’ has four letters and so forks go to the left of the plate, simple right? Now apply the same rule to ‘knife’ and ‘spoon’…five letters each so they go to the right.

Basic Dining Etiquette - Basic Table Set Up

Ermmm……this one?

It’s all well and good having one knife, one fork, and one spoon, the eating process is simple. But what happens when you’re invited to eat at the fanciest restaurant you’ve ever been to and once you’re seated you’re met with multiple knives and forks of different sizes? A lot of the time, people just pick at random. The easier option and the right option; start from the outside and work your way inwards as you start each course.

Basic Dining Etiquette - Formal Table Set Up

Note: When you get that bread and butter before your actual meal, you should break it with your hands, not with a knife. (Barbaric, I know).

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

In the life of fine dining, did you know you could talk to the waiters with your cutlery? By simply placing your fork and knife in certain positions you could tell the waiters if you’re done; just resting; you think the food was excellent; you think the food was terrible; damn, if it was that bad you could even ask for a ‘complaint book’. Here’s how:

Finished – Simply place your knife and fork on your plate as if it were a clock saying 11:55 or 12:00 (I prefer 11:55, I don’t know why, I just do). Your fork should be facing upwards and the teeth of your knife should be facing inwards.

Just resting or taking a break – Place your knife and fork in and upside down ‘V’ shape on your plate. If we are still talking in clocks then it should look something like 7:25.

Thought the food was excellent? Don’t say anything, just turn your knife and fork to 3:15 and let the waiter say ‘thank you’. Or maybe the food or service was so dead that you feel the need to pull a Karen and ask for a ‘complaint book’ (didn’t even know there was such a thing). Again, you need not say a word, just turn your 12:00 to 6:00. But all this is extra, just focus on the first two. Unless your eating at the Shard or the Ivy or something, there’s really no need to be throwing up gang signs with knives and forks. Sometimes just talk.

Basic Dining Etiquette - Knife and Fork Etiquette
Some Extra Notes

When it comes to dining etiquette there’s a whole bunch of dos and don’ts. I’ve only covered what I think are basic ‘must-knows’. So be sure to do further learning if you think you’re going to need this information soon. Or if you just want to broaden your horizon. I’ll drop a few sources at the end that I recommend you take a look at.

Final points:

– Wait for everyone to be served before starting your meal (This is really just common courtesy in my opinion).
-Take the spoon/fork to your mouth, not your mouth to the spoon/fork.
-If you’re a slurper, DON’T. This is just from me to you. (Unless you’re Japanese. In their culture slurping shows appreciation).
-Don’t chew with your mouth open or talk with your mouth full. You should know this if you don’t then now you do.

I hope this has given you a bit more insight into basic dining etiquette. If you’ve found you’ve been doing things the wrong way all your life, at least now you can correct it. And when you do go to the fancy restaurants or get invited for dinners you can feel comfortable that you know what goes where and when to use what. Or when it’s for Christmas dinner you can take on the responsibility of setting the table the RIGHT way.



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