Here Are the Ten Most-Common Examples of Poor Table Manners!

Poor table manners are the rule… not the exception!

As one who dines out at least 5-6 times a week, as well as one whose parents knocked him on the head with the handle of a butter knife for any infraction at the table (That’s poor manners in itself, isn’t it?), I have observed that poor table manners are the RULE… not the exception in Houston (and everywhere else, for that matter). If you don’t care about these things, then skip this article, as you probably hit 10 wrong out of 10 anyway. Who am I to point out your poor table manners? Well, someone needed to, (if you care) unless you do 10 out of 10 correctly.

Here are the infractions that occur the most often in restaurants (as well as at $1000/plate galas):

WRONG!
The knife blade should never face outward! This is the 
most common infraction of proper table manners.


CORRECT!
The knife blade should always face the center of the plate.

1.      The most common faux pas at the table is the way the knife blade is faced when placed on the plate between bites. The knife blade ALWAYS faces toward the center of the plate. The knife should be placed across the top of the plate with the blade facing toward you. It is permissible to place the knife across the top right of the plate… but the key to its placement is that the knife blade is always to be toward you or toward the center of the plate. At least eight out of ten were taught that a knife blade should point outward when placed on the plate. Sometimes when I’m at table with several people, I feel like they are looking at my “innie” wondering why a guy like me never learned how to eat in public like all of them were taught. Face it, your mommy taught you the wrong placement of your knife.

WRONG!
Once a utensil has been used, NO PART of it should touch
 the table again, including the handle!


CORRECT!
A utensil, once used, should be placed completely on the plate.


2.      Once one has used a knife, fork, or spoon, NO part of either of them should ever touch the table again.  Between courses, leave the knife and fork on your plate.  The waitperson should take the plate and used utensils and bring fresh ones with the next course. Between bites, the knife and fork are always placed completely on the plate.

WRONG!
A soup spoon should never be pulled toward you.

 
 CORRECT!
A soup spoon should always be pushed away from you.

3.      A soup spoon is never drawn toward the diner… ever. The proper way to eat soup is to push the spoon away from you. Also, the soup should be scooped from the side of the bowl farther away from you.

CORRECT!
A soup bowl may be tilted away from you to get the very last bit.


4.      May you tilt a soup bowl to get the small amount of remaining soup on the spoon?  Yes, you may. However, the soup bowl, if tilted, should always be tilted away from you.

WRONG!
NEVER hold your hand over a glass to indicate that you want no more.

 
5.      You are through with your wine, tea, or water. The waitperson approaches you to refill your glass. Please do not hold your hand over your glass indicating “no more”! The proper way to stop the waitperson from refilling your glass is to open your mouth and say “No, thank you.”  NEVER wave away service. By the same token, don’t hold your hand up in the air and insult your server by clicking your fingers to get his/her attention, or summon your server as if hailing a cab. It’s an insult to the waitperson. It’s also distracting (and offensive to other diners in the restaurant and to others at your table). 


6.      Never fold your napkin neatly after use. That includes when you are going to the restroom… loosely fold your napkin and place it to the left of your plate. When you are through with your meal, your napkin may be loosely folded and placed, again, to the left of your plate… not ON the plate. In the past, it was common to place the napkin on your seat when excusing yourself to leave the table temporarily.  It is more common today to LOOSELY fold the napkin and place it to the left of your plate. A well-trained waitperson should replace it for you. If not, you at least left it where it should have been placed.

NOW WHAT?
To pick up or not to pick up?

7.      OOOOPS! You’ve dropped your napkin or your fork on the floor. What do you do? Well, whatever you do, do it without drawing any attention to yourself and what you are doing. If that is impossible, you may leave it on the floor. Yes, it IS one of the things that your server does as part of his/her job. Emily Post says to leave it on the floor and the server will get it for you.  Yes, the server has a lot to do, but, after all, it IS one of those things that is part of his/her job. Here’s the problem for you consider.  If you pick up the fork or napkin, what are you going to do with the thing? Of course, you must NOT put either one back on the table after it’s been on the floor. So, you’ve picked it up and now you have nowhere to put it, except to hold it in your hand until the server shows up to take it and replace it. I suggest that you follow Emily Post’s recommendation. The server must be involved either way, so worrying about the fact that the server is very busy is a moot point and you still won’t be able to resume dining until you involve the server to get another napkin or fork, anyway. So, discreetly ask your server to replace it.

WRONG!
Never butter (or dip) more than one bite at a time of a roll!

CORRECT!
Tear off a single bite and butter it or dip in dipping oil.


8.      Butter bread or rolls only one bite at a time… and only place one bite at a time in your “dipping oil.” Also, only cut one bite of food at a time. If you have only one piece of food on your plate and it’s too big to put into your mouth, then, of course, you may cut it into two bites. This one’s a no-brainer, but I still see diners buttering an entire roll or piece of bread… and still remember my father preaching for me to NOT do it, yet remember him (after my mother died and wasn’t there to monitor him) buttering and holding an entire piece of bread in the air and taking a bite of bread with every single bite of food before he swallowed it. 

9.      In a buffet, remember that you may waddle back to the buffet as many times as you care to. Never stack your food so that any item covers another. When you return from the buffet table, your plate should have the equivalent of an entrée and two or three “sides”, unless you are too lazy to go back again. No picture of this as it’s disgusting.  

WRONG!
Your elbow may only be on the table between courses and
during conversation… as long as you have put your fork down.
 

10.  Elbows on the table? I don’t even need to talk about this one, do I? Well, surprise! It is OK to place your elbows on the table between courses and during conversation. Also, sit up straight, bring the food up to your mouth and don’t go down on your food. There’s no left hand showing here, as it is (correctly) in her lap.

       If you got 10 out of 10 right, I’d enjoy having dinner with you sometime. If you got over half wrong, I think I’ve eaten with you every time I’m in a restaurant or event. Again… if you don’t care about table manners, then thank me for giving you 10 ways to prove it. Bon appetit!

3 Comments on “Here Are the Ten Most-Common Examples of Poor Table Manners!

  1. I was taught that during the meal the knife blade was properly placed facing outward until you were finished eating, when it was turned towards you to signify that you were finished eating. This practice evolved from medieval times when it was sometimes necessary to use your knife to protect your food.

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  2. Fantastic article. People should have to sign off on understanding these before going out to dine. I am with you on the knife blade direction. However, have heard the argument stemming from medieval times (knights of the round table or whatever) that knife blade should be placed facing away from the plate, therefore also facing away from the diner's neck… in case a rogue enemy wanted to pick it up and 'do away' with him. Entertaining, at least, I guess.

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  3. As a food historian, I am well aware of the medieval roots of the knife blade direction. However, the practice was that the knife facing the diner next to you was considered a threat to him. The practice was that the knife blade NEVER at any point was to threaten the diner next to you. It has never, in the lives of anyone who can read this, been proper manners to place the knife blade facing outward, although many of us (not me, though) were taught the practice incorrectly. A quick Google of it will show that not one single etiquette writer will say that it is proper to have a knife blade facing outward at any point in the meal from place setting to the “I'm through eating.” signal.

    Like

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