Because You Are Polite

by Ginger Philbrick

The mailbox of Because You Are Polite….was void of mail this week. I am certain that is because you are out there practicing your best manners and being models of kindness and respect for the rest of our population. There simply are not questions to be asked.

However, one should never miss the opportunity to refresh manners. That is why I am choosing to submit the following checklist of basic etiquette and give you the opportunity to conduct a self-evaluation.

When confronted with an overwhelming array of utensils at your place setting, use them starting with the one on the outside, as appropriate. For example, if soup is the first course, use the chubbier spoon on your far right. If salad is first, use the smaller fork on your far left.

Your napkin likes to rest in your lap while you are eating, not on the table. If you find you need to part with it during or after the meal, lay it loosely folded to the left of your place setting.

Wait until your hostess begins eating, lifts up her fork, or asks you to begin eating before daring to put a forkful of food in your mouth. You may sip water upon sitting down, but please don’t dive into the bread unless your hostess invites you to.

It is acceptable to use either the Zig-Zag or the Continental method of delivering your meal to your mouth. Note: for a right-handed person, Zig-Zag entails cutting your food with knife in your right hand and fork in your left, then laying your knife down and switching your fork to your right hand to eat. The opposite directions for a left-handed diner. Whew!! For Continental style, the fork remains in the same hand as when it was cutting to bring food to one’s mouth.

If you discover you have placed a morsel in your mouth that needs to be removed—fat, seed, yucky thing—it should be taken out the same way it was put in. For example, if it is a piece of gristle that you put in your mouth with a fork, remove it by gently spitting it back on that fork. If you placed a lovely cherry in your mouth with your fingers and find it has a stone you need to be free of, remove the stone with those same fingers. Do not use your hostess’s linen napkin as a hiding place! If you do, she will not be happy when it is laundry time.

If you are helping to serve food, the general rule is to lay the plate down from the diner’s left side and remove it from his right. An easy way to remember is L is for left and lay and R is for right and remove.

Finally, even though elbows have often lobbied to be allowed to be part of the action on the table while people are eating, their efforts have not met success. Until they can claim victory, please allow them table access only when no one is eating.

The author of a book on table manners for children once wrote what the reward for such good table manners is:

When you are polite, you’ll be asked out at night.

Or for luncheon, the zoo, or to help fly a kite.

It’s a wonderful thing that can happen all right,

And all because you’re so very polite.