On table manners part 1

Table manners…a thing of the past. Manners in general seem to be much of a thing of the past everyone revels in the culture of ‘I’. Of course for those of us who are still interested in some semblance of dignity we move forward with Routledges Manual of Etiquette 

To be acquainted with every detail of the etiquette pertaining to this subject is of the highest importance to every gentleman.

Ease, savoir faire, and good breeding are nowhere more indispensable than at the dinner-table, and the absences of them are nowhere more apparent.

How to eat soup and what to do with a cherry-stone are weighty considerations when taken as the index of social status ; and it is not too much to say, that a man who elected to take claret with his fish, or ate peas with his knife, would justly risk the punishment of being banished from good society. As this subject is one of the most important of which we have to treat.

I think it’s fair to say there is nothing more off putting than someone shovelling food into their food hole like it is an bottomless pit and then, God help us, watching as they eat with their mouths open…! So manners maketh man (and of course women)!

An invitation to dine should be replied to immediately, and unequivocally accepted or declined. Once accepted, nothing but an event of the last importance should cause you to fail in your engagement.

Indeed…with the invent of smart phones and us being connected to each other 24hrs a day it makes it easier to reply immediately…as long as you and your good wife’s calendars are synchronised.

To be exactly punctual is the strictest politeness on these occasions. If you are too early, you are in the way; if too late; you spoil the dinner, annoy the hostess, and are hated by the rest of the guests. Some authorities are even of opinion that in the question of a dinner-party “never” is better than “late;” and one author has gone so far as to say, if you do not reach the house till dinner is served, you had better retire to a restaurateur’s, and thence send an apology, and not interrupt the harmony of the courses by awkward excuses and cold acceptance.”

Lateness I am glad to say i still considered rude by most people. Now when I am cooking for friends I have a lateness limit, 15 minutes is usually fine but any more than that and I tend to get a little impatient especially when you have spent 2 or 3 hours cooking.

When the party is assembled, the mistress or master of the house will point out to each gentleman the lady whom he is to conduct to table. If she be a stranger, you had better seek an introduction; if a previous acquaintance, take care to be near her when the dinner is announced, offer your arm, and go down according to precedence of rank. This order of precedence must be arranged by the host or hostess, as the guests are probably unacquainted, and cannot know each other’s social rank.

Social rank is a rather odd thing nowadays. It seems to me that there now three classes thus:

  • Upper Class, the very wealthy 10%
  • Middle Class, now a combination of working class/middle class 70%
  • Under Class, uneducated, deprived state reliant families 20/%
I could be wrong here but I can’t help but see a similarity between the under class of today’s society and that of the Victorian era. There are really some of the same mentalities. It is a worrying growth of mob sentiment.

The number of guests at a dinner-party should always be determined by the size of the table. When the party is too small, conversation flags, and a general air of desolation pervades the table. When they are too many, everyone is inconvenienced. A space of two feet should be allowed to each person. It is well to arrange a party in such wise that the number of ladies and gentlemen be equal.

I find a good bottle of wine or two helps the party along quite nicely but try and match the wine with food if possible.

It requires some tact to distribute your guests so that each shall find himself with a neighbour to his taste ; but as much of the success of a dinner will always depend on this matter, it is worth some consideration. If you have a wit, or a particularly good talker, among your visitors, it is well to place him near the centre of the table, where he can be heard and talked to by all. It is obviously a bad plan to place two such persons in close proximity. They extinguish each other. Neither is it advisable to assign two neighbouring seats to two gentlemen of the same profession, as they are likely to fall into exclusive conversation and amuse no one but themselves A little consideration of the politics, religious opinions, and tastes of his friends, will enable a judicious host to avoid many quicksand’s, and establish much pleasant intercourse on the occasion of a dinner party.

Mix and match, a good dinner party is a nightmare if someone takes the conversation into their own opinion. So if someone is a bit of git sit them with someone who can skillfully draw them into a conversation amongst all the guests.

The lady of the house takes the head of the table. The gentleman who led her down to dinner occupies the seat on her right hand.

In the Victorian era the lady of the house was very much in charge on entertaining and would’ve been quite a matriarchal figure.

Many ladies are well pleased thus to delegate the difficulties of carving, and all gentlemen who accept invitations to dinner should be prepared to render such assistance when called upon. To offer to carve a dish, and then perform the office unskilfully, is unpardonable. Every gentleman should carve, and carve well.

Well the unpardonable sin of poor carving is easily resolved by practice with carving knife, more so with an electric carving knife which can a well cooked bird an awful lot of damage!


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