On table Manners Part 2

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’ and me!

Of course for those of us who are still interested in some semblance of dignity we move forward with Routledges Manual of Etiquette. This is part 2:

As soon as you are seated at table, remove your gloves, place your table napkin across your knees, and remove the roll which you find probably within it to the left side of your plate. The soup should be placed on the table first. Some old-fashioned persons still place soup and fish together; but “it is a custom more honoured in the breach than the observance.”

I can’t say I often use a napkin but when the time arises I shall indeed follow the prescribed advice from above, NEVER EVER tuck it into the neck of your shirt because the is just so, so, so wrong…with that in mind here are some top tips from the Dinner Blog for using a napkin in today’s polite society:

  1. To unfold a cloth napkin, hold a corner and let the napkin unfold as you are picking it up.  Never pop open the napkin.
  2. Once unfolded, refold your napkin in a triangle and place it in your lap with the fold close to your waist.  Never tuck the napkin into your collar, into your belt or between your shirt buttons.  The only time it would be acceptable to tuck your napkin into your collar is when you are enjoying a seafood feast.
  3. Use your napkin before and after taking sips of your drink and whenever it’s necessary.
  4. Blot your lips instead of wiping.
  5. To prevent your napkin from falling to the floor, tuck a corner under your leg.
  6. If your napkin should fall in a restaurant, leave it on the floor and request a fresh one.
  7. When you excuse yourself from the table with intentions to return, place your napkin in the seat of your chair.
  8. Do not crush your napkin and put it in your plate when the meal is finished.  Place it to the left of your plate.

Still more old-fashioned, and in still worse taste is it to ask your guests if they will take “soup or fish.” They are as much separate courses as the fish and the meat; and all experienced diners take both. In any case, it is inhospitable to appear to force a choice upon a visitor, when that visitor, in all probability, will prefer to take his soup first and his fish afterwards. All well-ordered dinners begin with soup, whether in summer or winter. The lady of the house should help it and send it round, without asking each individual in turn. It is as much an understood thing as the bread beside each plate, and those who do not choose it, are always at liberty to leave it untasted.

It is amazing that Victorians simply didn’t explode (well the wealthy ones anyway) by the amount of food the could consume in any one sitting. This example is from 1870 they served twelve or thirteen course meals, this was for entertaining purposes but when they dined alone they ate a miserly five or six courses.

Savory Soup 
Roast Turkey with Dressing or Roast Pork with Specialty Potatoes or Chicken Fricassee served with Rice 
Two Vegetable Side Dishes 
Citrus Ice 
Fresh Dinner Rolls with Sweet Cream Butter 
Jams, Jellies & Sweet Pickles 
Fancy Cake & Preserved Fruit 
Coffee, Hot Punch & Water 
Usually, one would eat dinner in late afternoon and then supper at early evening, or dinner at early evening and then supper later at night. 

So we are served soup:

In eating soup, remember always to take it from the side of the spoon, and to make no sound in doing so.

Lets face it no one like slurping of soup or any food. Anyone that is caught doing this should have their knuckles rapped with the fat end of a large silver serving spoon for it is an affront to humanity!!

As a general rule, it is better not to ask your guests if they will partake of the dishes; but to send the plates round, and let them accept or decline them as they please. At very large dinners it is sometimes customary to distribute little lists of the order of the dishes at intervals along the table: It must be confessed that this gives somewhat the air of a dinner at a hotel ; but it has the advantage of enabling the visitors to select their fare, and, as “forewarned is forearmed,” to keep a corner, as the children say, for their favourite dishes.

If you are asked to take wine, it is polite to select the same as that which your interlocutor is drinking. If you invite a lady to take wine, you should ask her which she will prefer, and then take the same yourself. Should you, however, for any reason prefer some other vintage; you can take it by courteously requesting her permission.

Wine….what’s in a glass of wine, much in my opinion. It is only in recent years that I have come to enjoy wine, my preference being white although red will suffice, not too keen on rose though.

Generally speaking you can get a decent bottle (of course it is completely subjective) for about £5. My current favourite is either a red of white bottle of Casillero del Diablo wine. It is a Chilean wine from the Limari Valley in the North to the Maule Valley in the South.

By the way an ‘interlocutor’ is in general someone you are having a conversation with, so if they are having red, you drink red and for the good wife, if she prefers white then you have white…simple politeness.

As soon as you are helped, begin to eat; or, if the viands are too hot for your palate, take up your knife and fork and appear to begin. To wait for others is now not only old-fashioned, but ill-bred.

Certainly isn’t nowadays…if you start stuffing your face as soon the food arrives, well sour looks will definitely surface.

Never offer to pass on the plate to which you have been helped. This is a still more vulgar piece of politeness, and belongs to the manners of a hundred years ago. The lady of the house who sends your plate to you is the best judge of precedence at her own table.

Grace, a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the food is something we say at our table with my daughter, not mentioned by Routledges… I’m shocked!

We presume it is scarcely necessary to remind the reader that he is never, under any circumstances, to convey his knife to his mouth. Peas are eaten with the fork; tarts, curry, and puddings of all kinds with the spoon. Always help fish with a fish-slice, and tart and puddings with a spoon, or, if necessary, a spoon and fork.

No, no need but then why would one try to eat peas with a knife!

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