Polish your table manners

The swinging holiday season brings invitations to dinner parties, to dinner to meet the parents and so on.

The swinging holiday season brings invitations to dinner parties, to dinner to meet the parents and so on.

This means that we need polished manners to go with the shiny cutlery. There is no warrant of arrest for the uncultured, but it is only fair to keep dining etiquette because some people can be so sensitive that their stomachs turn at bad eating manners.

Below are a few important guidelines to see you through:

l Who should sit down first?

You should wait for your host to ask you to sit down. If they don't ask you to sit, wait for him or her to be seated, then sit.

l What do I do with my napkin? As soon as everyone is seated, unfold your napkin and place it across your lap. If you need to leave the table, place your napkin on your chair. After the meal is over place your napkin on the table to the left of your plate, not on your plate.

l Is it rude to season your food before tasting it?

Yes. Most chefs deem this an insult.

l Which salad plate, bread plate, and drinks are mine?

Your salad plate and bread plate are on your left. But your drinks are on the right above your spoon. Simple rule - solids on the left and drinks on the right.

l Which fork is for what?

Always use your silverware from the outside in. If you have two forks, the outside fork is for salad and the fork closest to the plate is for your main course.

The silverware will be removed as you finish each course. As long as your used cutlery is not placed together, facing up, your plate will not be removed. The spoon for dessert is usually above your crockery.

l When is it okay to begin drinking and eating? Does one wait until the host starts eating?

If water is on the table, sip your water after everyone is seated and after you have placed your napkin on your lap.

For other drinks and foods, wait until everyone has been served, and do not eat until your host has begun. When your host picks up their fork, this is an indicator that you may do so. Do not help yourself to the bread basket and other communal foods until your host has indicated you may do so.

If you pick up the breadbasket, hold it and offer to the person to your left, then serve yourself, and then pass the basket to the person on your right. The same applies to butter and salad dressings.

The host may ask you to start eating and you should comply with the request.

l What is an appropriate way to explain a food allergy?

Refrain from talking about health during meals . If you know the menu in advance, you can let your host know about your allergies. Be pleasant about your request, and apologise for any inconvenience.

l What if I order from the menu but am served the wrong thing?

If the error is small or you were served a wrong side dish, please ignore it. Only when it's a major mistake should you notify the server or waiter.

l Should I avoid food when I can't pronounce its name?

No. If you'd like it, ask the server to describe the food, and point to it on the menu.

l Is it okay to spread butter on my entire roll at one time?

No. Break off a bite-sized piece of your roll, butter it and eat it, one bite at a time.

l Is it okay to cut your salad if the lettuce pieces are too large?

Yes. Cut a few bites at a time; not all at once. It is preferable to cut large salad pieces than to to stuff large bites in your mouth.

l Do you always pass the salt with the pepper, even if someone asks for salt only?

Yes, always pass them together. It is also considered rude to use it first before passing it to the person who asked for it.

l Is it appropriate to just touch up my make-up at the table?

Absolutely not. Grooming can be done only in the bathroom.

l What do you say when you don't like your meal and someone asks: "How is your meal?"

Be polite and say: "Fine, thank you."

l Is it okay to rest your wrists on the edge of the table in between bites?

Yes, it is all right to rest your wrists on the edge of the table or place your hands in your lap, but no elbows on the table.