Glad to be back soon enough, with yet another informative post. I recently had the opportunity to be a part of the Dining Etiquette Workshop organized by Femina Believe. The moment I received my invitation, I knew this was going to be a promising afternoon at Hakkasan – our gorgeous venue for the session.
Here I was, ready to spend a fruitful afternoon with some of my favourite blogger friends and the Femina Believe team. Sangrias made the rounds and there was a photo booth-like corner for everyone to get papparazzied! With some crazy props to add drama, who doesn’t love to pose, right?
We soon settled into our seats and our mentor – Ms. Greeshma Thampi took charge and kickstarted the workshop with absolute élan. Simple learnings that may have seemed so obvious but was an eye-opener of sorts made us all wonder how we’ve been misguided all along. She took us through the various rules, dos and don’ts, while basic definitions were discussed and people shared their own knowledge about formal dining and the etiquettes they believed in. Some stood corrected while some were quite aware. Personally, I was quite surprised to learn that everything I knew was pretty much right. 🙂 So yea, happy moments were shared. So back to the learnings…
What is etiquette?
It is a code of behaviour within each society, social class or group.
And what about dining etiquette?
Dining etiquette speaks about a person’s social up bringing with class and culture as a civilized individual. Hence, to display good table manners is essential.
It all begins with the setting of the table – whether it is a formal or informal dinner.
Key points to remember:
- Your dinner plate is the “hub of the wheel” and usually is the first thing to be set on the table.
- The small plates are for breads or salads while of course, the big plates (dinner plates) are for main course.
- Cutlery is always placed in order of use – from the out, towards to inside.
- Forks go to the left of your plate, while knives and spoons to the right.
- Small forks are used for salads or appetisers while big forks (actually known as dinner fork) are used for your main course.
- The knife is set immediately to the right of the plate. Make sure the cutting edge is always facing inward.
- The spoons go to the right of the knife.
- The napkin is either placed on the left (next to the forks) or in the centre of the dinner plate.
- Whatever your beverage may be (from plain water to wine) all glasses are placed at the top right of the dinner plate.
- The dessert spoon and fork is placed horizontally above the dinner plate.
- The Coffee cup and saucer – If coffee is served during the meal, they go just above and slightly to the right of the knife and spoons. If it is served after dinner, the cups and saucers are brought to the table and placed in the same spot.
Here’s a basic table layout depiction for both – formal as well as informal settings.
|Image Courtesy: theclassywoman.blogspot.com
|Image Courtesy: theclassywoman.blogspot.com
A seven course meal entails the follow:
- Appetizer: It’s usually food or a drink that helps stimulate ones appetite.
- Salad: It can be served with or without a dressing.
- Soup: It is served in either a plate or bowl with or without handles.
- Hor D’oeuvres: In French, it means ‘Starters’. (so fancy, right?)
- Sorbet: Is the palate cleanser that is essential before you indulge into main course.
- Entrée: The French term for ‘Main Course’.
- Dessert: Like you need a definition for that? 😛
Before I go on to other etiquette information, I’d like to bring this to everyone who eats pizzas with cutlery – Stop trying to be all fancy because pizzas are meant to be eaten with YOUR HANDS. Yes, even in Italy or anywhere else in the world. There’s a reason why certain foods are specifically called ‘finger foods’. So yes, eating with your hands is absolutely okay as and when it’s possible.
PS. These rules don’t apply for Indian food… obviously. The joy in eating the same with your hands is something else and if you’re truly desi, you’d know what I mean and totally agree with it. 🙂
Also, Greeshma shared with us the coolest information about how to simply decode a table layout. From left to right – it’s BMW. No, not the car brand, but a simple code that I know I will remember for life!
B – Bread Plate – always on your left
M – Meal Plate – always in the centre
W – Water/Wine Glasses – always to the right
Some other cool pointers include:
- Always cut your food (especially meats) in a diagonal manner because it is way easier.
- It is bad table manners to directly bite into your bread. Always break a piece and then eat it.
- Placing your elbows on the table or keeping your hands under the table are negative signs when it comes to body language. Ideally, place your wrists at the edge of the table.
- Your napkin should always be spread in a neat manner on your lap. You will be provided with a bib-like napkin if you’re planning to eat something messy… like crabs.
- If you think combing your hair or re-touching up your makeup at the dining table is appropriate, you’re wrong. There’s a reason why they have mirrors in the washrooms.
- Never place used cutlery on the table. Always ask for it to be replaced and until then, leave them on your plate in the appropriate position.
- FYI, soup is not a drink; you eat it… and when you’re done, leave the soup spoon in the bowl. Also, don’t bend when you’re eating your soup. Always dip the spoon and tip the bowl on one side to avoid any spillage. Blowing or any slurp noises are not considered as good table manners. Soup is meant to be piping hot and slurping sounds are plain disgusting. If there’s any soup left at the bottom of your bowl, always tilt the bowl outward and then fill the spoon.
- One should use a dessert spoon for softer desserts like ice cream and a pastry fork for firm desserts like cake.
- Adding extra sauces or seasoning to your food even before you’ve tasted it is considered disrespectful towards the chef and his talent. This may offend him, and I don’t blame him for that.
- Don’t point or gesture with cutlery in your hand.
- Never start your meal until everyone’s served.
- Last but not the least, wishing the people you’re dining with, “Bon Appetit!” is always a good idea.
What do you do when you have to leave your seat in the middle of your meal?
Place your knife and fork at 8:20 position. Make sure your fork is facing down. (Most of us wouldn’t realise that). Also, your napkin must be folded neatly and placed on your seat… Not on the chair’s handle or back rest. These specific positions indicate that you are not done with your meal and will be back in a bit.
|Image Courtesy: huffingtonpost.com
What do you do when you are done with your meal?
Place your knife and fork at 4:20 or 6:30 position. Again, make sure your fork is facing down.
Moving on from forks, knives and spoons, Greeshma took us through a seemingly complicated but actually a pleasantly fulfilling journey on how to correctly hold and use chopsticks. Yes! It was quite an experience for everyone present. Some managed to get a hang of it quite instantly, while some took their own time; but in the end, everyone was confidently picking up peanuts with their respective chopsticks. I on the other hand, was quite impressed with my abilities since I already knew how to use chopsticks but was never really sure if my technique was right. But this workshop validated that for good! 🙂
After an enlightening session on the dos and don’ts, we also had an discussion about the various dining etiquette practices around the world. For example, tipping is considered offensive in Japan, while ordering a milk beverage after your meal is looked down upon in Italy. A country like USA does not believe in the idea of sharing a meal while splitting the bill in France is again considered inappropriate. So it’s always a good idea to do some homework about the dining culture of the place you’re planning to visit.
As much as I would have loved to go into an elaborate discussion on the food we finally ended up eating (I took it up as a challenge to finish my entire meal with chopsticks and I did!), this post is solely dedicated to the etiquettes that go behind enjoying all sorts of foods, right. Nevertheless, a special menu was set for the afternoon that included an array of dumplings, chicken buns, sticky rice, glass noodles, a lovely lotus stem preparation, some carrot cake (nope, not the dessert), Malaysian vegetable curry and honey glazed pot chicken and a gorgeous platter of desserts. I’m going to let my images do the rest of the talking. Feast your eyes, I say! 🙂
Femina Believe organises quite a few workshops and I look forward to being a part of the next. With so much to learn and share with the rest of you, it is indeed a lovely feeling to put down my experiences here. Cheers to many more! 🙂
Until next time…
The Potpourri Girl