Identifying and properly using the many utensils involved with a fine dining experience can be a challenge
There is a great lack of knowledge of basic table
manners in America today. Most people only gather around the dinner
table for holiday feasts or on special occasions, and most restaurants
are too casual to require such skills. Proper etiquette is essential
for projecting success and savoir faire, or at least saving face in front of your friends.
Learning table manners can be a struggle, especially the difficult
handling of the various utensils involved. Every move you make, from
proper placement to the use of napkins, should be done confidently and
Most of us have faced thje situation where there is a large amount of cutlery
and we no idea how to use it. You should only be given as much
silverware as you need and it should be arranged in a precise
order. A good idea is to watch people around you, when they make
the first move, just follow suit. Silverware is used in a specific order, as
the meal progresses. The standard rule is to start off with the
outer utensils and gradually use the utensils in the direction towards
A small fork that is usually angled into the soup spoon at the right. This is the only fork to the right side of the plate.
It is the biggest spoon on the table, usually pretty obvious. It is
also commonly the only spoon provided for the initial place setting.
The salad fork should be the one with the thicker
tine on the left. Note: it is considered inappropriate to use a knife,
even for larger salad greens.
Both a fork and a knife are usually provided for fish dishes. The fish fork is shorter
than the meat fork, usually the one placed between the salad fork and
the meat fork. The knife is usually has a slight bend to it.
The innermost fork and knife are provided for the meat course of the
meal. When the meal is a steak a sharper knife is usually
added to the setting at the time it is served.
Often the dessert utensils are brought with the dessert course. If
the are put on the table at the beginning, they are usually placed horizontally in front of the plate
and parallel to each other. The bowl of the spoon should be pointing to
the left and the tines of the fork pointing right.
If coffee or tea
are served, a teaspoon us usually provided; and brought in with a cup and saucer.
How to hold utensils
First, it is important to hold the spoon and fork horizontally by
balancing them between the first knuckle of the middle finger and the
tip of the index finger while the thumb steadies the handle. The knife
on the other hand is used with the tip of the index finger leaning on
the blade of the knife.Don't apply too much pressure; simply
use it as leverage and guidance, as you cut your food.
There are two different styles of using utensils, the North American
Style and the European Style
North American Style
Normally, a utensil should be used with the same hand that you use
to write. If you are right-handed, place the fork in your right hand.
You should be able to eat and cut your food with the fork only
(assuming you are at a fine restaurant where portions are usually small
and the texture is soft). It might be very difficult to cut some types
of foods, such as a big steak, so use your judgment when it comes to
using a knife. This can lead to heavy maneuvering when foods, such as
meats, require the use of both a knife and fork to obtain a bite of a
manageable size. Simply take the fork in your left hand and turn the
tines so that they point downwards. This will allow you to better hold
the meat in place while the right hand operates the knife.
a bite-sized piece has been cut, set the knife down on the plate and
transfer the fork to the right hand. It is considered inappropriate to
cut more than one bite at a time. Pick up the freshly cut piece of
meat and carry it to your mouth. Indulge . Remember this method is
strict; you cannot even use the knife for hard to mount foods such as
peas, and the fork must pick up everything on its own. As you can see,
this style is slightly difficult to master.
You can call it the European Style or the Continental Style . This
method of using utensils is simply more efficient and less formal. Use
common sense; if the occasion calls for a more formal technique use the
American Style . According to the European Style , the fork will remain
in the left hand and the knife in the right. When food is cut, the fork
is used exactly as in the American Style , except that once a portion
has been separated from the whole, it is conveyed directly to the mouth
on the down-facing fork.
You don't have to put down the knife every time and transfer the fork
over to the right hand. As you can see, the European method is more
forgiving and allows you to use your knife in more situations. With the
European technique, it is also permitted to use a little piece of bread
to ease a stubborn item onto the fork. Again, whether you
use the American Style or European Style , it's important to never cut
more than one or two bites at a time.
What to do with your used utensils?
Again many rules could be applied on the proper placement of utensils
once in use. In order to simplify these rules, here are the basics.
Essentially, used flatware should never touch the surface of the table.
You wouldn't want to dirty the tablecloth, or get other material on the
utensil. Make sure your fork and knife are well balanced on the plate
when pausing for a drink. If the pause should last longer, make sure
you place the fork on the left and the knife on the right, so that they
crossover the center of the plate.
Be prepared not to leave any utensils in a non-flat dish when the
busboy comes around to clear the table. The soup bowl, the shrimp
cocktail, or the teacups are all presented with a plate underneath;
therefore use them to place the used flatware. For those of you who
want a second serving, place the knife and fork on the right side of
the plate, so that there is room for the food. Finally, when you are
finished, pair up the knife and the fork horizontally or diagonally in
the plate. The cutting edge of the blade should be pointing towards
you. As for the fork, it can be placed upwards or downwards.
Proper etiquette is
more than knowing when and how to use utensils. A good start is to
develop the habit of observing people around the table on the dining
methods they use in the course of the evening. Learning from your
surrounding environment can be very useful in many situations,
including at a formal dinner. Here are more tools you could use to
achieve a solid basic knowledge of proper table manners.
When to start eating?
At a small event, someone should wait until everybody gets served
before starting the meal. At larger events, the host will usually urge
his guests to start eating upon reception of the food. This will not
allow the food to get cold. In this case, it is a good idea to wait until one or two of the
other guests are ready to begin as well, so that you are not the only
person at the table eating.
Proper posture at the table is very important. Make sure to sit up
straight, with your arms held near your body. Never,
hang your elbows heavily on the table when at a formal dinner. It is
permissible to lean forward slightly every now and then and press
elbows very lightly against the edge of the table, if it is obvious
that you are using them for support.
How to use a napkin
The formal use of a napkin is a delicate affair. The napkin is
meant to be dabbed at the lips and should not be dirtied in the
process. Because every step of the proper etiquette is to preserve
cleanliness and proper appearance, if everything goes well during the
dinner, it is only normal that the napkin will not get used. At the
beginning of dinner, unfold the napkin and put it on your lap, as this
gesture will be acceptable anywhere. Iif you're at an
extremely formal dinner and your napkin drops to the floor, signal a
staff member so that he can pick it up and bring a fresh one. Finally,
when leaving the table after the meal, the napkin should be loosely
placed beside the plate. Simply leave your napkin loose on the table
without folding, crumbling or twisting it.
How to eat soup
Always move the soupspoon away from your body and fill it up
two-thirds of its capacity. Then, sip the liquid sideways without
inserting the whole bowl of the spoon in the mouth. Slurping is
probably the worst thing someone can do when eating soup. A question
always comes up when eating soup. Is it proper to tilt the plate? It is
appropriate to tilt the bowl, away from the body, to get the last
spoonful or two of soup.
Passing the salt or pepper
Here is a perfect example that points out that etiquette is not
about efficiency. When someone asks you for the salt, simply pick up
both the salt and the pepper and place them within reach of the person
next to you, who will do the same until they reach the person who asked
for it. Salt and pepper should not be passed hand-to-hand, nor should
anyone other than the original requester sprinkle the food with it.
What to do if you can't eat a piece of food
Food should come out of the mouth the same way it came in.
Therefore, if for example, you take an olive with your hand, when
removing the pit from your mouth, use your hand as well. When eating
meat with a fork, you have to use that fork to remove the unwanted
fatty piece. An exception to this rule is fish. It is fine to remove
tiny bones with your fingers, because it would be difficult to drop
them on a fork. When a piece of fat is too big to be removed with the
fork, use a napkin discretely to discard the meat, so you can keep it
out of sight.
What can you eat with your fingers?
| Artichokes- Eat the leafs until you see the heart, then use a fork and knife to cut it|
Asparagus- They may be eaten with your fingers as long as they are not covered with sauce
Bread- Must always be broken and never cut with a knife
Chips, French fries, fried chicken, and hamburgers
Hors d'oeuvres, canapés, crudités
Small fruits and berries on the stem