The Value of Good Table Manners

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No matter how cultivated in mind and spirit one may be, if there is an absence of refinement of manners, the higher qualities are likely to be overlooked. No one can afford to slight the study of good manners. The basis of all good manners is tact, i.e. a kindly consideration of others. This consideration may be shown at the dining table quite as well as at a social gathering. Graceful and easy table manners and a knowledge of how to serve and be served add to the comfort as well as to the pleasure of one's associates in the dining room.

Most of the rules of table conduct have been adopted because they lend ease and grace or because they are sensible; others have been established by custom and long usage.

Suggestions Concerning Table Manners

The Chair
If the chair is placed so that the front edge of the seat just touches the table-cloth, there is no necessity for moving the chair when taking one's seat or when rising. One should stand back of the chair until the hostess moves to seat herself and then move to the left of the chair to assume the seat assigned. One should also rise at the left of the chair.

The Knife And Fork
There is but one "right" way to hold the knife or fork. When the knife and fork are used together, grasp the handle of the knife or fork with the first finger and the thumb so that the end of the handle touches the center of the palm of the hand. The hands should almost cover the handle, but the first finger should not extend down on the blade of the knife or on the prongs of the fork (see Figure 35). The knife is held in the right hand only, and is used for cutting foods and spreading butter on bread. For the latter, a small knife, called a butter spreader, is sometimes provided. After the knife has been used for cutting, it should be so laid on the plate, that it rests wholly on it, never partly on the plate and partly on the table. It is not pleasing to see a guest at the table holding his knife upright or waving it in the air while he is talking.

The fork is held sometimes in the left hand and sometimes in the right. It should be in the left, when holding foods that are being cut with the knife. It may be held in either hand when conveying food to the mouth. It used to be considered "good form" to use only the right hand in lifting food to the mouth, though this necessitated changing the fork to the right hand after the knife had been laid aside. The common-sense method of keeping the fork in the left hand to carry food to the mouth is now accepted (see Figure 36). When the fork is held in the right hand and used for conveying such food as mashed potato to the mouth, its handle should be grasped by the thumb and first finger in somewhat the manner as a pen is held.

When a second serving is desired, the knife and fork should be placed together on one side of the plate, in order to make room for the food. At the end of a course the knife and fork should be placed side by side in the center of the plate.

The Fork And Spoon
Since both the fork and the spoon are used to convey food, there may be some indecision as to the best use of each. The fork should be used whenever it is possible and sensible to do so. Soft foods, such as soft-cooked eggs, custards, certain fruits, and desserts served with cream or sauce, should be eaten with a spoon. The fork should be used for brick ice-cream or stiffly frozen desserts. All vegetables, salads, and pastry are eaten with a fork. In the case of salads and pastry, it is sometimes necessary to cut them with a fork. It is unconventional to cut lettuce with a knife at the table; it may be shredded or torn into pieces before it is served.

For beverages, the spoon is used for stirring and tasting, but not for sipping. After the spoon has been used it should be placed in the saucer (see Figure 37). When tasting with a spoon, the side--not the tip--of the spoon should be used. When using a spoon for serving, or for sipping soup, there is less danger of spilling the food if the spoon is moved away from, rather than toward, oneself.

The Fingers
Almost all foods are served with a fork, or a spoon. The serving-dish for all such foods should of course be provided with a fork or a spoon. There are a few foods, however, such as bread, cake, and wafers, which should be taken with the fingers. A slice of bread should not be cut in pieces at the table. It is better to break off a piece of bread and then butter it than to spread the entire slice at one time. If cake is soft, it should be eaten with a fork. Celery, hard cheese (if cut into pieces), radishes, confections, and most uncooked fruits are taken with the fingers, and eaten from them. Olives and salted nuts may be taken from the serving-dish with the fingers, but usually spoons are provided for the purpose. Pieces of chicken or chops should be handled only with the knife and fork. Special utensils are sometimes provided for holding corn served on the cob.

Fruits served whole are sometimes difficult to manage. When possible the hostess should prepare them before they are served. Oranges and grapefruit may be cut into halves or peeled and sliced; bananas may be peeled, scraped, and sliced. If fruits, such as apples, pears, and peaches, are served whole, they should first be cut into quarters, and each quarter should be pared separately and eaten. Peaches may be cut into halves and eaten with a spoon.

The Napkin
When the napkin is placed on the lap, it need not be spread entirely out, but may be left with one fold in it. A guest who is to be present at consecutive meals should fold his napkin after eating; if, however, he is dining in a hotel or restaurant, or if he is in a home for but one meal, the napkin should be laid on the table without folding.

Quiet Eating
Quiet mastication without hurry and without noise is an obligation that we owe ourselves and our companions. It is well to refrain from talking during mastication. One cannot eat quietly unless the lips are kept closed while chewing.

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  Cooking Notes 2006