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The Art of the Holiday Meal

The Art of the Holiday Meal


It’s that special time of the year when we gather around the table to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family and friends. Using our best table manners and polished social skills will ensure that we will make a good impression and that it will be an enjoyable and pleasant time for all.

As Emily Post once said, “The real test of table manners is to never offend the sensibilities of others.” Good table manners are really nothing more than having a sensitive awareness of others and conducting oneself in a manner that makes the dining experience pleasant for everyone involved. This year, in particular, we need to avoid discussing politics so that we do not “offend the sensibilities” of our family members or friends.

When we know what is expected of us at the table, we can concentrate on making stimulating conversation with our dinner companions and enjoying ourselves. Following are my top 20 dos and do nots of table manners to guide you through your meal this holiday:



1.  Do try a little of everything you are served unless you know you are allergic to a
certain food or are a vegetarian.

2.  Do take modest portions of food if you are serving yourself.

3.  Do avoid talking with food in your mouth. Take small bites, and you’ll find it
easier to answer questions or join in on conversations at the table.

4.  Do wait until you have swallowed the food in your mouth before you take a sip of your beverage.

5.  Do wipe your fingers and mouth often with a your napkin.

6.  Do remember your posture at the table. Sit erect. Do not slouch. Keep your arms,
as well as as your elbows, off the table.

7.   Do study your flatware, and eat from the outside in. Remember that once you take
your silverware off of the table to use it, it should never touch the table again.

8.   Do look into, not over, the cup or glass when drinking.

9.   Do cut one piece of meat or fish at a time on your plate and eat it before cutting the next one.

10. Do bring your food to your mouth when you eat, not your mouth to your food.

11.  Do leave dropped silver on the floor. Quietly signal the wait staff to replace it.

12. Do ask for food to be passed at the table; never reach across the table or
across another person to get something.

13. Do pass food and other items to the right, or counter clockwise, at the table.

14. Do pass salt and pepper together: They are “married” and never separated.

15. Do use a utensil instead of your fingers.

16. Do remove an object such as bone gristle from your mouth with your thumb
and index finger and place it on the rim of your plate rather than in your napkin.

17. Do turn your head to the side and cover your mouth with your napkin if you
have to sneeze or cough at the table.

18. Do put your napkin in your chair and push your chair in if you have to leave
the table during the meal.

 19. Do place your silverware in the 10:20 “finished” position when you are finished
with a course.

20. Do say something nice about the food to your host or hostess when finished.



Do Nots

1.   Do not begin to eat until everyone has been served when you are seated with a small group.

2.   Do not help yourself to bread and butter before offering it to the person sitting next to you.

3.   Do not overload your plate when serving yourself.

4.   Do not overload your fork when eating.

5.   Do not season food before tasting it.

6.   Do not spread your elbows when cutting meat. Keep them close to your sides.

7.   Do not saw the meat in a back and forth motion. Stroke it toward you.

8.   Do not chew with your mouth open.

9.   Do not eat too quickly or too slowly; keep pace with the others at the table.

10. Do not talk about your personal food likes and dislikes when eating.

11.  Do not exchange food samples after everyone has begun eating; and never
reach over and “spear” food out of another person’s plate with your fork.

12. Do not touch your face or head at the table.

13. Do not blow your nose with your napkin; use your handkerchief.

14. Do not pick your teeth at the table, either with a toothpick or your fingers.

15. Do not call attention to your eating by making noise either with your mouth or
by scraping your silverware against your plate.

16. Do not gesture with your knife, fork, or spoon in your hand.

17. Do not push your plate away from you when you have finished. Leave it
where it is with the silverware properly placed in the 10:20 “I am finished” position. 

18. Do not discuss unpleasant or controversial subjects at the table.

19. Do not place your cell phone, keys, or handbag on the table.

20. Do not answer your cell phone or text on it while you are at the table.



By Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick

Updated: November 23, 2016



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