'Tis the season to celebrate dinners at home, dining out and, especially, raising a glass at holiday parties. To help navigate the often sticky situation of “Which Fork Do I Use?” here’s dining advice from Pamela Eyring, president and director of The Protocol School of Washington.
1. Banish your crackberries. Do you realize every time you set your mobile device on the dinner table you are creating a barrier between you and your guests? Using your device during a meal is like saying, “my text message, email, or phone call is more important than our conversation.” Build your people skills and put the phone on “stun” or vibrate, and keep it off of the table. Especially at an office or networking party – keep your mobile device stashed away and check it in the men's or ladies room.
2. Place setting is all about B.M.W. The amount of silverware on a table can be overwhelming. Remember: Spoons and knives are on the right side, forks are on the left. Liquids are on the right; solids, like the salad plate or a bread and butter plate, are on the left. Too often people are confused about which bread plate and which water glass is theirs and they end up “borrowing” their neighbors. Remember, left to right it’s B.M.W. – Bread, Meal, Water
3. Buttering your bread. How you butter your bread is a quick indicator of whether you know basic table manners. Put butter onto the bread plate rather than directly onto your roll. Break, don’t cut the bread, then butter one bite-size piece at a time. Never butter a whole slice of bread at once, or slice a roll in half and butter it.
4. Be silverware savvy. Use your silverware from the outside in and don’t use utensils as a weapon and gesture with silverware in your hand to make a point -- if you’re not using a utensil, put it down on your plate. Use a knife and fork to cut only one piece of food at a time and don’t “saw” your food, cut it. Also, don’t clutch your fork in your fist and never stab food with your fork. When you finish a course, place the knife and fork in the “finished” position, which (on the face of a clock) is placing the tip of the knife and fork at 10:00 and the handles are at 4:00.
5. The art of the toast. Here’s a protocol rule most people do not know: The rule is “one does not drink a toast to one’s self!” If a toast is being given in your honor you do not drink but you do reciprocate by presenting a toast back to the host. Happy holidays and bon appetit!
Pamela Eyring is the president and director of The Protocol School of Washington (http://psow.edu.), which provides certified professional etiquette and protocol training. Founded in 1988, PSOW is the only school of its kind in the U.S. to become accredited.