Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Do You Know Your Dinner Etiquette ?

I've had requests for information on proper dinner etiquette from several blog readers over the past year.  Since this blog is to help new and inexperienced cooks I'll make the assumption that many are young and could use the knowledge.  For others of you that follow me let's consider it a refresher on some item or two that you might have forgot.

I have talked at many etiquette dinners over the length of my career.  I prefer doing it at an actual meal so that I can observe and point out areas of concern to the guests.  I will try and cover the basics in today's and tomorrow's blog.  If you have questions after reading both days, please use the comment section on the blog to reach me.  Thank you.

To start, what is etiquette and why do we need it?  Etiquette is just a fancy term for manners or behavior that one should display or use in a particular situation.  There is a proper etiquette for almost everything we do.  To help relate to your world, there is an etiquette for phone calls, use of cell phones, e-mails, driving and many more things that you do daily.  We're only going to concentrate on table manners at dinner (or any meal).  The need for etiquette is so we have rules of behavior that show we are different from other animal species.  I believe in the beginning when the first books came out on etiquette that it was to help show a difference between different classes of people.  The poor did not have the refined skills and manners of the rich.

There are many people that have written the books or set the guide lines for what is proper etiquette.  The two most famous are probably Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt.  Something you will find interesting is that all these people don't agree on every issue of etiquette.  So to me it comes down to just using "Common Sense" and being "Consistent in your actions."

There is nothing to be afraid of or nervous about when it comes to any meal in which you participate.  The biggest item to remember in any etiquette situation is not to bring undue attention to yourself.  You don't want to be noticed for something you did inappropriately.

Enough background on etiquette, let's get started.  I'm going to cover your responsibilities when invited to a dinner, place settings, behavior at the table and some other common sense.

When you are invited or asked to a function/dinner, you need to respond to the host/hostess with an answer in a timing manner and appropriate way.  An invitation should give you the timing and format for accepting it.  It becomes your responsibility to let your host/hostess know if you need to be accommodated in any way.  If you have something that keeps you from eating the meal planned such as an eating disorder, being a vegan/vegetarian, religious or medical reasons.  Another would be any medical condition such as a wheelchair or maybe you are deaf in one ear.  This way if there is assigned seating, you won't be on the wrong side of people to hear.  This way you can be served without bringing undo attention to you and your table.

The invitation should also let know what dress is required for the function.  If in doubt be sure to ask ahead of time.  There is no such thing as fashionably late when it comes to an event.  You don't want to be too early or come late.  It is best to come between 15 and 5 minutes before the stated time from the invitation.

Depending on the type of function you are invited to will help determine if it is appropriate to bring a host/hostess gift.  This is usually only an idea for dinners in the home of the host/hostess.

I'm getting long on today's blog so I will continue this tomorrow.  On Thursday, I have an easy recipe for freezing fresh corn to enjoy year round called Bathtub Corn.  Then on Friday because it is that time of year for fresh corn and tomatoes, I have a recipe for Baked Stuffed Tomatoes.  I hope you have a great week.

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