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Digest Manners Maketh Man: How To Have Excellent Table Manners

Manners Maketh Man: How To Have Excellent Table Manners

Manners Maketh Man: How To Have Excellent Table Manners
By Klaus van der Tatler
November 15, 2017
A jolly good day to you. How do you do? I, Klaus van der Tatler, understand that you may have had the pleasure of partaking in some of the most esteemed dinner gatherings of late, most of which would require a respectable amount of decorum. I am in no way trying to insinuate that I am to rescue you from the uncouth ways of the hoi polloi when dining at a table, but rather, refresh your mind when it comes to table manners.

1/5 Pace Yourself

Illustration by Harvard Low
Illustration by Harvard Low

The easiest way to stay refined is to imagine yourself being watched constantly.

For some, if not most of you, this would ring true, being surrounded by cameras and what-have-you.

That should at least teach you about how things would be perceived by a third party—yes, even that somewhat concealed shoving of that strange-tasting, unswallowed food to the side of your plate…

Always Start With?

Ah, the dilemma of ‘too many forks and too many spoons’. The easiest way is to start from the outside and work your way inwards with every course.

Again, if clueless, glance at your host. Although I must say you do not have to follow everything they are doing—especially if they’re doing something strange with their utensils by way of new practices.

Or maybe you ought to… who can keep up these days, honestly?

2/5 Patience, My Friend

Illustration by Harvard Low
Illustration by Harvard Low

I understand the food is the highlight of any occasion, and that you must be incredibly famished by then. That said, it is always respectable to start eating 20 seconds after, and not minutes before, everyone is seated and served.

If ever in doubt, look to your host; if he or she has picked up their utensils, you may begin. This is also helpful if you have no idea what utensil to use for an eccentric-looking dish.

Body Language

Keep your posture straight, and do not slouch. Remember, food to mouth, not mouth to food. It is not necessary to bend over an unnatural slant to get to your food.

Both your elbows should be off the table. If the dish requires one hand, keep the other visible on the table. As far as arms go, do not encircle your plate as though you are guarding your freshly hunted meat. 


3/5 Do Not Chew With Your Mouth Open

Illustration by Harvard Low
Illustration by Harvard Low

People do not want to hear (or see) that.

Do take small bites, as bulging cheeks and flying food do not look becoming. On that note, please do not lick your knives, no matter how delicious the sauce is.

Noodles should not be cut, and food should not be scooped or stabbed (especially if chopsticks are involved). If someone asks you a question right when you have put a bite of food in your mouth, smile slightly (lips closed, obviously) and perhaps do a gentle shrug.

Do not rush through that bite or talk through it, as this will just make things worse, and unequivocally awkward.

Only take a sip or swallow a drink once you’re done chewing, unless you’re choking. That is clearly an exception.


4/5 Pass Me The Salt, Please

Illustration by Harvard Low
Illustration by Harvard Low

Don’t reach over someone, ask someone to pass it to you, instead of waving your arms over someone else. Also, when passing the pepper, make sure you pass the salt as well.

Sip In Style

If you’re eating soup, dip the spoon sideways at the near edge of the bowl, then skim away from you. Sip from the side of the spoon. To retrieve the last spoonful of soup, slightly tip the bowl away from you. White wine glasses are held by the stem, but red wine glasses may be held by the bowl.

5/5 Rest When Done

Illustration by Harvard Low
Illustration by Harvard Low

If you aren’t finished, cross your utensils as if constructing a little mountain. When you’re done, the two utensils are set parallel to each other and pointing frontwards on your plate.

Say “excuse me” when leaving, as leaving without a word is considered rude—even ruder than checking your phone at the table! Excuse yourself and head out, be it to check your phones, or pay a visit to the loo.

This is part of a feature that originally appeared in Malaysia Tatler November 2017 issue.


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