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Dont get bitten by the wrong fork

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Dining EtiquetteEver heard the story about the three young men being interviewed for a job with a rather stiff organisation. The job involved extensive travel and entertaining and the Company Chief had to make sure the right man fitted the social as much as the work profile.

After all the questions were asked, he invited the young hopefuls to lunch at the office dining room, a very elegant affair. Lunch was simple enough, and by watching the Big Man, all three youngsters conducted themselves quite creditably. Then came the dessert, a luscious looking creamy concoction. As the boys tucked in they discovered that the cream hid a whole lot of cherries and they were not de-seeded cherries either! So what did the candidates do, while their prospective boss watched good humouredly!

The first took tiny spoonfuls, separating the cherries from the dessert and pushing them to a side of the plate.

The second spat out the cherries onto the teaspoon and placed them on the side plate.

The third????swallowed all the cherries!!

Actually none of the candidates handled the situation poorly. But the third was chosen because he had decided to not take any kind of risk at great cost to his personal comfort!!

Thankfully, the world has grown more casual, and with the enormous exodus of young software engineers from our shores, there are enough consultants to teach them how to dress, to eat, to speak, to shake hands and gauche young kids who only knew how to eat with their hands come back connoisseurs of wine, with American accents and very sophisticated eating tastes!!

But without a doubt every man and woman should know the basics of table etiquette, to avoid being embarrassed on occasion. This is not a lecture on which spoon or fork to use, for the simple reason that different people do different things nowadays. But there are a few golden rules that never change, so just keep them up your sleeve:

An elaborately laid table is set out in the exact order you will receive food. Start from the outside and you will be fine. If in doubt, just watch your host or hostess before getting down to eating yourself.

Be as noiseless as possible! Those loud slurps and chomping noises are best indulged in when alone and food should be partaken of silently and gracefully. Also avoid the cutlery orchestra, all that clatter of fork against plate; keep it quiet!

Never overeat at a formal meal, (do what you want when with buddies?). One appears very gauche when taking one’s third helping of lamb chops while all the others have finished eating modest helpings are best, eaten in a comfortable manner.

Do place spoon and fork, or knife and fork together to indicate you have finished. It gives the waiter a clear signal that you wish your plate to be removed.

Need to spit out something? Ouch that is a tricky one. A discreet funnel made by your hand will receive the offending food particle, which you can unobtrusively slip onto your side plate. If the gathering is an intimidating one, your best bet would be to even avoid this, visit the rest room and get rid of the evidence!!

Generally you should wait for your host or hostess to start eating unless they indicate that you should begin. If you are doing the hosting, lead the way or say Please and indicate that your guests should begin. But do not bolt down your food and sit with an empty plate while your guests eat! Eat slowly and make sure the others have finished before you have.

If at a restaurant, always try to let your host do the ordering, or take your cue from him, if he is ordering modest portions and not very exotic dishes it would be churlish to order yourself something from the most expensive part of the menu. On the other hand if you are the host, offer your guests the option of selecting. If you have a limited allowance, suggest casually that you know the best dishes here and perhaps you could order.

If at a buffet, take a clean plate with each new helping. The waiters will clear your soiled plates, they are trained to do that in a jiffy, unless you are in a very casual place, in which case you can check out what goes.

Never ever use your table napkin to wipe your nose. Do make sure you always carry a handkerchief for that purpose, there are few sights more off-putting than someone blowing his nose into that clean linen!!

If you find yourself in an awkward spot with an unfamiliar food item or implement the best way to deal with it is to laugh at yourself and say something like, You know I never could get the hang of eating this, it always makes me feel like an idiot and you will probably find everyone agreeing with you, or offering to teach you.

If you have been specifically invited by someone to a hotel or restaurant it is quite rude to snatch the check and pay for it, it is not always about money power and a host can get quite insulted by someone stealing his or her thunder. Instead, make a suitable remark about how delightful the meal was, and say a gracious thank you.

Ultimately it is all about thoughtfulness and sensitivity to the feelings of others. As Emily Post, that guardian of correct behaviour said: Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.

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