Culinary no-no #760

In the past I’ve written about the large number of bozos who are complete jerks to their servers in restaurants. I have no patience for those idiots.

If they behave that way away from home imagine what they must be like at say someone else’s dinner party.

Etiquette experts and therapists recently weighed in on what dinner hosts can do when guests act inappropriately:

The guest who makes rude or inappropriate comments.

Creating a warm and convivial environment for guests is part of your job as the host, and if one person is threatening that, it’s impolite not to address the situation.

Take this tip on discretion from Jodi R.R. Smith, an etiquette consultant and author of three books on modern manners based in Boston: “If a host is concerned about confronting a rude guest, the host can do so without embarrassing the guest by asking the guest to ‘help in the kitchen’ and having the conversation away from prying ears.”

It’s typically not a surprise when your disruptive guest (we all have one in our family or friend group) begins their soliloquy on “women these days” or all their other inappropriate opinions, so head off these remarks before your event.

“Take time before your event to talk to them about your expectations of their behavior during the event,” Juulia Karlstedt, an accredited counselor specializing in anxiety management in Edinburgh, suggested. “Be clear about the consequences of engaging in inappropriate or combative conversation. And if they do engage in the behavior during the event, follow through on those consequences. Pull the guest aside, keep your tone neutral, and hold the boundary you set.”

In the moment, try changing the topic of conversation to diffuse any conflict, ignore the remark and choose a more neutral topic. Smith suggested this script: “Let’s leave that for the politicians to argue.”

To minimize the chance of awkward conversations or one rude person dominating, hosts should prepare conversation starters or parlor games to keep the night fun and festive, Smith suggested.

“As a guest, you should arrive at the event with some interesting tidbits and stories to share,” Smith said. “When someone asks ‘What’s new?’ you should have an answer at the ready. ‘Oh nothing’ or ‘same old’ is a conversation killer.”

The guest who won’t leave.

″Growing up, my best friend’s grandfather would go upstairs to put on his pajamas, slippers and robe. Then he would call down from the top of the stairs, ‘Thank you all for coming! It is time for me to sleep and you to go home.’ This worked well for a lovely and avuncular gentleman, but won’t work for most hosts,” Smith said.

If changing into your jammies is a step too far for you, winding-down activities like tidying up, stopping the music and turning on the lights is a great way to signal to guests that the party has ended. Guests who don’t (or won’t) take the hint may need a more direct approach.

Try this script from Tina Alvarado, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Seattle: “Gosh, it’s so late, I’m getting sleepy. I’m going to have to call it a night,” or “I’ve had such a great time with you tonight, but it’s time for you all to head home. I’m really looking forward to the next time we do this. Let me walk you out.”When sending out invites, consider letting guests know your event’s start and end time to prevent misunderstandings.

The Huffington Post, December 19, 2022

So the host has some options. What responsibilities do guests have, especially when it comes to the lost art of manners?

Sandy Lindsey is an award-winning writer and was recently published in The Epoch Times:

Arrive on Time

The first rule of good culinary manners has nothing to do with food. Your hosts have gone through a lot of time and effort to create a memorable, enjoyable meal, but if they have to delay serving it until you decide to show up, it can ruin it for everyone else. You’ll also miss out on mingling with the other guests; once seated for the meal, it’s not always easy to talk to everyone.

Arrive no more than 15 minutes early, and leave only after the meal has been completed; leave no sooner than 15 minutes after the meal is done. Send a written “thank you” note within two days after the event.

Fine Dining 101

If you find yourself confused by the array of utensils at a formal dinner, watch to see what your hosts use. If you’re dining at a restaurant, see what utensils others are using. If in doubt, start with the fork and knife placed at the outside, such as the smaller fork for salads, and work your way in with each successive course.

Pass food to the right, helping yourself to a small portion—youcan have seconds after everyone has been served—and never reach across the table to load food onto your plate or grab a dinner roll, even if it’s “right there.”

Napkin Knowledge

When you take a seat, place your napkin in your lap, folded in half with the fold against your waist. Resist the urge to unfurl it with a dramatic snap of the wrist. Use it by delicately pressing against your lips to address any errant food bits or sloshed drinks.

If you must leave the table for any reason, place the napkin on your chair or to the left of the plate to let the waiter know you’ll be returning. At the completion of all courses of the meal, when the hosts place their napkins on the table, do the same.

Continental or American?

We’re not talking about cars, but rather two styles of using forks and knives. Neither is wrong; it’s simply good manners to follow the lead of your hosts. The American style has you using a knife to cut the food with your right hand, then taking the fork in your right hand to eat. In Continental style, cutting is done with the right hand, and the fork remains in your left hand to hold it and to then eat it.

Watch your hosts to see if they hold their fork with the tines “up” as they eat or if they hold it with the tines curved down to hold and eat their food.

Be Helpful and Fun

When dining at the host’s home, offer to assist with any last-minute tasks such as arranging chairs or setting the table. Prior to eating, while everyone is mingling, step in and help if a drink or a plate of hors d’oeuvres is spilled.

Dinner conversations don’t have to be stilted and dry; while ribald humor is never appropriate, people have more fun when they’re laughing, so feel free to put your wit on display. Note that this isn’t the same as monopolizing the conversation—get the conversation going, then sit back and enjoy it. After the meal, as the guests are leaving, offer to help clear the table, wash dishes, or take out the trash.

International Eats

Now that you’ve mastered the many forks on the table; here’s some additional trivia if you’re going to travel to other countries.

Thai Technique

In Thailand, you never put a fork in your mouth. A fork is used to manipulate food onto the spoon, which is your primary eating utensil, and must be held in the right hand. No utensils are used for sticky rice, which is a hand food that is balled up before eating.

Mexican Manners

Step away from the cutlery in Mexico when eating tacos. Tacos are a “hands on”—two hands for a firm grip—meal. If you’re concerned about drips, that’s what the napkin in your lap is for. To use a fork and knife, unless the taco has completely come apart, is pretentious.

Chopstick Concerns

Resist the temptation to stick your chopsticks upright in your rice. When not in use, lay them parallel to the table edge. Upright chopsticks in a bowl of rice is a funeral custom in most Asian cultures—in Shinto and Buddhist cultures specifically.


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One thought on “Culinary no-no #760

  1. Pingback: Culinary no-no #761 | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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