Table manners play an important role in giving us an idea of people’s education and making a good impression on a meal. Having good table manners is a guarantee for success, both in our personal relationships and in business.
Regardless of whether the meal is with our boss, a colleague or a client, our manners can give you an idea of our level of education and in some cases, our professional capacity to undertake appointments of this type. Someone who does not know how to move freely at the table does not offer a good image and may be a symptom of a lack of experience in this type of business meal.
The napkin and its usefulness as a symbol
Food, according to the most traditional canons, must begin when the host begins to unfold his napkin , place it on his lap and start eating. This is the starting point of any meal. We must do the same and place the unfolded napkin on our lap . If the napkin is very large we can place it folded in half.
The napkin should remain in this position throughout the meal, and should only be removed from the lap to clean our lips when necessary (always before and after drinking).
In certain places, as in the case of many American countries, they usually leave the napkin, when they have to be away for a moment, on the chair , to indicate that they will return in a few moments. Nor is it a generalized custom throughout America, but in some countries and regions.
In Europe it is left slightly wrinkled on the table, on the left side ; if we pause it by leaving the crumpled napkin on the right side it could be interpreted as the end of the meal, and not as a pause.
The end of the meal is usually marked by the host, leaving his napkin slightly “wrinkled” on the table. Once the meal is over the rest of the diners should do the same with their napkin. It is not correct to leave the napkin on the plate or fold it again as if it had never been used .
The choice of the menu
If after reviewing the menu there are doubts about any of the dishes on the menu, do not hesitate to ask the waiter about their composition and any other information that we consider of interest before venturing to order something that we do not like. It is part of the job of the waiter, who is not only in the room to take note. This is convenient to ask if the dish brings any ingredient that we do not like, to which we are allergic or for any other reason. It is much better to ask than to leave the plate untested later.
If we are accompanied with other people, the host will be the one who can make a suggestion, as well as instruct the waiter to take note first of his table companions and lastly to him. On certain occasions, the host will make the request, since the rest of the diners will have chosen to be “carried away” by the host’s suggestions.
In the event that there are women at the table, these will be the ones that order first.
Expensive dishes should not be ordered as a guest , unless directed or recommended by our host.
Nor should more than two dishes be ordered in a meal. If the host is inclined to order a certain dish and makes the comment about the suitability of us ordering the same, we can order that same dish regardless of what it is worth. The same occurs at the time of desserts. At this time of the dessert we should not ask for any type of expensive liquor or imported drink unless the host invites us to do so. We can also let the waiter advise us on the specialties of the house.
Interpreting the table
To give us an idea and starting from the plate as the center, on the right are placed the knives , spoons and any other type of special cutlery (a clamp for seafood, a hook for snails, etc.). In the upper part of the plate and slightly to the right the glassware is placed : a glass of water, a glass of red wine and a glass of white wine. If there is champagne, this glass will be placed last on the right (and in some places it will be placed first on the left).
On the left side are placed all the forks and support utensils (to prick or hold), and on the upper left side the bread and butter dish. Generally, the napkin is also placed, but we have left it up to everyone’s choice because placing it on either side of the plate is totally correct.
There are authors who give a certain general rule to recognize the cutlery (apart from the best-known rule of using them from the outside in). It is to remember that the utensils for taking liquid or pasty foods – creams, purees, etc. – have their cutlery on the right side, and solid foods usually have their cutlery on the left side.
End of the meal. Table time
We should never move the plate away from the table to indicate that it is finished eating. It is an incorrect and improper action on the behavior of a well-educated diner.
The plate always remains in the same position throughout the meal. The way to indicate to the waiter that you have finished eating is to leave the cutlery in parallel on the plate. Mangoes are not left very protruding from the plate because it can lead to involuntary stumbling over them, either when the waiter removes the plate or by ourselves with our own arms. They should be well tucked towards the center of the plate.
The cutlery that we have not used does not need to be put on the plate , we can leave it on the table, and they will be removed when appropriate. In the case of spoons and cups or other bowls, they are never left inside the container but are left on the base plate that accompanies this container. A clear example, the coffee spoon.