What Wikipedia Can’t Tell You About Table Etiquette Mistakes.


The reason the article grabs my attention is that it is about “Etiquette mistakes.” when eating. I am not sure who wrote the original article, as there was no name but it is wrong. The article listed 21 mistakes you could be making while eating. 21! Who’d have thought eating was that technical?

Having worked in some of the top restaurants in the world, I like to think I am an authority on this subject. It was some years ago, but etiquette is etiquette. When it comes to eating, there is the top end of the scale. When you visit a certain calibre of restaurant. You are going for the meal experience, not because you are hungry. There is a reason for the visit, a celebration or a business meeting.

On the opposite end of the scale, you are feeding the kids who can manage to hold a spoon like a prisoner. The only experience you get is the cleaning up of a crime scene. Cover the eating area with a plastic sheet, removal of all evidence can be discarded with ease.

The Mistakes.

“Eating With Your Hands.”

eating with hands

This did not take into consideration cultural differences. There are certain cultures who use their hands to eat food. Having tried this, I actually enjoyed it. It felt more wholesome. As long as you wash your hands before eating, I don’t think you will die. It may help to build your immune system. Or you could try a finger bowl on the side. There are always options.

If you are romantic, you can share food this way. It does bring a special closeness. A major advantage is that it saves on the washing up. Which in turn helps the environment as it saves water. In fact, we should be enforcing eating with our hands as it could help the world. Isn’t that what we all desire?

“Talking With Your Fork in Hand.”

The article states that every time you speak, you should place your fork down. Oh, behave! When I go out to eat or even when I am eating with the family at home, there is a lot of conversation. Whether the children like it or not, they will be conversing with me. If we had to put our fork down everytime we spoke, I am certain we would have a repetitive strain injury. I can’t sue myself for RSI, can I?

The food would definitely go cold, or the lettuce would have turned brown in the process. I do not advocate talking while having a fork in your mouth, a silver spoon, maybe. But please, don’t annoy me with the noise of the fork hitting the plate constantly.

“Leaving Your Napkin on the Table.”

The article states “When going to the bathroom, leave your napkin on your chair.” Now, if you have a real napkin, then you are in a very good establishment. Leaving your napkin on your chair should result with a waiter picking it up by the corner. And doing a little Dynamo magic and placing it back on the table. You come back to your seat and are now looking at the napkin in the shape of the Sydney opera house. Very cool, I know.

Please do not leave it on the chair. All you are doing here is hurting yourself. Sitting on a dirty napkin is not very attractive for your butt. Especially if you previously used the napkin to wipe away any debris. Most times though you lose the napkin and need to get another. That will not do, as it takes us back to the environment. More washing, more water wasted. Don’t be part of the throwaway culture, even with napkins.

“Zipping Through a Meal.”

shared eating

“You should never be the first to finish.”
This one made me laugh. If no one is to be the first to finish when will the meal finish? If you are eating out this is going to cause problems. Maybe someone has a babysitter waiting to clock off? Don’t upset the babysitter, they will take it out on the child. Or even worse the babysitter will end up costing more than the meal.

The taxi driver you booked has left. “Sorry mate, I have customers who have finished eating.” And why would you piss off the chef? Never upset a chef! While you are coasting around your starter to “never finish first.” Your main course is overcooking. And the chef is going to add his own extra ingredients if you mess with his timings.

If eating at home with children, you need to stop being ridiculous. Get that food down your throat. You never know when you will get the chance to eat again. In all honesty, any parent knows they will never be the first to finish eating. Children make sure of that. So, you accidentally succeed at that etiquette tip.

“Passing Food Any Which Way”

This etiquette tip is a “basic life skill” apparently. That has to be a joke, right? See, I thought a basic life skill was one that helped you survive in life. For instance, problem-solving, doing laundry and taking responsibility. Passing food to the right-hand side at a dinner party is not a life skill. I repeat: It is not a life skill.

If I have someone sitting to the left of me at a meal and asks for the food, I will pass to them. Can you imagine if I said, “Sure, but I have to pass it to the right side of me to get it to you, it may take awhile.” Left or right I am not prejudiced. Let’s get eating, let’s get the food on the plates. In today’s overthinking world, the person on my left now starts to think I don’t like them. All because I would not pass them food. I am not dealing with that too.

“Passing Salt and Pepper Separately”

That is also not allowed. Salt & Pepper are “Happily married.” No, I didn’t get the invite, and I didn’t see the Facebook post. Salt & Pepper must have got married in secret. I’m o.k. with that. But if I get asked for the salt, I am not going to assume they want the pepper too. Why should they be attached at the hip? That is not a healthy relationship.

If someone wants the salt and the pepper, they will ask for both. In a formal setting, Salt is usually missing anyway, as she stays in the kitchen helping the cooks. Pepper is usually in the restaurant taking care of the customers’ needs. I think it is very wrong to assume the “happily married.” condiments should be together 100% of the time. They can be independent and happy.

Eating should be fun.

conversation over a meal

I agree manners should be part of the eating experience whether at home or eating out. I am happy to have meals with people while discussing life skills. But please understand, my fork will be in my hand unless it is hand food.

I will pass food and condiments when and where they are required without judgement. Anyone who finishes their food first will not be cast out.

They are free to stay and can continue with the conversation, or they may replenish drinks. While that is all going on, I’ve misplaced my napkin, and I didn’t even leave the table. What did I go wrong?
Bon Appetit!


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