You Are At: AllSands Home > Lifestyles > Basic table manners
It has always been important to have good table manners. Although the traditional sit-down meal is not as prevalent among families living in today's world of fast food and quick dinners on the run, instilling good table manners in your children, and practicing them yourself, will go a long way in many situations.

While extremely formal "black-tie" dinners have their own set of manners and protocol, it's good to know at least the old-fashioned basics that can get you through any type of dining event.

1) Do not seat yourself at the dinner table until you are invited to do so. For dinner with family at home, normally the call to dinner will suffice. At a dinner party, the host/ess will usually invite people to sit down, and then seat each person individually, indicating a planned seating arrangement. In more formal situations, name cards will be placed by each setting, indicating whom should sit where.

2) Do not start eating until invited to do so, or until everyone has been served and the host/ess begins eating. Again, at dinner time with your family, this may not be so necessary, but in a dinner party environment, it appears hasty and presumptive to start eating without some acknowledgement by the host/ess. Someone may wish to offer grace, or say some words about the guest of honor, etc. It is within the host/ess' control to start the meal.

3) Place your napkin in your lap, and feel free to use it to dab at your lips when necessary. The napkin is to be used delicately, and always dabbed, never wiped or seriously dirtied. Never lay your napkin on the table during the meal, especially after using it. The napkin is placed on the lap to catch crumbs or drips while eating; for large-busted women or overweight men this may not be effective. It is still considered proper, however, to leave your napkin in your lap and use it when needed. When you are done eating, place your napkin loosely next to your plate.

4) Watch your posture at the table. It is proper to sit up straight, and keep a hand in your lap as you eat with your fork or spoon. Always keep elbows off the table, even after the meal has ended.

5) Do not gesture with your silverware. It is easy to become involved in a heated or passionate discussion and not realize that you are using your fork or knife as a pointer. This should be avoided.

6) When passing a dish to another person at the table, put it down next to them rather than hold it as they take their portion. This also goes for the salt shaker. If someone asks for the salt, pass both the salt and pepper shakers to them, but place them next to their plate, rather than passing hand to hand.

7) If you must remove something distasteful from your mouth, make sure to do so discreetly, and always into your napkin. Keep the morsel of food out of view of the other diners.

8) The following foods may be properly eaten with the fingers:
·Asparagus - unless it is covered with sauce or too mushy
·Bread - should always be torn, never cut with a knife
·Finger foods - hors d'oeuvres, crudités, etc.
·Sandwiches - unless too messy or open-faced
·Hamburgers, chips, French fries, etc. - steak fries can be eaten with a fork
·Fruits or Berries on the stem