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THE IDIOT’S GUIDE: Dining Etiquette

With winter break approaching, odds are you have a few events lined up that are somewhat more formal than dinner in Dewick. Keep this guide in mind and impress your grandparents with your sophisticated knowledge of dining etiquette. Who knows, maybe you can even give an impromptu lesson!

As we move into the realm of adulthood, which will likely include lunch meetings with potential employers, dinner parties, and dates at nice restaurants, it’s valuable to know your way around a place setting. Anyone who enjoys fine dining probably has their own tricks for remembering the rules of utensil placement. One of them, attributed to much maligned etiquette guru Emily Post, is the mnemonic FORKS, which can be useful if you are setting the table yourself.

Starting on the left you have:

F for fork

O for the round plate

R to move to the right side

K for the knife

S for the spoon

In almost all cases, there is one key rule to remember: utensils are placed in the order they are meant to be used. Begin by using the utensils that are farthest from the plate, and then work your way in. Follow this rule when the number of forks seems overwhelming, or when in doubt, copy someone who seems to know what they’re doing.

Another handy trick, pun intended, is to make a circle with each of your hands and then raise your pointer finger. Your left hand will make the shape of a lowercase “b” for the bread found on the left side of the plate, and your right hand a “d” for the drink to the right.

Ever had your plate whisked away when you excused yourself from the table for a minute? If you follow this rule, a knowledgeable server at any fine restaurant will know you are still eating. Specific positions of the fork and knife vary, depending who you ask, but this traditional method is a safe bet.

Resting Position

Utensils crossed on the plate, with fork tines facing down.

Finished Position

Utensils side-by-side on the plate, again with the fork tines facing down.

Make a habit of following these basic guidelines and you’ll never again hesitate over which fork to use or embarrassingly realize that you and the person seated next to you have been sharing a drink.

Are there tricks or mnemonics not mentioned here that you find useful to remember the rules of fine dining? Emily Post’s quintessential guide to etiquette is certainly a classic, but are there other books on the subject, perhaps with more modern advice, that you’d recommend?

– Rose Barrett

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