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10 Casual Table Manners: What You Wanted To Know But Didn’t Know To Ask

February 4, 2010

Manners.  It’s something that we secretly look to see if others have.

Are they putting their elbows on the table or are they picking their teeth with their fingernail?

Certainly, if you are on a casual dinner date, the extremely rigid rules of eating are pared down to the basics.

What is considered a casual dinner date?  I am talking a night out with the gals or in a group of friends.  It can also include a one-on-one date, but in a casual restaurant setting.

There are just some things that will never get a ‘Good Manner’ badge.  Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when eating casually with friends or on a casual date.c

1. Who Pays?: This may be more of an etiquette rule, but it’s important to talk about who is paying so no one is sitting there at the end of the meal  feeling good after a few beers wondering if they are going to have to pay the piper.  Seriously, if you are an independent woman and want to pay for yourself, then let him (or the group) know that this is a ‘dutch‘ dinner from the beginning.  You will pay for your part and he will pay for his.  Otherwise, the common protocol is that the person that suggests they go out to eat is the one responsible for paying the tab, no matter how much the other person orders.  Of course, if you are out and you are not paying the tab, it would be a gracious act to leave the 17-20% tip.   Keep that in mind.

2.  Are You Eating (or Nibbling) To Impress?:  In a casual setting, it’s really OK to eat.  I mean eat when you are hungry, but have some boundaries. I’m not saying that you should order two full course meals but cutting your intake down to what a bird would eat just so you don’t feel like you seem like a piglet is asinine.  Even modern casual eating settings have classic roots.  Usually, there is an appetizer, main course and dessert.  Don’t feel like you have to impress the others by eating only a salad with water and soda crackers, unless that is what you really want.  Otherwise, eat and eat it up…Graciously.

3. Who’s Got Their Food?:    In groups, it can take some time to have everyone’s main course served, so if your food has arrived you should try to hold off on eating until the food has arrived for the folks at your end of the table.  Keep an eye out for who has their food in front of them.  As far as appetizers and desserts are concerned, have at it as soon as it comes.  If others at your table don’t have their appetizers served yet, offer a taste of yours to tide them over until their appetizer arrives.

4.  Can’t Swallow This?:  If you are stuck with something in your mouth that you cannot bare to swallow, I suggest that you remove it from your mouth with a napkin (paper) or with your hand as you would a piece of gum and place into the paper napkin.  Opinions vary about this and others people do suggest other options.  If it’s a piece of meat, veggie or other solid food of the kind in your mouth and you are not at a restaurant with paper napkins, simply remove it from your mouth like a piece of gum, followed by a simple, “Excuse me”.  Place the food on the side of the plate that you are not eating from or on a dish that you are not eating from any  longer.  Never spit food from your mouth.  Even pets know this.

5. Cutting The Food: Keeping in mind that this is a casual setting, I would not worry about cutting your meat or fish with the customary and classic European manner of holding the cutting/steak knife with the left hand.  When I am out and eating in a casual setting, I use my right hand to hold the knife to cut any meat I eat.

6.  Cut It All Into Wittle-Bitty Pieces?: In a casual setting, where I know I will be talking with others, I tend to cut my food into tiny pieces.  I do this for two reasons.  First, I do this because I want to eat my food and not have huge pieces of it swishing around in my mouth while I am trying to talk to others.  Second, I do this so that I can clear mouth by swallowing my food to talk and not have the food flying out of my mouth.  I cut my salad into small pieces, I cut any meat into small pieces and any sizeable side dish.

7. Food Face: Nothing is more gross to me than food on your face,  in the corners of your mouth or running down to your chin.  be aware of the food you eat and make sure it goes straight into your mouth.  Keep your face clean while you eat.  It’s difficult to take anything that comes out of your mouth seriously if you seriously can’t put food into your mouth.  If you feel any sauce on your lips, wipe it away with the napkin and if you are a guy and have a beard, please check yourself to make sure that you don’t store food in your beard to eat later.  That’s what doggie bags are for.

8.  Burping, Belching & Farting At The Table: Look, body functions happen.  I will tackle farting first.  If you can at all make it to the restroom, then do so.  If your gas is smelly, it can turn the stomach of people at the table.   Some people are lucky enough to pass gas that doesn’t smell, some are not.  I simply don’t encourage passing gas at the dinner table if you are an adult.  Burping and belching are giggle triggers for some, but they are turn-offs for most.  Cover your mouth with a napkin or turn your head away from the table to muffle the sound of loud ones.  Always follow-up with an “Excuse me”.  This is a casual eatery not a frat house party.

9. Blow This: Yes, if you have to blow your nose, take a trip to the rest room.  Do your best to get it all out before you return to the table.

10.  There Is An Excuse For You: Yes, you should say “Excuse me” when you are rising and leaving from the table.  By the way, when a lady leaves the table in a casual setting, a gentleman doesn’t have to stand when she leaves the table, unless he chooses to.  It’s chivalrous, but not mandatory.



9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2010 3:42 pm

    I will print this out and tape it up in the kitchen today. THIS IS PERFECT FOR MY TEENAGERS! Always good reminders for enjoying our meals a little bit more! – a garden blog

  2. February 4, 2010 4:24 pm

    Nice tips! Very much needed in a time where people view manners and etiquette as archaic.

  3. February 4, 2010 6:54 pm

    All pretty good, thanks.

    Number 9 is the worst offense in my book. Just an all-out bad case of not having manners. Please!

    • February 4, 2010 7:54 pm

      I agree. And what’s worse is when someone uses their napkin!

    • February 4, 2010 8:18 pm

      I agree…and for God’s sake, if you’ve got a cold, just call me and say you’re sick!

  4. February 4, 2010 7:24 pm

    love this.

  5. February 4, 2010 11:57 pm

    I have found that when it comes to manners, it is tough to round them all up in a few concise mini-paragraphs. You have done this when it comes to the eating table. Well done! Your blog is entirely reminiscent of my blog. Please check it out as I think we would get along swimmingly in a blog & manners sort of way!

  6. sharma24 permalink
    February 5, 2010 7:47 am

    So much to think about when you are out on a ‘casual’ dinner. Etiquettes for a ‘formal’ dinner?


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