Humans seem to have lost their manners as we have journeyed from the '90s grunge era through the reality TV of the '00s to the present. I understand that you probably learned table manners from that one part of Point of No Return when Anne Bancroft schools Bridget Fonda on the finer points of gentility. So, here are a few pointers to follow to help slow our civilization's decline into Idiocracy.
10. Take a deep breath and sample the fare before asking for Tabasco, salt or ketchup. We understand that Grammy Sue may have lost her touch on seasoning her grits, but then again, she's probably on some taste-free diet. Do her the courtesy of tasting the food before you doctor it up. If you feel the need to pollute your steak with A1 or some other high-grade ketchup, then you should probably discretely feed it to the dog.
9. The utensils are used from the outside in. Salad forks are on the outer edge followed by the dinner fork; the knives work the same way. There are a few exceptions, like the dessert fork being above the plate and the soup spoon being occasionally offered with your tureen of gumbo, but outside in will work 80 percent of the time.
8. Take all you want, but eat all you take. No explanation required. Being wasteful is shameful. And, doggy bags are only kosher at informal dinners.7. When seated in large groups, it's okay to dine when those in your immediate seating area (to your left, right and across) have been served.
The official rule is that you may start chowing down on hot food once it is served. However, you're not a recently freed hostage. Pause until those close around have been served.
6. Don't blow your nose at the table. No one is attractive when honking their horn. Plus, you don't want to leave a hanger for the rest of the table to appreciate. Be a lady or gent and go to the restroom.
5. Utensils are not drumsticks -- not even for your kids. Kudos to you for having the cashish to treat your toddlers to sushi. You should save your money to fix your broken nose. Because if your midget uses those chopsticks to make beats at the table, I will punch you in the face and take his rainbow roll.
4. Do not slurp anything. People typically slurp because they're trying to piss off someone (see The Blues Brothers restaurant scene) or the food is hot. Fail. Slurp not, Padawan. Do not blow on it. Stir your food and wait for it to cool.
3. Your drink is on the right and your bread is on the left. Daunting is the moment that you roll into Jim Bob's wedding reception and see full place settings for each diner. You're crammed into tight quarters with a table leg in your crotchular region. Don't make things worse by drinking out of the wrong glass. An easy mnemonic is to make the "OK" sign with both hands by touching your index finger to your thumb. Your left hand will resemble a "b" and the right a "d." You're welcome.
2. Butter the plate, not your bread. Few things are more annoying than crumbs all up in the butter. I want to paint my canvas of toast with a pristine coating of butter. Serve yourself butter by lopping off a hunk of butter with the butter knife and putting it on the edge of your butter plate. Pass the butter to the right (unless the uncultured clowns at your table are already passing the wrong direction) before buttering your bread from your mini-cache of spread on your china.
1. Chew with your mouth closed already! Movie characters and sick people typically smack. The former because the actors are trying to sell you that they're actually dining and not thinking of their next line. The latter because they're trying to breathe and chew at the same time. The dining table isn't a library, but the bulk of the sounds should be from conversation, dining and serving. I'd rather eat with the cows than with a table full of smackers. Cows have no excuse. Now you don't either.
You may have noticed that cell phone usage wasn't mentioned. It should go without saying that texting at the table may be technologically advanced but is entirely unrefined. Leave your phone off unless you are an on-call physician or the National Security Advisor.
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