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Updated on Thursday, December 17, 2009, 11:42 IST
Dining Room Etiquettes
Fine Dining does not make sense without proper table etiquettes. Different cultures follow different table manners, which may differ vastly and even be contradictory. However, the system followed universally is still the British style, with the marked American aberration. But what is gradually gaining ground and with considerable universal acceptance is the continental style of fine dining. Here are some of the frequently asked questions on table manners that often confuse us.
Q. Is it considered rude to take a sip of your drink while still chewing?
A. It is considered good manners to wait until you have finished chewing and have swallowed your food before taking a sip of your beverage.

Q. What is the correct position for a coffee cup in a formal place setting?
A. The coffee cup and saucer is placed to the right of the place setting, to the right of the furthest utensil. Since most people are right-handed, the handle should face to the right.

Q. After the completion of a formal dinner, where do you place your utensils?
A. Place the knife and fork parallel to one another across the plate with the knife blade facing inward toward the plate. Position the knife and fork in the position of ten o’clock to four o’clock. But the British have their fork at eight o’clock and your knife at four o’clock

Q. How should I fold a large napkin before placing it in my lap?
A. Large dinner napkins should be folded in half after opening and before placing on one`s lap.

Q. Is it proper for a woman to apply lipstick at the table after a meal?
A. It is appropriate for a woman to excuse herself and apply lipstick in a private area such as a restroom.

Q. When should the host/hostess of a dinner party be served?
A. The host hostess of a dinner party should be the last one served. If the meal is getting cold, the host/hostess may state something to the effect, "Please begin while the food is still warm".

Q. At a formal dinner party, how do I properly serve and remove the dishes and glasses?
A. When entertaining formally, dishes are presented or served at guest`s left and removed from the right side. Glasses are filled from the right.

Q. When dining at a fine restaurant should you eat different types of food on your plate individually or eat all the food groups together?
A. It is appropriate to eat all items together as the different foods complement one another.

Q. When eating meat, should you cut one piece, put your knife down, then eat the piece, or should you cut all of your meat up first, and then eat the meat?
A. When eating meat, always cut and eat one small piece at a time. If you are eating American style, you may put your knife down, switch your fork to your other hand and eat your bite. If you are eating continental style, you may cut the piece of meat and eat it without putting setting your knife on your plate. Continental Dining Style is becoming more prevalent today and is considered the preferred method of eating.

Q. What direction should food be passed at the table?
A. Food should be passed to the right, or counter-clockwise, For additional information on dining etiquette, please consult Manners 2000 Volume I Social Graces and Table Manners Video.

Q. Is it wrong to stand when a lady excuses herself from the table? What is the proper etiquette when the woman excuses herself and returns?
A: In a social setting, it is always appropriate for a male to stand when a female is taking her leave. However, in a business setting, it is not always necessary for a male to rise whenever his female co-worker(s) leave the table.

Q. Should you dismiss yourself from the table if you need to sneeze or blow your nose?
A. Yes, excuse yourself from the table, and at no time should you use your napkin as a handkerchief.

Q. When dining out, is it okay to share your food with the others at the table for tasting purposes?
A. Yes, it is appropriate to share when others at the table are also willing to share. However, always request additional small plates and clean utensils for dividing the shared food.

Q. Where do I place the finger bowl after cleansing my fingers?
A. When using a finger bowl, after cleansing your fingers, place the finger bowl and the doily on the upper left side of the place setting; this clears the dessert plate for the dessert.

Q. Where are the dessert utensils placed in a formal table setting?
A. When setting the table, the dining utensils (or flatware) used for eating dessert should be placed using one of the following options: 1) At the top of the place setting with the fork (handle pointing left) placed above the plate and the spoon (handle pointing right) placed above the fork. 2) The dessert spoon placed to the immediate right of the plate. 3) The dessert fork and spoon placed on the dessert plate along with the finger bowl and presented immediately before the dessert.

Q. What do you do when the salad has big pieces of lettuce? Can you cut them with your knife?
A. Years ago, when knife blades were still made of silver, this was true, as the vinegar harmed the blades. However, today, most knife blades are stainless steel and therefore, may be used to cut lettuce into smaller bites.

Q. Should a child stand or sit while the adults are being seated at the dining table?
A. When at a dining table, a child should stand behind his/her chair until all the adults have been seated.

Q. Where should I put my napkin at the completion of the meal?
A. At the completion of a meal, carefully place the napkin at the left of your place setting or if the plates have been cleared, place the napkin in the center without actually refolding to original state.

Q. In a family setting, which direction should food be passed for serving?
A. Food is passed to the right, or counter-clockwise.

Q. What should you do if you spill a beverage on yourself while dining?
A. Clean up the spill at the table or excuse yourself to the restroom if needed. Apologize to anyone your slight mishap may have inconvenienced.

Q. When a fellow diner asks to "please pass the salt,” is it standard etiquette to pass both the salt and the pepper?
A. We recommend first passing the salt and then inquiring if the other guest would also like the pepper.

Indian table manners
• Food is expected to be eaten with the right hand. Left hand can be used to pass the dishes.
• It is acceptable not to use cutlery for eating, as many foods - such as Indian breads and curry - are commonly eaten in this manner.
• Wash hands is a must as most Indian foods are primarily eaten by hand. Also, wash hands after eating the food. Usually, a finger bowl (with luke warm water and lemon) is served to each person for rinsing fingers.
• In North India, when eating curry, the sauce must not be allowed to stain the fingers - only the fingertips are used. However, in South India, it is acceptable to use more of your hand.
• When chapati, roti, or naan are served with the meal, it is acceptable and expected to use pieces of them to gather food and sop-up sauces and curries.
• It is considered inappropriate to use your fingers to share food from someone else's plate once you have started using your own. Instead, ask for a clean spoon to transfer the food from the common dish to your plate.
• It is not necessary to taste each and every dish prepared, but you must finish everything on your plate as it is considered respectful. For that reason, put only as much food on your plate as you can eat.
• As most of the Indian delicacies are eaten with the hands, it is necessary to make sure that one's drinking glass should not become messy.
• Do not leave the table until others have finished or the host requests you. If you must, ask permission from the host before leaving.
• South Indian meals are served on a banana leaf that has been cleaned with warm water. Vegetables are placed on the top half of the leaf, and rice, sweets, and snacks on the other half.
• The banana leaf should not be left open after finishing the meal. It should be folded in such a way that the top half closes over the bottom half. If the bottom half is folded over the top, it is usually considered disrespectful, as this is done only in solemn situations one hopes will not occur again, such as a death.
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