A Fresh Take on Table Manners
Dinner is a time to gather together, share stories from our day, and enjoy a delicious meal. While casual suppers are great for today’s busy families, table etiquette is an age-old tradition that is quickly becoming a lost art.
Even if the night calls for paper plates, setting the table is the perfect way to get your kids involved in the dinnertime rush! Many people have different ideas of how a table should be set formally. You may even come up with your own style. But to keep with tradition and simplify it, a good rule of thumb is to layout the utensils in order they will be used, beginning from the left, working your way from the outside in.
For families of young ones, we all know what the most important part of a place setting is – the napkin. Begin there, placing the napkin on the left. Fold it, lay it flat, make a swan; the possibilities are endless.
Getting in your daily greens with a salad? The next utensil to come would be the salad fork (the smaller one). Then the dinner fork (the bigger one) to the right of it.
Right in the center should lay the dinner plate. If bread is a side item on the menu, the bread plate would go above and to the left of the dinner plate. Keep working to the right, and next, will go the dinner knife, or “butter knife” as it has become known as today.
Now hold it there! What exactly is the proper way to hold your knife and fork while cutting your scrumptious supper? The dinner fork goes in your left hand, holding it backwards to that the curve of your fork is curved toward your food. The knife goes in your right hand, and cuts right along the backside of the fork.
Just as there are two sizes of forks, there are also two sizes of spoons. The larger one is the soup spoon. This of course is only necessary if soup is actually being served. So, what about the smaller spoon? The smaller, sometimes more circular shaped spoon is for dessert, and often tea. Think of it as an after-dinner utensil. If you’re getting fancy, the dessert spoon (or dessert fork, depending on what type of dessert you’re indulging in) lays horizontally across the top of the dinner plate.
Now that you’re getting hungry, how about a cool glass of water to wash all this etiquette down? The water glass sits directly above the dinner knife to the right of the plate, or center of the place setting. Let’s be honest, some evenings a glass of wine is in order. Grab your favorite shade and set the wine glasses to the right of the water glass at a slight angle, as if you are wrapping the drinkware around the shape of the plate.
Practicing table setting is a skill that most kids may at first grumble about having to learn. Yet involving them in suppertime is the perfect way to spend quality time together while still getting things done, like cooking dinner. One day (when their future mother-in-law comes to town) they will thank you for teaching them the art of setting a formal table.
So once your kids have mastered the layout of the table, keep educating them on table etiquette by showing them proper table manners. Napkins should always lay across your lap, and if you must excuse yourself from the table mid-meal, lay the napkin back to the left of the plate. Of course, we all know that Grandpa gets to tuck his napkin into his shirt collar!
From laps to the tabletop, the only elbows that should be on the dinner table are the elbow macaroni in your bowl on Mac and Cheese nights. Along with elbows, put the phones and gadgets away. Make the table an electronics-free zone and let the conversation flow.
Conversation cards are a great thing to have near the family table in case your kids aren’t up to initiating a chat. Look for ideas on all our FreshTake meals! You can also make these at home on index cards, writing down random fun questions and topics such as; “Favorite sport, and why?”, “Dream vacation!”, “Funniest thing that happened at school this week.”, etc.
Dinnertime was once an actual time of day, where families gathered, not dispersed, and ate a meal together free of distraction. Let’s get back to that time. Renew the tradition of table etiquette in your home, and involve the whole family, starting tonight!
Do you have any great conversation starters that you use for your family at dinnertime? Post them in the comments below!