Regardless of where and when you are eating, basic dinning etiquette are important. We often teach our kids to maintain their dinning etiquette when stepping out but are we really following them ourselves? Well, in India, I feel this day is far to come. And more than missing on, I feel that most of us aren’t even aware of. So wasn’t I, before I decided to learn about them.
Be it be a formal dinner or a casual one, basic table manners is one of the most important thing to know. There may be some slight variations, depending on your region, and that’s totally acceptable. But try and know basic rules of it. Here are a few etiquette that most of us have been missing on forever.
Before the dinner
If you are invited for a dinner, it is your unsaid duty to respond to the host without them requesting for an RSVP. It helps the host in making proper plans for the dinner. Also, try and respect the time given by the host. It is common in India to arrive a little late than the assigned time. Everyone does that and so use to I and hence this is the exact reason why our Indian House parties lands up getting over quite late in night.
It is also crucial to understand the preferences of the host if you are planning to get a gift along. You wouldn’t want to gift a bottle of champagne to non-alcoholic family or a milk based sweet for vegans. And if your host has given a special mention to not get any gifts along, make a point to respect his/her request.
Most of the house parties in India starts with a round of entrée and drinks. No matter how hungry you are, DO NOT fill yourself up with the starts itself for you still have a dinner to follow. Most of the times we stuff our bellies way before the dinner is served and then try our level best to skip it. It is important to understand that the host have put-in his level best to offer the best dinner of his capability and it then becomes our duty to respect it. Save yourself for a little dinner and at least one round of drinks the host might want to offer during the dinner.
On the Table
In most of the countries there is a set pattern of the sitting arrangements that the host pre-plans. You may also find place cards on the table where the host wants the guest to sit. Follow their preferences if you encounter such a situation. However, here in India, we do not really have such a ritual. Yet it is important to follow some basic seating pattern wile going out for a formal dinner at someone’s. A few families in India still follow the ritual of praying before the dinner and you too should respect that (even if you don’t follow the belief) by being silent for the moment.
The Napkin Game
“Do Not” and I repeat do not place the dinner napkin on your lap as soon as you sit down if you are at someone’s place for dinner. Wait for them to place all the food items on the table and then get ready. As soon as you feel that all the dishes are placed on the table, immediately remove the napkin from the table or plate and place it on your lap. Fold the napkin into half and place it in a manner that the open ends are facing you. Use the inner side of the napkin to dab your face while eating. This is so because then the soiled side of the napkin will be secured inwards and won’t appear dirty to the spectators. Also make a point to keep the napkin on the chair if you wish to get up (to use the rest room maybe) during the diner. Once you are done with your meal, place the napkin neatly on the left side of the plate. Do not fold the napkin instead just place it neatly on the table.
When to start
I absolutely love this part of the game. It is extremely crucial to know when to start with your diner. Whenever eating in a group (small or big), wait for everyone to get seated before beginning. Do not attack the food as soon as the host starts placing it on the table. Let the host set the table completely (if not already done) before you commence. Make sure that the host too sits with you to eat and is not stuck in the kitchen.
Silverware: – The Trickiest Part
The cutlery game in India has never been taken up seriously by anyone. However it has now become extremely important to know the basic silverware use whenever going out for a formal or even an informal diner. Having said that, if you still get confused, the thumb rule is to start with the utensil that is placed the farthest from your plate and work your way towards the center of your placed setting. Seeing your fellow members can also help us a lot in such a situation.
First thing first. Never say “Bon appetite” before you or the other person starts eating; and this especially goes for the host. Instead you may say “enjoy your meal” which sounds sober and classy.
There is a basic rule of laying the dinner table that the host should follow. If that isn’t the case on your table, try to follow some basic things. Never reach across the table for anything; instead, ask that condiments be passed from the person closest to the items. Also make a point to use the serving utensil and not your own to lift food from the serving dish. Follow the basic dining etiquette to while eating with others for the comfort of all. If you are the one hosting, make sure that you do not lift the served dished from the table till the last person is done with his/her food and this also includes the family members.
Post Meal & Clean-up
After you are done with your meal, follow a proper way of closing your plate. Also partially fold your napkin and place it to the left of your plate. Wait for everyone else on the table to finish their meal before you decide to stand up. You should only help the host in cleaning up if the diner party is an informal one. There may be times when the host might not be comfortable with you entering the kitchen and hence avoid that as much as you can. In our Indian culture, it (at times) is considered rude (by a few) if you do not help the host or do not enter the kitchen. Hence it is important for you to know your surroundings and act accordingly. The best way to go forward is to help the host clean up the table and let then take care of the things themselves in the kitchen (only if the event is informal).
A dinner, be it be formal or an informal one, needs a lot of planning efforts and you should always make a point to hank the host for his time and efforts.
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Very informative post. Learned a lot about dining etiquette.