There are many written and unwritten rules by which we live our daily lives. We greet people when we enter a room. We make room for our elders. These are just 2 examples of general rules of etiquette. In fact, there are different rules for all our activities and there are reasons for them all. Some of them have a practical use. Table manners, for example, require that you do not tamper with your attire or makeup while at the table. If two heads of state or diplomats from hostile states meet, the rules of etiquette makes sure they can still communicate in a pleasant manner. The rules of etiquette are also used to show power relations. It can be offensive if you dress better than the main guest at a party. Clear rules will ensure that no one feels uncomfortable as long as the rules are respected.

Table manners

Of course everyone knows the obvious rules: do not talk with a full mouth, do not blow on hot food, not too much food on your plate. A table covered with a lot of cutlery can look quite impressive. However, the sequence is always logical. You always start with the cutlery on the outside and you work your way per dish inwards.

  • Attitude
    Sit up straight. When you are not eating, keep your hands on your lap or put your wrists on the edge of the table.
  • Makeup
    Do not tamper with your makeup and/or your hair when you sit at the table.
  • Do not add salt, pepper or sauces on your food before you have tasted it. Food is always served from the left and cleared from the right. Drinks are always served from the right.
  • The passing of food
    Start to give bread, butter or serving trays/bowls, even if you do not want any, always from the right. Serving trays are always passed with the handle towards the person served.
  • Soup
    Do not slurp, but eat from the side of the spoon. If the soup is too hot, wait until it cools down, do not blow.
  • Bread
    Break off a piece of bread with your hands and, if desired, then put some butter on it.
  • Napkin
    Place your napkin on your lap and keep it there until you leave. A small napkin should be unfolded. A big napkin is folded in half with the folded side towards you. On departure, place the napkin loosely on the left next to your plate.
  • Cutlery
    Use the butter knife near the butter-dish and use it to put butter on your (bread) plate. Never use it to butter your bread. If there is no butter knife provided, then use your dinner knife. You can eat chicken or pizza with your fingers at an informal dinner or barbecue or buffet. In other cases, use your knife and fork. Hold the fork in your left hand and the knife in the right. The knife is used to cut and to slide food onto the fork. In Suriname, rice is to be eaten with a spoon and fork where you hold the fork in the left hand and spoon in the right. Use the fork to put the rice on your spoon. The forks are always placed on the left. Knives and spoons are always on the right. The only exception is the fish fork, this is placed on the right next to the soup spoon. Above your plate are the dessert spoon and fork. When you start with the dessert, slide them to the side of your plate. Fork on the left and spoon on the right. Again, use the fork to put food onto the spoon. You eat from the spoon. The coffee spoons are on the right or will be given with the coffee. The waiter will remove unused cutlery.
  • Wine
    Red wine is served in a rounded-glass with a short stem. You hold the glass on the stem so your hand does not warm the wine. Red wine is served at room temperature. In a restaurant you taste the wine to check if there is something wrong, not to see if it meets your personal preference. White wine is served in a larger glass with a longer stem. Hold the glass at the stem.

If things still go wrong … Call the waiter!

~published in Victuals Magazine: First Edition; written by Chantal Rijker~

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