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Dining room etiquette for teens

By Monika G. Vaccaro, Next Step Magazine For Teens – 12/20/2005 – 12:00am

How to survive prom, your graduation dinner and a wedding while looking like you eat at fancy restaurants every day.

You already know you shouldn’t eat with your mouth wide open, and no elbows on the table. However, what about which utensils to use and when? And which bread plate is yours?

1. Girls, your lipstick has faded while you’ve been eating. You:
a) Plop your bag on the table and immediately apply your lipstick.
b) Hold your dinner napkin in front of you while you apply your lipstick,
then blot it with the same napkin.
c) Excuse yourself and apply your lipstick in the restroom.

2. You can’t resist the linguini special, but how are you going to eat it?
a) Use your fork and knife to cut it into smaller strands.
b) Twirl as many strands as you can and slurp the loose ends.
c) Take several strands with your fork and twirl against your plate or bowl until they are neatly wrapped around your fork.

3. The shish kabob at the barbeque looks great, and you can’t wait to dig in. To eat it, you:
a) Hold each end of the skewer and gnaw around the edges of the food.
b) Hold one end of the skewer and begin to eat at the top and proceed down to the bottom where you’re holding the skewer.
c) Hold the end of the skewer at an angle and pull the pieces off the skewer with your fork and onto your plate before eating.

4. A small bowl of sherbet or sorbet arrives before your dinner entrée is served. You:
a) Exclaim, “Wow, an early dessert!” and dig in.
b) Inform the server you did not order ice cream.
c) Recognize it’s intended to cleanse your palette in between courses.


But if you’re like most young people, you’re wondering, “Why haven’’t they taught me these things at school?”

Corby O’Connor, an etiquette expert in New Jersey and owner of Corby O’Connor & Company, speaks with teens and young adults at high schools and colleges. “Teens are uncomfortable with a full place setting,” O’Connor says. “They are confused when they sit down and see a table set with more than one fork and knife and when they see items on the table they are not familiar with.”

Matt Mercurio, an 18-year-old attending County College of Morris in New Jersey, works at a country club.

“I was golfing with some friends and we went in for lunch,” says Mercurio. We ordered buffalo wings. We had a place setting with three forks, a knife but I wasn’t sure how I should eat them. So, I picked them up.” He was surprised when an elderly woman at a nearby table turned and gave him a disapproving look.

Mercurio might have been OK; O’Connor says, “There is really no other way to eat buffalo wings than with one’s hands.”

So then what are the rules to follow? “The two most important are to chew with one’s mouth closed and don’t talk with food in one’s mouth,” says
O’Connor. “Wait for everyone to be seated or until everyone is served before eating. Bring the fork to the mouth instead of keeping the arm
wrapped around the plate and bringing the head down to the fork, like they do in prison.”

“Young men should not wear a cap at the table, adds Sue Fox, owner of Etiquette Survival, LLC, which sells courses on etiquette, and author of Etiquette for Dummies. “If it’s a baseball cap, that goes for girls as well.”

What about when you’re faced with a formal place setting?
The rule is to start from the outside utensil and work in toward your plate,” says Fox. “And remember the rule, ‘solids to the left and liquids to the right.’ That is your bread plate on the left.”

Fox’s other tips include:

* When you are eating, keep your hands on your lap or resting on the table (with wrists on the edge of the table).
* Elbows on the table are acceptable only between courses, not while you are eating.
* A large napkin is folded in half and placed on your lap. Open it completely if it’s a smaller luncheon napkin.
* If leaving the table temporarily, place the napkin on the seat of your chair. (No one wants to look at your dirty napkin!) When finished,
place the napkin to the left of your plate.
* Never roll the napkin back into the napkin ring.

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