By Chere Di Boscio
As a newly minted aristo, Meghan Markle will have to learn a few tricks to fit in with the royal family and their ilk – and top of that list is how to dine properly. It may seem a bit antiquated, but displaying the right table manners are essential, not just for anyone who wishes to mix and mingle with the upper echelons of British society, but also anyone who doesn’t wish to appear uncouth, according to Paola Diana, the bestselling author of ‘Saving the world. Women: in the XXI’s Century Factor for Change’. Paola is also the Founder and Chairman of the Diana Group, and her company Nanny & Butler provides household recruitment services such as private butlers for the rich and famous around the globe.
Even if you think your table manners are impeccable, there’s probably something you can still learn. For example, are you aware soups should be spooned away from yourself, and never ever slurped? Or that all prepared dishes, such as quenelles, rissoles, patties, and so on, should be eaten with a fork only?
We turned to Paola for advice on how to eat like royalty, from which fork to use, to how to discreetly indicate you need the loo.
How to greet your companions and host
Firstly, as you enter the building or room, it is important that you shake hands with those who greet you. Do this by making eye contact, smiling and gripping their hand firmly. This shows a great sign of respect and acknowledgement as you wait to be seated at the table. It is also recommended to do a ballerina curtsey – especially when greeting very high profile people – by placing one leg behind the other, bending your knees and head slightly. This emphasises the respect shown to others in the room and will set you in good stead with them straight away.
At the dinner table
As you all arrive at the dinner table it is important that you are standing until the main host has taken their seat. Your posture at the table is very important where ladies should sit with their knees and feet together and gentlemen should sit more slightly forward from the back of a chair to help produce a good posture.
When the first course is served there will be a vast display of cutlery either side of your plate. The best thing to do is work from the outside-in holding your knife in your right hand and fork in the left with the tines facing down. Both utensils should be held by pinching between the thumb and middle finger with the index finger appearing at the top to support it. Cut your food one piece at a time and balance the food on the back of the fork and delicately put it in your mouth.
Make sure that you never talk with your mouth full, keep your mouth closed when chewing and never use your hands to eat. To indicate you have finished a meal, put the utensils neatly side by side on the plate.
If you are eating dinner with the Queen herself, then it is expected that when she has finished eating, then you must too, regardless of what is left on your plate.
How to drink
Like cutlery, the glasses at the dining table will need to be used in a specific order. The one closest to you will be what you drink from first. At formal settings the glasses are often smaller and you need to hold the top of the stem from the glass and not the bowl. As you will have a drink per course, you should not polish off the drink each time.
When it comes to tea, etiquette requires you to hold the top of the cup handle with your thumb and index finger, with the middle supporting the bottom of the handle. You must sip from the same spot too.
Using your napkin
When you are seated, place your napkin on your lap. By folding your napkin in half you will avoid making an unnecessary mess. Keep in on your lap and out of sight of the other guests. When wiping your mouth use the inside folds so that you avoid getting your clothes messy.
How to properly excuse yourself
Although it is better to go to the lavatory before the meal, sometimes it cannot be helped if you need to go during. In order to do this correctly, you must simply say “excuse me” without any further explanation. This will allow you to leave appropriately and uphold the good manners for the other guests.
- Poultry, game, asparagus and salads should be eaten with a knife and fork. The bone of either wing or leg is never touched with the fingers; the meat is cut from the bone with the knife.
- Peas, the test of true breeding, are eaten with a fork.
- Jellies, blancmanges, ice puddings, and practically any substantial sweet, are eaten with a fork.
- Cheese is eaten in small morsels placed with the knife onto small morsels of bread.
- Grapes, cherries, or other pitted fruits are brought to the mouth, and the pits and skins are spit discreetly into the hand to be placed on the side of the plate.
- Bread is to be broken into small morsels – never bite into a whole dinner roll itself.
Main image credit here.
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