If you don't know your foie gras from your faux pas you may be in desperate need of a crash course in table manners. Etiquette Expert DianeGottsman of the Protocol School of Texas offers basic table tips that will get you over the holiday dining hurdle.
1. Follow the host's lead and don't touch anything at your place setting. Wait until the host has had the opportunity to say grace or make a welcome toast before you touch anything at your place setting, including putting your napkin on your lap or taking a sip of water or wine.
2. Always eat from the outside in. Your utensils will be placed in the order of use and a good rule of thumb is to use the utensils farthest out first and move your way inwards.
3. Your bread plate is on your left and your drinks are set on the right. If someone accidentally eats from your bread plate, forego the bread or put it on your salad or entrée plate. Do not play bread plate roulette by using your neighbor's plate to your right.
4. If there is a food on the holiday table that you do not like, it is not necessary to announce it. If you do not care for foie gras, enlarged goose liver, just pass it along and say nothing. Refrain from rolling your eyes or holding your stomach in disgust.
5. Food is passed to the right, counterclockwise.
6. When eating bread, eat only one small piece at a time. Break off a piece, butter, and continue the process.
7. Salt and Pepper are happily married. They are passed together even if the request was only for one or the other.
8. "Finger licking good" is just an expression. Children (and adults) should not lick their fingers, the knife or any other body part while enjoying the holiday meal.
9. Napkins are for the lap, unless you are a very young child. It is difficult for a child to keep a napkin or his or her lap and may be folded inside the front collar of their shirt to protect their holiday outfit. This rule does not apply if you are over the age of five.
10. If you must leave the table temporarily, the napkin goes on the seat of the chair and the chair is pushed under the table to ensure no one trips over the legs of the chair. Do Not Announce Where You Are Going, especially if you are visiting the restroom.
11. Don't even think about asking for ketchup at the holiday meal, unless it is already on the table. That also goes for any other condiment or spice. If your host thought you needed extra gravy it would be in a gravy boat on the table.
12. Don't ask for a doggie bag or request the left over bones for your dog.
13. Pace yourself according to your host and other guests. You do not want to be the first to finish, or the last to finish your meal. If you notice everyone else is through with their meal and looking at you, wipe you mouth with your napkin and call the meal a holiday success.
14. Don't attack the buffet dessert table like a starving reindeer. Only take a dessert when everyone is finished with the meal.
15. If you do not want coffee, leave the cup in tact and simply say "No thank you". Do not turn the coffee cup upside down to signal you do not want to partake.
16. At a buffet table, do not overload your plate. Take a reasonable amount of everything rather than a large amount of only a few, select items. This is both courteous and appropriate.
17. Teach your child to offer to take his or her plate to the kitchen. You do the same. The host may refuse the kindness but it is a nice gesture and a good habit to get into.
18. At the end of the meal, simply say, "The meal was delicious" rather than "I am stuffed like a pig".
19. Send a thank you note within 48 hours of the meal.
20. Leave at an appropriate time, not too soon after the meal but not in time to make the feel host obligated to ask you to stay for the next meal.
Diane Gottsman is a nationally recognized etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in corporate etiquette training. She is the author of a book titled Pearls of Polish, an etiquette guide for today's busy woman. You can contact Diane at www.protocolschooloftexas.com or tweet her at www.twitter.com/DianeGottsman
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