Manners for Eating Bites

Manners for Eating Bites

Manners for Eating Bites

It’s true.  Manners for eating bites.  Except talking with your mouth full.  That’s just gross.  This has been an issue bugging me for years.  I can’t tell you how many blouses, dresses, pants, tops, shoes and pantyhose, I have ruined for eating with proper etiquette.

Maybe I am not the most graceful person on the planet, but I am also not the least graceful.  One of the most common “out to eat” motion is to sit with straight back in the chair and bring food from the plate to your mouth.  I’m short, so you’d think with a mere distance of 13″ (yes I measured), would be too small a space for anarchy.  It isn’t.

Even when pointing tines forward to mouth,  I have dropped teeny, tiny pieces of food down the front of me.  A slight lean forward; still a mess.  Bending over the dish, I look like I was raised by wolves.

And, at a party where you have to stand and eat?  I can’t even go there.

Why Can’t We Eat Like We Do at Home?

At home, you can reach if no one is listening when you ask someone to please pass the bread.  You can get up without excusing yourself if you are just walking five steps to get a different salad dressing from the fridge.  You can laugh and spit water without a fuss.  In fact, that one just makes you laugh more. 

If a dish didn’t come out well, you don’t have to battle with your conscience if you should send it back as you do in a restaurant.  You simply say, “Well that isn’t a good batch.  Trash that. Pizza, leftovers or grilled cheese?”

Good Manners Can be Good

Any routine that everyone understands is good.  However, I like most of my clothes and love all my shoes.  Anything that comes between me and them are the enemy.

Dining Out at Friends and Restaurants Can be so Complicated

If you are invited to have dinner with someone, it is always a good idea to RSVP even if by txt or you don’t think it’s needed.  First confirmation is sent as soon as you’re invited to help your hosts plan. The second a couple days before. 

Don’t ask if you can bring anything. Of course you have to bring something. 

Unless it’s family.  With family you can take it a step further.  You can say, “You making Nonni’s braciola? Well make it.” 

What You Bring 

Don’t expect your gift to be used during the meal.

Dinner parties have carefully planned menus, and your gift may not go with the meal.

Sorry to admit, I do go over-the-top sometimes with parties and go plan crazy.  Luckily Chip is always willing to play along. 

The key for over-the-top; if you are all-in, you’re guests will be all-in.


Some dinner parties are formal and have place cards where the host or hostess wants you to sit.  Seating cards can be fun.  One Easter I made personalized eggs for everyone’s place setting.  For those asking (lol) … I was working full-time and had a child.

Whether formal or not, most people ask if there are seating preferences. And, most people say sit where ever you like.  I always try to grab the seat closest to the kitchen.  Usually I forget something.  It makes it easier to subtly go get it.  I learned this by not being able to subtly go get something.

Some people think you should wait until the host positions themselves.  If you eat at my house, you know my thing.  Just don’t pick the seat closest to the kitchen and all is well.

As a kid we used to say grace before dinner. (Bless Us Our Lord For These Thy Gifts). 

With friends from many different places, if a blessing is their thing, we just go with it.  It’s meaningful to them; and a compliment they will share it with us.

I prefer to offer a toast. These are made on the fly.  Don’t expect Shakespeare here, but it will come from the heart.  Or, it may make you spit water, which is also ok.  

Some places say clinking glasses is not necessary.  Here,  clinking is required.

Dropping the Napkin Off Your Lap

You’re not supposed to do that.  It always, always, always happens to me.  My legs don’t make a right angle on the chair.  They are more a 60-degree angle. Points the napkin right to the floor. 

I have been in restaurants and searched for the napkin with my foot.  Grabbed it between my shoes and brought it back up to put back on my lap.  Unless I’m in a pub then I go free-style.  Usually you don’t want anything from the floor there.

News to me … you aren’t supposed to put the napkin on your lap as soon as you sit down when at someone’s house.  You’re supposed to do it after your host does it.  


You know the rest about what to do with it during and after.  One tactic I use when out to eat, and inside laugh about, is dabbing the corners of your mouth. 

Really?  What good does it do?  Does the juice slide from the middle of your lips to the side?

When to Eat


  • If you are eating out, you should wait until all the members of your group have been served before picking up your fork.

  • At a private dinner, observe the host or hostess and pick up your fork when he or she does.

  • However, if you are at a buffet, you may start when there are others seated at your table.

What do you say?  Buffet.

Dinner at home,  dishes should be passed counter-clockwise flow. Salt and pepper should be passed together. 

Table Manners – Part of Evolution 

Table manners were designed to keep people from scarfing food down like animals. I never knew the reason was evolution-based.  If you think about it, it does make sense.

‘One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you should never call attention to yourself by blatantly breaking the rules set by society.’ 

Whoever wrote this has never seen “Saturday Night Fever.”

Below there are lists and pictures of more etiquette, but let’s run away from that for a minute.

Food You Can Eat With Your Fingers

Let’s go outside the burgers, fajitas and shrimp.  Here are some that may not be your first guesses:

  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes (This one is probably on your list; I just like them)
  •  Curry-based food most associated with India
  • Ethiopian food 
  • Most Moroccan food
  • Gatsbys
  •  South Africa has a couple
    •  Kota – make a hole in bread, fill it with what you like and walk around with it.
    • Pap and Vleis – It is like a polenta that you roll into a ball and dip into a porridge or stew
  •  This link is to some cool recipes of finger food recipes.
  •  State Fairs –

Some International Unique Manners – Few Utensils Needed


In Thailand, don’t put food in your mouth with a fork. Instead, when eating a dish with cooked rice, use your fork only to push food onto your spoon. Some Thai dishes are eaten with the hands id they have “sticky” rice.  If something doesn’t have rice you can use a fork. Thai people also have rules for when to use chop sticks.

In Japan, never stick your chopsticks upright in your rice.
Between bites, your chopsticks should be placed together in front of you, parallel to the edge of the table.  During funerals in Japan, the rice bowl of the deceased is placed before their coffin…with their chopsticks upright in the rice.  Guess they are implying rules no longer apply?
In China, don’t flip the fish.
Although you might be used to flipping over a whole fish once you’ve finished one side, don’t — at least when you’re in China, especially southern China and Hong Kong. That’s because flipping the fish is “bad luck.” It is like saying that the fisherman’s boat is going to capsize. The most superstitious will leave the bottom part untouched, while others will pull off the bone itself to get to the bottom.
In Korea, if an older person offers you a drink, lift your glass to receive it with both hands.
Doing so is a sign of respect for elders, an important tenet of Korean culture. After receiving the pour with both hands, you should turn your head away and take a discreet sip. Also, don’t start eating until the elder does.
In Italy, only drink a cappuccino before noon.
  • Some Italians say that a late-day cappuccino upsets your stomach, others that it’s a replacement for a meal.
  • Don’t ask for parmesan for your pizza — or any other time it’s not explicitly offered.  Putting parmigiano on pizza is seen as a sin.  And many pasta dishes in Italy aren’t meant for parmesan: In Rome, the traditional cheese is pecorino.
In Britain, always pass the port to the left.
It’s unclear why passing port on the left is so important.  It may have to do with naval tradition of left side of the boat. Regardless, passing the decanter to the right is a big mistake. So is not passing it at all.  In essence, don’t bogart the port.
In France, don’t eat your bread as an appetizer before the meal.
Instead, eat it with your food or, especially, to the cheese course at the end of the meal. Placing bread directly on the table and not on a plate is preferred.  Viva le France.
Northern Eurasia
Never mix — or turn down — vodka in Russia.
The beverage is always drunk neat — and no, not even with ice. Adding anything is seen as polluting the drink’s purity (unless the mixer is beer, which produces a formidable beverage known as yorsh). And, when you’re offered the drink it’s a sign of trust and friendship.  So never turn it down.  A drink can be offered at any time of day. Again, I may have known a guy who has had Vodka very early in the day.
At a traditional feast in Georgia, it’s rude to sip your wine. You down the whole glass at once after a toast.  If there glasses weren’t small, I’d think I once had a lot of friends from Georgia.
Middle East
When drinking coffee with Bedouins in the Middle East, shake the cup at the end.
Typically, anyone Bedouin will continue to pour you more coffee unless you shake the cup. 
In the Middle East, India and parts of Africa, don’t eat with your left hand.
In South India, you shouldn’t even touch the plate with your left hand while eating. That’s largely because the left hand is associated with, um, hinny buns functions, so it’s considered to be dirty. In fact, says Allen, don’t even pass important documents with your left hand.  Ick, Ick, Ick.
South America
In Brazil, play your tokens wisely.
At a churrascaria, or a Brazilian steakhouse, servers circle with cuts of meat and diners. If a server comes out with something you want, make sure your token, which you’ll have at your table, has the green side up. If you don’t want any more, flip it with the red side up.   Kinda like poker.  Correct, I don’t know the rules of poker.
Don’t eat anything, even fries, with your hands at a meal in Chile.
Manners there are a little more formal than many other South American countries. Their desire is to identify with European culture, so food is eaten with a knife and a fork.
In Mexico, never eat tacos with a fork and knife.
Worried about spilling refried beans and salsa all over your front? Tough.
Ok back to real manners.

Place Setting Manners for Eating Bites 

I Googled this hoping to learn something new.   Basically, this picture tells the story.

Here’s the only new things I learned … Soup may be served in between a salad and main course, which would move the spoon between the two knives.

There could be a soup course and a palette cleansing mint sorbet course which would mean using two spoons, or having spoons brought out for these courses.

Finger bowls may be used in which case they are brought out after a messy course instead of being placed at the setting the entire meal.

A charger plate may be used. The napkin might be set to the left or placed in the center of the charger. I knew the idea; didn’t know the term.  A charger plate is the decorative one you set below the real dishes you’re using.

You could also be serving a different wine for every course which would result in a cascade of glasses flowing to the right of the setting.

The only reason I included this section is to recognize a lobbyist I used to travel with.  No matter where we went.  She could look at the table and tell what the menu would be.  She could get right down to what type of bread and protein.  A good parlor trick.   

Some Dining Etiquette Rules to Consider:

  • Turn off your cell phone before sitting down.
  • Taste your food before you add seasoning.
    • If you are dining with a prospective employer, the person may perceive you as someone who acts without knowing the facts.  
  • Cut one or two bites at a time.
  • Never blow on your food. If it is hot, wait for it to cool off.
  • Scoop your soup away from you.  
    •  Soup is always a shirt-destroyer.  Yet, I always throw the dice.  I love a good bisque.
  • Some foods are meant to be eaten with your fingers.  Just need to know which ones.
  • Try at least one or two bites of everything on your plate, unless you are allergic to it.
  • Compliment if you like the food, but don’t voice your opinion if you don’t.
    •  Again, not an Italian-American family in play here.

Other Things to Do

  • Use your utensils for eating, not gesturing.
  • Keep your elbows off the table. Rest your hands in your lap.
    •  Literally, for me, keeping elbows off the table is one of the hardest things to do.
  • Eat slowly and pace yourself to finish at the same approximate time as the hosts.
  • Avoid burping or making other rude sounds at the table.
    •  Where was this list when my son was young?  
  • If you spill something at a restaurant, signal one of the servers to help.
  • If you spill something at a private dinner party in someone’s home, pick it up and blot the spill. Offer to have it professionally cleaned.
  • When you finish eating, leave your utensils on your plate or in your bowl.
    •  We were told tines down.  That wasn’t in this list.
  • You may reapply your lipstick, but don’t freshen the rest of your makeup at the table. 
    •  If they say so.  I wouldn’t do either.  This is an excuse to go to the ladies room and use the cellphone you’ve avoided for an hour.
  •  When dinners over at someone’s home, stay for an hour after or it’s seen as an eat and run.  

Saving Your Clothes From What You Bite

Where this whole blog article started is from a white sweater that was ruined at an Xmas party.  Over the years, I have stained so many things.  Before putting them in my closet in the ‘someday I will fix this pile’, I’ve tried to save them by soaking, going to drycleaners, white vinegar, Dawn, soaking with special soaps.  I have never been able to save a thing.

Tons of people have said … “I always have luck with White Vinegar.”  Why do I never have luck with it.  Really, I have gone step by step with YouTube videos to clean things and still nothing.

I refuse to wear a plastic poncho when out to eat.  So, this is my plight. 

What’s a stain or two, right? 

If you go day over day, my staining average is about 2%.  Outing over outing my average is probably 20%.  It gets worse when you go favorite clothes over favorite clothes.  That’s roughly about 60%.  Ugh.

Really not so bad though.  I get to go to and give parties; spit water when laughing; eat delicious food; spend time with amazing family and friends.  Actually, I’m very lucky.

Cheers (Not the all tempa one)

Enjoy your holiday. 

Very often you get a nice sweater for a gift anyway.  That can start the cycle all over.

If you have a spillage story, please share it in the comments.  If you like this post, please share.