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American? Continental? I thought we were just going to the dining table!

The world was my oyster, but I used the wrong fork. - Oscar Wilde

The world opens up to those who are well-mannered. How? Because you make your own good luck. When you’re confident in your own presentation – knowing what to do and how to do it – you gain an air of quiet confidence. You enjoy yourself more and are comfortable in your own skin. And when you’re enjoying yourself you have a more positive disposition and that attracts others to you. They are drawn to you because they feel welcome and then the opportunities are endless! You’re in charge of whether or not this can happen for you.

Many view table manners as a proxy of whether or not someone is well-mannered, in general. Let’s make sure your table manners send the clear signal that you are indeed well-mannered.

But some think that table manners are a relic of the past, that they’re pretentious, snobby and for only wealthy or uber-educated people. Those who think that could not be more wrong. 

Dining together is one of the most enjoyable of human experiences – enjoying good food, good drink, and good conversation with others in a pleasant atmosphere. But if you have unsightly table manners where you look and sound beastly and don’t know what to do, you make dining with you a thoroughly unenjoyable experience that others will try to avoid. We don’t want that, do we?

First things first, let’s make sure you don’t use the wrong fork or use it the wrong way.

A properly set table only includes the utensils one needs, no extras. That rule alone helps make dining much easier because the host has taken away all the guess-work. If there is a utensil on the table, they think you will need it. The rules of silverware are simple and finite – work your way from out-to-in so that you start by using the utensils that are farthest from the plate and work your way in, course by course. 

To properly cut your food, hold your knife and fork by placing your straight index fingers (not bent or curved) on the knife’s joint (or just a smidge behind the joint toward the handle) and the back of the fork (where the handle and the base meet) for leverage while your remaining fingers are wrapped around the handles. Don't hold utensils like you're wielding a spear or playing the cello. Cut your meat neatly, one bite at a time. Never saw your meat.

When eating American Style you switch your utensils back and forth between your hands as you cut and then convey food to your mouth. Quietly rest your knife across the top of the plate after cutting a piece of food, then switch the fork to your dominant hand and eat with the fork, tines up. Cut and eat one bite at a time. 

When eating Continental Style you don't switch utensils back and forth between hands while cutting and eating. The knife remains in your dominant hand while eating - you do not put it down. You use the knife as a pusher and packager of food – helping you secure food to the back of your fork. After you cut your food and create a food package, if you want (say adding potatoes or rice onto your piece of meat) you continue to hold the fork (tines down) in your non-dominant hand, then lift your fork and pivot your wrist, thereby turning the fork up and conveying the food to your mouth.

It's also important to learn the resting and finished positions for the style of eating you are using. Please look at the illustrations below. No part of a used utensil is to ever touch the table or linen.

When eating the American style the fork’s tines are always up in both the rest and finished position. When eating the Continental style the fork’s tines are always down in the rest and finished position.

The important point to remember is that when you pick a style of eating use it throughout the meal – don’t switch back and forth. Otherwise, you'll look awkward and unsure of yourself. Both ways of eating are correct and you will be marvelously well-mannered mastering either one, or both.

Now you're on your way to the world being your oyster and using the correct fork!

Have a marvelous week!


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