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Table Manners

Passing Food

  • Food should be passed to the right - but the point is for the food to be moving in only one direction.
  • One diner either holds the dish as the next diner takes some food, or he hands it to the person, who then serves herself.
  • Any heavy or awkward dishes are put on the table with each pass.
  • Cream pitchers and other dishes with handles should be passed with the handle toward the person receiving them.
  • If a platter for sharing is present it is passed around the table, with each diner holding it as the person next to him serves himself, using only the serving utensils provided.

Salt and Pepper Etiquette

Taste Before Salting. Be sure to taste the food before putting salt or pepper on it.

Pass Salt and Pepper Together. Always pass salt and pepper together. If a person asks for just one, pass both anyway.

Saltcellars. Some hostesses prefer to use saltcellars, which salt shakers have largely replaced.

  • If there is no spoon in the saltcellar, use the tip of a clean knife to take some salt.
  • If the salt­cellar is for you alone, you may either use the tip of your knife or you may take a pinch with your fingers.
  • If it is to be shared with others, never use your fingers or a knife that is not clean.
  • Salt you have taken from the cellar should be put on the bread-and-butter plate or on the rim of whatever plate is before you.

break etiquette american

American Style-

The knife is placed at a slight diagonal on the top, right side of the plate.

Table Manners Tip - Reaching

Just how close does something on the table have to be before you reach out and get it yourself? That's simple: within easy reach of your arm when you're leaning only slightly forward. Don't lean past the person sitting next to you or lunge to perform what's known as the boardinghouse reach. A request to "please pass the [item]" is required for everything beyond that invisible boundary, as is a thank-you to whoever does the passing.


- , Editor, Etiquette Scholar

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