Dining Etiquette: How to Savor Food Elegantly

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Regardless of the event, even when you are with your family or friends, proper dining etiquette is essential. How you handle yourself with food has to do with your general attitude and overall experience. 

1. Place a napkin on your lap.

Fine dining restaurants place a napkin on their table setting. When you sit down, place the napkin over your lap. Do not put it on your collar. If the napkin is wrapped around the utensils, remove it carefully. Place the fork on the left while the knife is on the right.

This may be an etiquette practice, but this also helps you not ruin your pants or dress. The napkin will catch the stain if food or drink spills on your lap. You do not have to worry about the spill or stains; the restaurant has a trusted dry cleaner that will take care of their linens.

2. Familiarize the table setting.

The table setting is sometimes overwhelming. You might wonder, “why are there several spoons and forks?” If you are confused about which utensils to use, remember the rule “go from the outside in”. Use the farthest spoon on the right when you are served a soup starter. Use the utensils that are closest to your plate for the main course. Meanwhile, if you are given utensils above the plate, that is for dessert.

If you are in doubt, wait and see what other guests do. You can always copy someone if you forget what utensil or plate to use. 

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3. Do not lean over the plate when you eat.

When you eat, sit up straight. Bring your fork and spoon up to your mouth and take your bites. This is the proper posture when eating. When you hover your food with your chin above your plate, it seems you are planning to make a mess. If you feel that the food is about to drop or spill, bring your off-hand over to your chin to catch any spilling food. Make sure you do not move suddenly in these instances to avoid bringing attention to your table.

Bring your food to your mouth slowly if you eat with a fork and knife. Do not drop the knife to switch hands. Practice how to bring food to your mouth with your non-dominant hand.

4. Eat slowly, savor the dish.

Dining is a shared experience. Do not rush. Eat slowly and chat with your friends or loved ones in between bites. The goal of this is to relish the dishes. Eating slowly helps you focus on the food flavors, wine taste, and aroma of a fresh meal. The conversations you are having with your friends make the dining experience more memorable.

5. Take smaller bites.

You have to eat slowly to savor the flavor and have a good conversation with your friends. Take small bites to pace yourself. If you take bigger bites, the earlier you will finish your plate, and big bites need more jaw movement to chew your food properly. Moving your jaw aggressively does not look classy.

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6. Do not make a noise when you chew.

The sound of chewing is annoying. Nobody likes to hear the sound of chewing. You can avoid making the sound when you keep your mouth closed while chewing. Avoid blowing on the food or slurping your soup. 

If you are at a fine dining restaurant or formal dinner, avoid having a dish that is hard to eat quietly. But you have to take it if it is a home party or an intimate meal with family, and there is a messy-to-eat dish. It would be rude if you avoided it. Just eat the food slowly and use your napkin to wipe out any spills or smudges. Take your time.

7. Eat messy foods slowly and strategically.

You have to be mindful when you are served naturally messy foods and strategize how you will eat the food. Foods such as corn on the cob, burritos, and sloppy burgers are prime examples of intrinsically messy foods. You have to take time to make each bite, and if you are not careful, you might get covered with grease or sauce. Pause between each bite and assess what move to take.

A tip on eating saucy hot dogs or sandwiches, do not put them down. Its insides will fall apart, and it will become messy afterwards. 

8. Do not reach over things.

If you want to reach for a shared dish, pepper, salt, napkin, or anything shared on the table, ask for it to be passed. Do not place your hand over someone else’s glass, plate, or dish to reach them. Remember, this is a common scenario; you are not bothering them by asking them to pass it.

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  • Grip utensils with your index finger and thumb, and place your middle finger underneath. When using a knife, use your index finger to apply downward pressure. 
  • Having soup in fine dining can be a challenge. When you scoop a soup, move the spoon away from you, not towards you. Do not feed the entire spoon in your mouth; use the side of the spoon and not in front.
  • Bring a gift if you are dining out for a special occasion, such as a birthday or Thanksgiving.

9. Put your phone in silent mode.

Checking your phone for notifications or reaching out to answer texts is rude. Keep your phone silent and out of sight. You can also have it in vibration mode, so you would know if an important call is incoming. Part of putting away your phone is to avoid checking for time.


Final Takeaway

Although even when you are mindfully eating, accidents may happen when dining, and you look like a mess when you stain your clothes (don’t worry, trust the laundry service). The dining etiquette you know will save you from embarrassment. You know how to handle the accident properly. Mindful eating or dining with etiquette should not only be practised when eating outside. Do it at home also.

Philip Okoye
the authorPhilip Okoye
Your favorite recipe author, faithful to every course. Mail me at

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