4 Important Dining ‘How Tos’…Including How To Refuse


napkin on lap

Most of us are still ignorant about the proper use of a dinner napkin. One thing is for certain, the napkin should NEVER be tucked under the chin, unless of course one is 5 years old or younger!

• Lift the napkin soon after you are seated and place it on your lap. However, at more formal occasions wait for a signal from the host before doing so.

• Use the napkin throughout the meal to dab your lips. This prevents greasy lip marks from being transferred to the glass and of course removes unsightly food residue from lips!

• The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal. Place the napkin in loose folds to the left of your plate. If you have to leave the table during the meal, leave the napkin on your chair.

• Don’t clean the cutlery or wipe your face with the napkin. NEVER use it to wipe your nose!


Some foods are exceedingly difficult to handle and seems to rest in the plate only to make life difficult while eating it. Have you tried eating corn on the cob with a knife and fork? How about chicken wings? Yes, it can be done, but is really difficult and does not cut a pretty picture! So how does one decide when to use the cutlery and when to abandon it for the comfort of eating with one’s hand?

Here’s a short list of food one can pick and eat without cutlery:

• Artichokes, asparagus, cheese and crackers, chicken and other small fiddly bits of fowl, corn on the cob, escargots (snails), some fresh fruit, French fries, shellfish like shrimp, lobster and crabs claws, mussels, clams and oysters on the half shell, pizza and sandwiches.

• It goes without saying that even for these foods, there are rules. Don’t pick up chicken, squab, or asparagus that is drenched with sauce; go easy with the butter on the corn and after cracking shellfish, eat the meat with a fork. The whole idea is to be comfortable but neat!

• When you have finished, resist the temptation to lick your fingers; use a finger bowl or napkin to get rid of the greasy bit.


The anecdote about the person who, when presented with a fingerbowl, squeezed the lime in it and drank the water! Now you know that’s definitely not the way to do it, but then how exactly does one use a fingerbowl? When you have finished a delicious dish of butter chicken it might be wiser to use the washroom facilities to clean up. At other times follow these:

• At a formal meal, just before dessert, the fingerbowl may be brought to you on a doily on a dessert plate. Pick up the bowl and doily and place them on the upper left hand corner of your place setting.

• This is not the time for a thorough wash and wipe session. Dip fingertips of one hand and then the other in the bowl and wipe discreetly on your napkin.
• Don’t try to clean your mouth at the dining table. Dab your lips with a napkin and save the rest for the washroom.


You are at dinner, at a business associate’s house, and have just been served a helping of delicious looking and painstakingly stuffed mushrooms. Unfortunately, you are allergic to them. Would you refuse to eat them and risk upsetting your host or swallow them bravely and pray that bagging the contract is worth the suffering? The golden rule is: as far as possible, avoid making a fuss and embarrassing anyone.

• If you suffer from food allergy or have any preference, inform your host when you accept the invitation. You don’t want to keel over at the table at the sight of a rare steak!

• At a buffet or large gathering it is easy enough to avoid taking the food you don’t eat. However, in some situations it would be very awkward if you refused to eat or drink something that was offered to you. Use your discretion. If a polite refusal is not possible and it’s not a life-threatening allergy, don’t fuss. Swallow it with a smile!

If you don’t drink alcohol, don’t hesitate to say so. It is perfectly acceptable to refuse wine or any other alcoholic beverage and equally possible to have a great evening drinking fruit juice or even water! Don’t drink because you find it hard to say no, and then end up throwing up all over the place. [algirdasmakarevicius]


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