Which Spoon is Which?

Din­ner Party Eti­quette

Indwe - - Contents - Text: Trevor Boyd, Ex­ec­u­tive Chef at Michelangelo Ho­tel, Sand­ton Images © Supplied & iStockphoto.com

There is noth­ing more en­joy­able than be­ing in­vited for a lovely meal that you don’t have to cook your­self. The art of din­ner party fine-din­ing is mak­ing a big come­back – but it has left a few peo­ple a lit­tle lost as to what the cor­rect eti­quette is.

My first rec­om­men­da­tion is that you ac­cept the in­vi­ta­tion – en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. Some­one val­ues you enough to want to share not only con­ver­sa­tion, but food as well. As hu­man be­ings we’ve long gath­ered around food to bond and en­joy friend­ship.

The ques­tion many peo­ple ask is what ex­actly is the best way to be­have at a din­ner party? Es­pe­cially a fancy one. It’s been nearly a cen­tury since Emily Post pub­lished her book, Eti­quette in So­ci­ety, in Busi­ness, in Pol­i­tics, and at Home, con­sid­ered to be the eti­quette bible of her day.

A lot has changed since 1922, and Ms Post never had to con­sider the ques­tion of whether or not the din­ner party pictures should be In­sta­grammed or not. (It can be – just make sure the host is okay with it and you don’t spend the en­tire night on your phone in­stead of in­ter­act­ing with oth­ers.) We may have seen a lot of changes in the 21st cen­tury, but when it comes to din­ner par­ties, there are still a few stead­fast rules you can fol­low to­day.

1. Be on time: Be­ing fash­ion­ably late

is no longer fash­ion­able. Be­ing on

time shows that you re­spect your hosts and value their time and their in­vi­ta­tion. On the flip­side, though, it’s con­sid­ered rude to turn up early and if you do, don’t even think of ring­ing the door­bell. The hard and fast rule is on time or slightly late. If you re­alise you may not make it in time, it’s cour­te­ous to let your hosts know that you are run­ning be­hind sched­ule.

2. Bring a gift: It’s cus­tom­ary – and con­sid­ered good manners – to bring a small gift for your host as a thank you. This could be a bunch of flow­ers, a bot­tle of wine or a box of choco­lates. A small gift shows your ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the ef­fort the hosts have made.

3. Plus one: If you’ve been in­vited, but would like to bring an­other guest along, make sure you clear it with your hosts first. They need to know so that they are able to make the nec­es­sary cater­ing and seating ar­range­ments. It is never a good idea to sim­ply turn up with some­one ex­tra with­out no­ti­fy­ing the hosts first.

4. Add value: You’ve been in­vited for a rea­son, so add some value to the din­ner party. En­gage with other guests, take part in con­ver­sa­tion, and treat other guests and the hosts with re­spect.

5. Don’t com­plain about the food: This may be dif­fi­cult to do, es­pe­cially if the food doesn’t live up to ex­pec­ta­tions. How­ever, it is not good eti­quette to com­plain – rather ap­pre­ci­ate the ef­fort some­one has made for you. 6. Grat­i­tude: Of course, you should thank your hosts when you leave, but also be sure to thank the host for the din­ner the next day. Send a note, or flow­ers – es­pe­cially if you for­got to bring a small gift – ex­press­ing your grat­i­tude for the meal and the trou­ble it took to pre­pare it. Of course, there are a few ex­tra nu­ances to all this. The din­ner doesn’t ac­tu­ally of­fi­cially be­gin un­til the host un­folds their nap­kin, and eat­ing only be­gins when the host takes their first bite. And when it comes to nap­kins, it’s best if it’s un­folded while on your lap and not flapped around flam­boy­antly in an ef­fort to im­per­son­ate Pavarotti.

While the dif­fer­ence be­tween wine glasses is quite ev­i­dent, it can get a lit­tle con­fus­ing when it comes to which cut­lery to use – es­pe­cially if you find your­self faced with a rather wide se­lec­tion. The rule of thumb here is to work from the out­side in, us­ing the out­er­most uten­sils for the first course, and so on.

It is cus­tom­ary to linger for at least an hour af­ter din­ner and con­sid­ered rude if you leave straight af­ter you’ve eaten. That said, you don’t want to over­stay your wel­come ei­ther, so be aware of cues that it’s time to leave. Hosts will gen­er­ally give sub­tle signs that it’s time for the evening to wind down. If they of­fer one last drink or close the bar (if they have one), and if they start cleaning up, you know for sure that they are ready to call an end to the night.

Eti­quette, ul­ti­mately, is com­mon sense and kind­ness com­bined. Your hosts have gone out of their way to cre­ate a spe­cial evening where both wine and con­ver­sa­tion flow. Your job, as a guest, is to be­have with re­spect and cour­tesy. And en­joy the food, of course.

Legacy Ho­tels and Re­sorts is a lead­ing hos­pi­tal­ity com­pany with prop­er­ties through­out the African con­ti­nent. Its port­fo­lio in­cludes 31 prop­er­ties in six coun­tries. To­day the com­pany prides it­self in of­fer­ing guests a col­lec­tion of Africa’s most unique...

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