Behaving your best: tips on table manners for the holidays

Jake Taylor demonstrates how to properly use a fork. Taylor has been instructed in proper manners from a young age.
Junior Jake Taylor demonstrates how to properly use a fork. Taylor has been instructed in proper manners from a young age.

By Sam Ault, Staff–

Every year, junior Jake Taylor looks forward to Thanksgiving so he can show off his refined table manners to his entire family.

“I make a point to have good manners,” Taylor said.

Senior Daniel Alvarez is like-minded.

“Thanksgiving is a chance to show you are a gentleman. I value the chance to show my family I can handle myself at the table,” Alvarez said.

However, not all students are as sharp at the table. Junior Tommy Aquino often has to be reminded by his parents to have proper posture, or take his elbows off the table.

“I try to have good manners, but it’s so hard to remember all the do’s and don’ts,” Aquino said.

Sophomore Anthony Cannata has had his share of table struggles, remembering one Thanksgiving in particular where his lackluster manners made it an awkward meal.

“I used to be a slob at the table. I couldn’t eat with my mouth closed if my life depended on it. My parents would always tell me I was noisy and that food would fall out of my mouth.” Cannata said.

Thanksgiving for most families is a time to get together with relatives and friends to be thankful over a feast of various foods. It is especially important at food-centered holidays to have respectable manners because it the meal is ruined, the holiday can be ruined too.

“You don’t want to ruin Thanksgiving by eating all wrong,” Cannata said.

Many people struggle with table manners, but it is of utmost importance to be able to behave yourself at the table.

“No one wants to eat with a slob,” etiquette advocate and expert Jodi R. R. Smith said on her blog. “[Always] take small bites, chew with your mouth closed, swallow before speaking, sit up straight and elbows off the table.”

Michigan State educator and table etiquette writer Janice Zerbe agrees with Smith and believes that those same table manners should be used on a daily basis, no matter the occasion.

“There are things that are okay to do and certain things that just shouldn’t happen [at the table],” Alvarez said

One of these rules, Alvarez said, is to never throw food.

“Throwing food is never okay.” Alvarez said.

Mistakes at the table are common and happen to everyone. Taylor remembers a time when a cousin dropped food in his lap. The piece of gravy covered turkey made a mess of his trousers.

“You don’t want to ruin your pants all because you forgot to put your napkin on your lap,” Taylor said.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts to remember at Thanksgiving dinner this year, courtesy of Zerbe.

Do: sit up straight with your elbows off the table, pass dishes of food to the right, cut food into small bites and chew quietly with your mouth closed. Most important, always make sure to thank the cook for an excellent meal.

Don’t: begin eating until everyone is seated and served, each across the table, instead, ask for items to be passed to you. And always remember to not talk with food in your mouth.

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