A Lady at the Table: A Concise, Contemporary Guide to Table Manners

A Lady at the Table: A Concise, Contemporary Guide to Table Manners

NOOK Book(eBook)


Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now


Gain the knowledge you need to maneuver any dining situation—from a casual meal of fried chicken to a seven-course dinner at the finest restaurant in the world.

A Lady at the Table will give any woman the knowledge she needs to maneuver any dining situation - from a casual meal of fried chicken at her mom's house to a seven-course dinner at the finest restaurant in the world. It includes. . .

  • How to set a table
  • How to pronounce more than 100 different food names
  • How to use obscure eating utensils
  • How to perform the Heimlich maneuver
  • How to eat more than 25 foods that are challenging to eat gracefully such as lobster, snails, fried chicken, and pasta.

In a society where more and more people eat with plastic forks and spoons at fast food restaurants, it is still important that a lady know proper dining etiquette. Showing she has little working knowledge of table manners at a lunch meeting or on a job interview over dinner may have an important impact on a woman's life.

Like all the books in the GentleManners series, A Lady at the Table is easy to use, non-threatening, and an entertaining read. In addition to containing similar information as A Gentleman at the Table, A Lady at the Table deals with topics that apply uniquely to women such as how to respond when men rise as you leave or approach the table, how to react when a chair is pulled out for you and when it isn't, what to do when a man orders for you, and how to pay the check graciously when you are hosting a man.

Related collections and offers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781418530402
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 10/18/2004
Series: The GentleManners Series
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 393,780
File size: 591 KB

About the Author

John Bridges, author of How to Be a Gentleman, is also the coauthor, with Bryan Curtis, of seven other volumes in the best-selling GentleManners series. He is a frequent guest on television and radio news programs, always championing gentlemanly behavior in modern society. Bridges has appeared on the Today Show, the Discovery Channel, and CBS Sunday Morning, and has been profiled in People magazine and the New York Times.

Bryan Curtis is an author and the president of Dance Floor Books. He is the author/coauthor and editor of more than 25 books, including My SouthMy Southern FoodClassic Wisdom for the Good LifeClassic Wisdom for the Professional Life, and the popular GentleManners series.


Read an Excerpt


A Concise, Contemporary Guide to Table Manners
By Sheryl Shade John Bridges Bryan Curtis

Rutledge Hill Press

Copyright © 2007 Sheryl Shade with John Bridges and Bryan Curtis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-40160-177-5

Chapter One

From Course to Course

Knives and Forks, and How to Use Them

When she sits down at the table, a lady surveys the equipment set before her, just as a doctor makes sure she is equipped with all the instruments to be used in surgery. Of course, using the wrong fork for the salad or reaching for the incorrect water glass is not as disastrous as selecting the wrong scalpel. But a lady realizes that not knowing her way around a dinner table can throw off the dynamics of a meal, leaving her on pins and needles and in constant fear of embarrassing herself. The good news is that with a little practice, a lady can maneuver her way around any table-be it at a Sunday luncheon at her grandmother's or a formal dinner at the White House.

If a lady discovers that her napkin has slipped from her lap to the floor, she retrieves it, if she can do so gracefully.

* * *

If the retrieval of her napkin threatens to disrupt the dinner table, a lady simply turns to her host or hostess and says, "I'm afraid I've dropped my napkin. May I have another?"

* * *

If a lady is served meat in a private home and is not offered a steak knife, she does not ask for one, lest she embarrass her host or hostess (who may not own steak knives or who may assume she has found the entrée too tough to cut with a dinner knife).

* * *

Once a lady has finished stirring her cup of coffee, her cup of tea, or her glass of iced tea, she places her spoon on her saucer. A lady never places a damp or soiled utensil directly on the table or the tablecloth.

* * *

If a server offers freshly ground pepper for a lady's soup, salad, or entrée, the lady may accept the offer or decline it, no matter what her dinner companions choose to do.

* * *

A lady does not chop up her salad with her knife and fork before proceeding to eat it. If the salad is not served in easily eaten pieces, she cuts it into one bite-sized piece at a time, as she eats it.

* * *

At some elegant dinner parties, a scoop of sorbet (usually citrus flavored) will be served immediately after the first course or after the entrée. A lady does not assume that her dessert has already arrived. She recognizes this touch of cold tartness as a "palate cleanser," intended to give her taste buds a rest eitherbefore or after a heavy entrée.

* * *

Unless she is confident in her knowledge of china, porcelain, and other ceramics, a lady refers to the plates set in front of her as "dishes." She knows it is always wiser to err on the side of simplicity than on pretentiousness.

* * *

Two Forks in the Road

When a lady sits down to a meal-breakfast, luncheon, or dinner-she usually finds that the necessary flatware has been provided. (A truly thoughtful host or hostess never puts out more than two forks or knives at the beginning of a dinner, as a greater number of utensils might be intimidating and confusing, and unnecessarily clutter the table.)

A lady will find the knives and spoons arranged on the right side of her plate and the forks on the left side. On all occasions, a lady assumes that she begins by using the utensils farthest from her plate. This means that when she is presented with the first course, she uses the fork and knife farthest from her plate. Once that course has been completed, she leaves that course's utensils (fork, spoon, or knife and fork) on her plate. As each new course arrives, she simply uses the utensils that are closer and closer to her plate.

Only one general exception to this rule exists. When a lady sits down at the table, she may find a small fork placed on the right side of her plate, outside the knives and spoons. This tiny fork is called a shrimp fork or a cocktail fork, and is intended for use with a first course or an appetizer consisting of shrimp or other shellfish. Shrimp forks are seldom encountered these days. They remain, however, the only forks ever placed on the right side of the plate.

For the most part, when a lady sits down at a formal dinner, she may look at the table and clearly anticipate what lies ahead. If she sees two forks on the left side of her plate, she assumes that she will be offered at least two courses during her dinner. Any time her plate is changed or a new course is presented, a lady assumes that she is to move along to another fork, knife, or spoon.

Should a lady discover that she has run out of knives or forks before the last course has been served, she feels perfectly comfortable in quietly telling the server, "I could use another knife [or another fork]." She does not apologize.

If the utensils have been provided out of order and a lady uses them in the order in which they have been provided, the server is at fault, not the lady. A lady never corrects her host or hostess, nor does she correct a server employed by another person. Instead, especially at a private home, she follows the lead of her host or hostess. Her role in the dinner, after all, is to be a gracious participant. She refrains from any behavior or comment that might make her dinner companions uncomfortable.

When Salad Is Served as a First Course

A. Dinner Plate B. Salad Plate C. Salad Fork D. Dinner Fork E. Dinner Knife F. Teaspoon G. Dessert Spoon H. Water Glass I. Wine Goblet J. Napkin

When Salad Is Served Along with the Entrée

A. Dinner Plate B. Salad Plate C. Salad Fork D. Dinner Fork E. Dinner Knife F. Teaspoon G. Dessert Spoon H. Water Glass I. Wine Goblet J. Napkin

The Napkin

When a lady takes her seat at a formal dinner, or at a table in a restaurant, however informal, she immediately unfolds her napkin (even if it is made of paper), and places it in her lap. In this one case, she does not wait for her host or hostess to lead the way. If a lady must use her napkin during the dinner to blot her lips or wipe her cheek, she does so, always returning the napkin to her lap.

If a lady must leave the table for any reason during a dinner, she simply leaves her unfolded napkin on the seat of her chair. (A lady never leaves a used napkin on the dinner table until the final course has been served and she has finished her meal.) In some upscale restaurants, after she has correctly left her napkin on her chair, she will return to the table only to find that a server has refolded her soiled napkin and returned it to the table.

In such cases, no matter how fine the restaurant, the server-or the policy of the restaurant-is wrong. A lady never puts her used napkin on the table until she has finished her meal. She waits, in fact, until the dinner party is obviously coming to a close, and then places her unfolded napkin on the table as a declaration that she understands that the dessert has been served, no more coffee will be offered, and no more wine will be poured.

If a lady is the hostess of a dinner party, she places her used napkin on the table to signal the official end of the party. Guests may linger at the table as long as they like, but they may not expect any further food or drink to be served. The hostess, however, may suggest, "Why don't we move along to the living room [or to the den] for coffee [or an after-dinner drink]?" In such cases, the guests simply leave their napkins on the table and proceed to the other room.

A lady does not fret if she soils her napkin over the course of a dinner party. She understands that napkins were created to be used-not to be kept clean.

The Fork and Knife

At any breakfast, luncheon, or dinner a lady will be presented with two primary utensils: a fork and a knife. Depending upon the formality of the occasion and the number of courses being served, she may be offered more than one fork and more than one knife. She may also be presented with one or more spoons. But the business of dealing with the basic utensils does not vary-from course to course, from meal to meal, or from table to table.

A lady will always find her knife at the right side of her plate. If the knife is placed correctly, its blade will be facing toward the plate-a tradition based upon the assumption, for good or ill, that most ladies are right-handed. If a right-handed lady picks up her knife, with the blade turned toward the plate, she may plunge right into her dinner. A left-handed lady will no doubt have developed her own means of coping with the challenges of almost any occasion, culinary and otherwise. In no case does a lady make a scene by examining the cleanliness of her utensils. If she discovers that one of her utensils is less than spotless, she simply asks for a replacement. She never attempts to polish it with her dinner napkin.

Dinner Knife

The dinner knife is the standard knife with which a lady will be greeted when she sits down at any table. Occasionally, she may also be faced with a fish knife (see facing page), which suggests that she will be served fish as a first course. If two dinner knives are set before her, and if a first course is served, a lady uses the first knife, farthest to her right, for her first course. If a lady has been served a course and she has run out of knives, she simply says to the server, "May I have another knife, please?"

Fish Knife

A lady recognizes a fish knife because of its wide, scallop-shaped blade, which is useful for cutting tender, flaky fish. If a lady sees a fish knife set beside her plate, she assumes she will be served fish as an appetizer or a main course.

Steak Knife

Steak knives are generally available in restaurants, and there a lady may ask for one. In a private home, however, a lady never asks for a steak knife. She fears that her host or hostess may not have steak knives readily at hand, and she also does not wish to offend her host or hostess by implying that the chop set before her is too tough to cut with a dinner knife.

Butter Knife

A lady finds her butter knife, also known as a "butter spreader," set on her butter plate, just above her forks, at the upper left-hand side of her plate. She uses this knife to spread butter or jam or jelly on her bread. It has no other function.

Dinner Fork

The dinner fork is the standard fork with which a lady will be presented when she sits down to dinner at any restaurant or any private dinner. If she is offered more than one dinner fork, she uses each of them as each new course is presented. However, if she sees a salad fork or a shrimp fork (see pages 27 and 28), she uses them in the manner described.

Salad Fork

Somewhat shorter than a dinner fork, the salad fork has wider tines, which make it easier for the fork to pick up slightly greasy, perfectly dressed greens. Although salads are sometimes served as a first course, a lady may also find them served after the entrée. A lady leaves the salad fork alone until the salad is served.

Shrimp Fork

Also known as a "seafood fork" or a "cocktail fork," a shrimp fork is only provided when a lady is served an appetizer of cold fish, shellfish, or mollusks. Unlike any other fork, the shrimp fork is set down at the right of the lady's plate.

Soup Spoon

A lady will find the all-purpose soup spoon at the right side of her plate. It informs her that she will be having soup as one of her courses.

This spoon may also be called a "dessert spoon." If it is intended to be used for dessert, the spoon sits above the lady's plate. She will recognize it because it will sit horizontally above her plate.


If a lady sits down and finds a teaspoon set before her, close to her dinner plate, she does nothing with it, unless she is offered tea or coffee later in the evening. If she is offered tea or coffee, she uses the teaspoon to stir it gently. (She does not use her spoon to dip from the sugar bowl; she uses, instead, the spoon provided with the sugar.) In most cases, however, her coffee will be accompanied by its own small spoon, as will her tea.

Iced Tea Spoon

A lady uses the long-handled iced tea spoon to stir sugar and other sweeteners, lemon, and lime into iced tea, iced coffee, and other iced drinks. This spoon comes in handy because such drinks are usually served in tall glasses.

The Multitasking Lady

A lady may use her fork and knife in either the American or the Continental style. In the strictly American style (see page 34), she uses her knife and fork to slice a bite of meat or vegetables, then places her knife on her plate and switches her fork to her right hand. In this style, a lady uses only her right hand to feed herself, making sure to keep the tines of her fork turned upward. (The process, although illogical because of the utensil switching involved, is not as elaborate as it sounds, and is the process most Americans have been taught as children to use.)

The Continental style (see page 35) is much more convenient-and is the style many ladies find themselves using, no matter how they have been trained by their mothers. In the Continental style, a lady uses her fork with her left hand at all times, just as she found it on the left side of her plate. After using her knife and fork to slice a bit of meat or vegetables, she places her knife on her plate. She transfers her food from plate to mouth using her left hand, with the tines of her fork turned downward.

A lady may use either the American or Continental style, anytime she wishes. She need not conform to the behavior of anyone else at the table-not even her host or hostess-in regard to this matter.

The Plates When a lady sits down at a well-planned dinner, she will find that, along with the knives, forks, and spoons, a dinner-sized plate has been set at her place. This is her service plate. It is preset on the table so that the lady and the other dinner guests never sit down to a bare table, and it remains on the table until the entrée has been finished. It may, in fact, turn out to be the plate on which her entrée is served. In some cases, a lady will find that her dinner plate has been preset on an even larger plate, made of china, pottery, or polished metal. This large, almost shield-sized plate, is known as a "charger." Its function is largely decorative, but it also helps prevent dribbles of food from splashing onto the tablecloth.

The lady may discover that her napkin has already been placed directly on her service plate-in which case she removes it immediately and places it directly in her lap. Or she may find that the salad course or appetizer has already been set out, on its own plate, atop the service plate.

At an intimate dinner party (a table of eight or fewer people), once all the guests are seated she waits until her hostess begins to eat, before beginning her own meal. If she is the only lady at the table, however, it is her responsibility to lift the first fork or spoon, so that the gentlemen at her table can feel free to follow suit.

At a large party or banquet, where more than eight people are involved, she may feel free to begin eating as soon as the guests on either side of her have been served. She knows that if she waits until a dozen people-much less two hundred people-have been served, her soup will grow cold or her salad will grow limp.


Excerpted from A LADY AT THE TABLE by Sheryl Shade John Bridges Bryan Curtis Copyright © 2007 by Sheryl Shade with John Bridges and Bryan Curtis . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews