Etiquette: It’s important to practice good table manners at home

This is the proper way to hold your knife and fork when you are cutting something on your plate.
This is the proper way to hold your knife and fork when you are cutting something on your plate.

Q. I can’t seem to get my son to hold his knife and fork properly when he cuts his food. He drives me crazy! He makes a joke of it every time I address the subject with him and thinks I’m being too strict about table manners at home. He’s going to be 14 years old. Can you provide some help and support for my case?

A. Yes, thank you for your extremely important question. I see so many individuals — male and female, young and old, some of whom are very educated and successful — who do not hold their fork and knife properly when cutting various foods on their plates. It drives me crazy also. I cannot stress enough how important proper dining manners are to each of us! Some of my students are like your son, who say using proper dining etiquette at home, is not all that important and why all the fuss?

I strongly emphasize to them how important it is to practice proper dining etiquette at home, so that when trying to make a positive impression while dining in public, they will automatically use each utensil properly and not have to worry about such dining etiquette details such as: how to hold a fork, which fork to use for each course, where to place the dinner knife after it has been used, how to hold a stemmed glass, how to eat a roll, how to squeeze a slice of lemon so it does not squirt on a tablemate, what to do with soup that is too hot to eat, and on and on.

It is unfortunate so many individuals find themselves in the middle of a “mental etiquette freeze” when attempting to be sophisticated and make a great impression when dining with a prospective employer. Instead of being able to concentrate on accurate and intelligent conversation, they are trying to remember which fork to use. If a person practices proper dining etiquette every day for every meal, whether that is at home, on a picnic, at a school cafeteria, at a fast food restaurant, or at a fine dining restaurant, he can enjoy the meal, concentrate on being a great conversationalist and make a wonderful impression. The age at which to begin is as soon as he has the strength and dexterity to hold a fork, a knife and a spoon.

At every etiquette class I teach, I remind my students we are making impressions every moment of the day, no matter where we are or with whom. Many wonderful opportunities, jobs and careers can be lost by not displaying proper manners, especially proper dining manners.

This is how to properly hold a knife and fork when cutting a piece of meat.

For all my readers: Please feel free to contact me to schedule etiquette classes.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to