Q. I like fresh mushrooms, but not cooked. I ordered one of a couple of special entrees at dinner the other night with some friends and it came smothered in a sauce full of mushrooms. Without thinking, I said something out loud about all the mushrooms. My girlfriend next to me ordered the same thing and appeared to be delighted and said if I didn’t want them, she would take them. Pandora’s box immediately opened with all kinds of improper dining manners suggestions from her and everyone else at the table which I won’t go into. I would like to know, though, what could I or should I have done?
A. Obviously, first of all, refraining from verbally expressing your dismay would have been best because it drew not only unwanted attention but also unwanted solution recommendations from your table mates. No matter what process you would have chosen, removing the mushrooms and transferring them to your girlfriend would have not only been improper but also very messy and embarrassing for everyone.
What not to do:
▪ I have seen diners awkwardly scraping mushrooms onto their already-used bread and butter plate, and then passing it to another diner. That diner then scrapes them onto their dinner plate and returns the plate.
▪ I have seen the mushrooms eaten directly from the neighbor’s bread and butter plate, followed by a “swap” of bread and butter plates.
▪ I have also seen a diner scrape the mushrooms directly onto someone else’s plate.
▪ I have seen lots of unsightly stains on tablecloths from the inevitable sauce drips, as well as stained napkins when used to wipe off drips.
▪ I have seen diners scrape off all the mushrooms onto the edge of their dinner plate and watched the sauce drip from the edge of their plate.
▪ I have seen diners call for the waiter or ask the waiter to take the plate back to the chef and have the mushrooms removed which is totally inappropriate for several reasons: 1) it draws more unwanted, embarrassing attention to the diner; 2) it causes the other diners at the table to feel uncomfortable and embarrassed; 3) it probably upsets the chef; 4) it causes the other diners to wait to begin eating until the waiter returns the plate 5) everyone’s food will probably be cold
What to do:
▪ Drop the subject of the mushrooms and begin eating.
▪ While holding the dinner fork in the left hand and the dinner knife in the right hand, carefully and slowly slide a mushroom off a bite-sized piece of the entree with the knife. Then use the fork and knife to cut the bite-sized piece; place the used knife on the top edge of the plate, with the blade facing the diner. Switch the fork to the right hand and bring the bite-sized piece of entree to the mouth. Repeat the process, allowing the mushrooms to remain scattered on the plate. Note: While the general rule for eating an entree allows the diner to cut three bite-sized pieces at one time, eat them one at a time and then cut three more, cutting only one bite sized piece at a time would be the best solution in this scenario to avoid an unsightly, tedious process of scraping, stacking or piling the unwanted mushrooms. It will also avoid more unwanted attention.
▪ Be very attentive to the waiter next time when descriptions of entrees are provided.
Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Dianne Isbell at Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to email@example.com.