Almost Southern: the ultimate pet peeve

If you have bad table manners, I probably can’t stand to eat with you.

Almost Southern: the ultimate pet peeve

by Meredith Mulhern, Staff Writer

Welcome back from Christmas break, ladies. I’m sure most of you spent a lot of time eating with your families and such, which leads me into this week’s topic: my number one pet peeve.

My pet peeve is not the sound of gum being chewed, it’s not hearing nails on a chalkboard, it’s not hearing the sound of someone breathe and it’s not incredibly bad drivers cutting me off.

My number one pet peeve is bad table manners.

I can thank my grandparents for this little nugget of anxiety. For as long as I can remember, proper table manners have been drilled into my brain like I was a soldier and my Granny was the general. I am a master at setting tables, an expert on proper silverware-holding techniques, a champion at dinner conversation. There is nothing that I haven’t faced in the world of etiquette.

So, imagine my horror when I started getting dinner with friends on a regular basis. I start to have small anxiety attacks whenever someone reaches across the table, lies their knives or forks on the wrong side of the plate, or, God forbid, ACROSS THEIR PLATE. LIKE THE HORIZONTAL WAY. It makes me cringe. I am so angry right now just thinking about it.

There was one time where I was at lunch with friends at a relatively nice restaurant, and they ordered these fried zucchini patty things. The waiter served the zucchini things, and to my absolute horror and disgust, my friend proceeded to pick up the zucchini patty with his fork AND NOT USE A PLATE. No plate, whatsoever. Just ate the dang thing off the fork.

I said, “What are you doing?”

He said, “Eating.”

I said, “Please, I’m begging you, use a plate before I have a stroke.”

He didn’t stop until I started screaming at him loud enough that the whole restaurant could hear us.

You may think I’m overreacting about table manners, but I’m not. They are a very large part of my dining experience every day. I probably wouldn’t be this way if I hadn’t got yelled at so much for cutting my meat the wrong way for the past eighteen years, among other things as well. Also, I still hold my knife wrong, good ol’ Granny has just given up on yelling at me.

However, the number one thing about improper etiquette that bothers me is stacking your plates at the end of a meal. For the love of St. Teresa of Avila, don’t do it. Just don’t. You may think you’re helping the waiter/waitress, but in reality you’re creating more work for them because now they have to divide the dishes up so they aren’t carrying a stack of ten plates and now the dishwashers have to scrub the bottom of the plates too. Trust me, I know this process firsthand after working at a restaurant for over a year.

So ladies, long story short, don’t stack your plates or have abysmal manners in general, unless you want to see me have an embolism.

Here are a few helpful tips in the manner department:

1. ALWAYS put your napkin in your lap.
2. Never leave your napkin on the table after a meal and NEVER PUT IT ON YOUR PLATE. Like I said, I’ve worked at a restaurant, and no one likes man-handling your napkin that you’ve shoved in your plate. It’s gross.
3. Spoon on the outer right, knife on the inner right. Salad fork (the little one) on the outer left, dinner fork on the inner left. Glass goes in the top right hand corner.
4. Pause between bites. I know it’s hard, but just do it. And by pause, I mean put your fork down on the plate.
5. If you’re setting your fork/spoon/knife down, lay it on the side of the plate. Like, the very edge on the right or left side. DO NOT LAY IT HORIZONTALLY ACROSS THE PLATE. Don’t put it back on the table, either.
6. Wait till everyone is served until you start eating. If you’re at a fancy dinner party that your grandma is hosting or something, wait till your grandma starts eating until you can eat.
7. Tear bites off of your bread, don’t butter the whole thing at once. (That was not a dirty Mean Girls reference).
8. I thought I would never have to say this, but apparently it’s needed: use a freaking plate.
10. I would tell you how to cut your meat but I still don’t even know how to do that, so you guys get a slide on that one.

Anyway, table manners are a great thing to have. If you don’t have any, I highly suggest you get some.