Monday, March 02, 2009

Eating out

Have you ever wondered how it would feel to be the guest of Jesus Christ? Do you wonder what it would be like to sit at the same table with Jesus and listen to His teachings? It won’t be long before you will realize that dream. He has arranged the marriage supper of the Lamb for us when we get to Heaven (Revelation 19:9). Accept every dinner invitation you are able to attend. Practice using your best manners at every meal. Just think of all the experience you are receiving in preparation for the ultimate dinner invitation of your life.

Now is a good time to brush up on some of those long-forgotten table manners. Table manners should be observed whether you have been invited to dine at a fine restaurant, go on a picnic, or be a guest in someone’s home. So here we go for a few tips to brush you up!

Nowadays, you have a wide range of dining options, from the exotic restaurant overlooking a lake to the simple park vendor or the mall kiosk. With the popularity of casual dining on the rise, formal manners are rapidly being forgotten, but the chivalry of courting a young woman has not lost its magic. The formal date may have changed, but the “I want to impress you” attitude has not.

I am frequently amazed at young people I see hanging around the college lunchroom. The guys are dressed in faded old jeans and worn-out tee shirts. The girls often wear straight skirts with shirts so over-sized they hang almost to their knees. When I become disillusioned and think the world is going to pot, a Valentine or Christmas Banquet rolls around. Some of these same young men are now dressed in suits, ties, and newly shined shoes. They are escorting the same young ladies, now beautiful, their hair meticulously fashioned in the latest style carrying a fresh bouquet of flowers. My faith in youth is renewed as I observe their careful actions. Many times I am surprisingly rewarded with the observance of meticulous manners and proper etiquette. Hooray! You haven’t lost it! That just reinforces my theory that when people want to be on their best behavior, they thrive on manners.

Most of the time you may head to the nearest fast-food restaurant after church. In a group, a person is not considered anyone else’s date unless it is made clear before ordering. Fast-food restaurants are considered casual dining. Manners are always in order, but the etiquette in this atmosphere is much more relaxed and free. Manners are not meant to make mealtime a difficult regime with the sole purpose of making life miserable. Rather, manners are suggestions to remind us to be polite and respectful to each other.

Formal Dining

It is a miserable feeling to find yourself at a formal dinner or banquet, wishing you knew what to do next. After someone prays for the food, wait for the host or hostess to unfold his or her napkin. Then remove your napkin from the table, gently shaking it unfolded. Place the napkin on your lap, completely unfolded if it is a small one or folded in half if it is larger. Never tuck it in your neck collar. This looks like you are about to tackle the meal rather than simply enjoy it. If the host or hostess forgets about his or her napkin, feel free to go ahead. Perhaps others will follow suit.

Usually, the napkin is unfolded as soon as you are seated, unless you are at a banquet or meeting where the meal is served after the preliminaries. In this case follow the head table, or keep an eye on the servers. When the servers are ready to bring the first course to the tables, place the napkin in your lap at that time.

At a restaurant, if you forget to unfold your napkin, often the waiter or waitress will offer to do it for you. This is common, just sit politely and let them pamper you. Remove your hands from your lap and remember to reward the waiter with a gracious “thank you” and smile. The napkin should remain on your lap throughout the entire meal. If you need to leave the table during the meal, excuse yourself, fold the napkin, and place it either on your chair or beside your plate. Once the meal is over, you should place the unfolded napkin to the right of your dinner plate. An unfolded napkin at the side of your plate signals the hostess or waiter that you have finished your meal.

The person who asks you out to dinner will usually suggest that your order be taken first. Sometimes, however, the server will decide how the ordering will proceed, often taking women's orders before that of the men. When couples dine, some women enjoy having the man place their order with the server. After making your choices, your host will recite your wishes to the server as a gentleman’s gesture. I enjoy this pampering. I feel loved and taken care of when my husband orders for me.

As the guest, you should not order one of the most expensive items on the menu unless your host or hostess makes a suggestion, indicating that it is all right. You may put them at a disadvantage if you order an expensive entrée and an appetizer. He or she may not have the money to cover the expenses. If the host says something like, "I think you would enjoy the filet mignon. It is the specialty here,” or “I'm going to have cheesecake. Would you like dessert too?" It is then all right to order that item. Sensitivity to the financial needs of your host is a gracious gesture that will be well rewarded with extended friendships. If you have the selfish opinion that this is just a free meal with a “get what you can while you can,” attitude, take care lest you are saddled with guests of the same mind-set.

You may become overwhelmed at a formal dinner at the scores of implements and utensils on the table. Rather than succumb to an anxiety attack, take a deep breath and remember this simple rule. Work from the outside in. If the table is set correctly you can’t go wrong looking at the utensil that is farthest from the plate and starting there. Your napkin is on your left. Your silverware should be arranged in order the courses are served. On your left, look for at least two forks, a smaller salad fork and a meat fork. If the salad is served, before the meat, the smaller fork is placed on the outside. If the meat is served first, then the larger fork will be on the outside. Many fine-dining restaurants serve salad as a separate entrée, making it more common to see the salad fork on the outside. If they are both the same size, you won’t have to worry. Just use the outer fork with the first thing served.

On your far right there will either be a small fork (which indicates an appetizer of shrimp or oysters will be served) and/or a soupspoon farthest from the plate. Sometimes the soupspoon is used for a fruit cup. Your teaspoon is to the right of your knife. If steak is served, a steak knife will be placed to the right of the dinner knife which is closest to the plate. IA fork and/or spoon above your plate, are the dessert utensils. A goblet of water is toward the upper right of your setting. If the table is set with a coffee cup and saucer, it is placed on your right, above the spoons. It should have a spoon resting on the saucer. If anything is missing, you may ask a server or hostess politely for the utensil you need.

Casual Dining

Casual dining has become more and more popular. This is probably because people are eating out more and making choices that are easier on their pocket books. Also, we live in such a fast-paced society, many just eat and run, finding fast-food more convenient. What do you do when you are headed down to the nearest fast-food restaurant? Well, I wouldn’t suggest forsaking all manners just because you have to stand in line to get your food and fill your own paper cup with soda.

Casual dining does not require any special attire. In most eating establishments, men must wear shirts and everyone are required to wear shoes. This doesn’t seem to be a problem with Christians, since our men usually wear shirts in public anyway. Shoes or sandals should be worn anytime you go out in public (unless you are wading in the ocean or lake).

Being courteous to others while waiting line probably comes naturally. If you are the guest of someone else, as you approach the cashier, stand aside a little to make sure they intend to pay for your meal. There is nothing more embarrassing than someone who presumes to be on your bill, when you don’t have the money to cover the expenses. Usually your host or hostess will encourage you to order first, or they may go ahead and then say, “Please order what you like,” or “Go ahead, I’m treating today.” It is good to say, “Thank you,” and then order. When the meal is finished, you can thank them again.

Many fast-food restaurants allow you to wait on yourself for the condiments. Unless the person you are with offers to get your condiments, you will be expected to wait on yourself.
Let your host pick a place to sit, or ask if he or she has a preference. You can decide where to sit when you are the one who pays. Being courteous and mindful of other’s needs makes you a popular guest no matter what type of dining you are engaged in.

Casual dining in someone’s home is usually very relaxed. Often the food is served on paper plates with a serve-yourself type meal. As the guest in this situation, you may offer to help with any part of the meal the hostess agrees to. This type of dining is usually done when several friends get together and go to a particular home after church. Casual dining is excellent for a holiday barbecue, or an informal get-together to introduce and meet new friends. Whatever the reason, it can be a wonderful time of fun, relaxation, and fellowship.