Part V: Table Manners

We shall discuss today table manners – how to eat and how to behave at the table. Now, a good many of you may think that you know how to eat. Yes, I do not think there are any here that would starve for lack of ability to get the food into the mouth. But since we are civilized beings and are expected to mingle in society more or less, and since you all that are present here today enjoy school advantages, people would expect not only that you have book learning, but that you have cultivated good manners as well.

  1. Don’t tuck your napkin under your chin or spread it upon your breast. Bibs and tuckers are for the nursery. Don’t spread the napkin over your lap; let it fall over your thigh.
  2. Don’t wipe your face or the nose with a napkin.
  3. Don’t serve gentlemen at your table before all the ladies are served, including those who are members of your own household.
  4. Don’t eat soup from the end of the spoon, but from the side. Don’t gurgle, or draw in your breath or make other noises when eating soup. Don’t ask for a second service of soup.
  5. Don’t bite off your bread; break it off. Don’t break your bread into your soup.
  6. Don’t eat with your knife. Never put your knife into your mouth. Don’t load up the fork with food with your knife, and then cart it to your mouth. Take up on the fork what it can carry, and no more.
  7. Don’t eat fast or gorge. Take always plenty of time. Haste is vulgar and not conducive to health. Chew well. Don’t chew audibly.
  8. Don’t reject bits of bone, or other substances, by spitting them back into the plate. Quietly eject them upon your fork, holding it to your lips, and then place them on your plate. Fruit-stones may be removed by the fingers. You may take chicken bones with the fingers.
  9. Don’t talk when your mouth is full…never, in fact, have your mouth full. It is more healthful and in better taste to eat by small morsels.
  10. Don’t drop your knife or fork; but if you do, don’t be disconcerted. Quietly ask the servant for another, and give the incident no further heed. Don’t be disquieted at accidents or blunders of any kind, but let all mishaps pass off without comment and with philosophical indifference.
  11. Don’t throw yourself loungingly back in your chair. The Romans lounged at table, but modern civilization does not permit it. Come and go quietly from the table.
  12. Don’t eat onions or garlic, unless you are dining alone, and intend to remain alone some hours thereafter. It is not desirable to carry with us unpleasant evidence of what we have been eating or drinking.
  13. Don’t smear a slice of bread with butter; break it into small pieces, then butter.
  14. Don’t read newspapers or books or letters at the table, if others are seated with you.
  15. Don’t play tricks with food.
  16. Don’t spit or blow your nose at table.

Ole Voices No. 2: Etiquette 101


St. Olaf College: A Selected Chronology

Section I: Etiquette 101
In General
In the Drawing Room
In Public
Dress and Personal Habits
Table Manners
Rules for Boys
Rules for Girls

Section II: Transgressions
Keeping the Rules