Food Wednesday: Serving and Passing at the Table

24 11 2010

Every year. Every single year. We sit down with turkeys in our eyes, hold hands around to say a grateful blessing, look up greedily, and start dishing food out onto our platters. Then, folks start passing dishes. Casseroles, green beans, stuffing, gravy. And then it hits. Someone has got rolls coming from the left and corn pudding from the right. Which to choose? Where to put the one you want next?

And then, “Ginger! Which way are we supposed to pass again?” You see, when I was little, Daddy dressed me up every Saturday and drove me to “Pretty Picture Poise” (yes, that was the real name) classes. So the entire extended family knows that Ms. Post-Police over here can tell ya. Ya get to eat a lot faster if all the food is going the same direction!

You better believe I’ve memorized this by now. And considered taking a Sharpie and drawing arrows to each of Mamaw’s beautiful holiday dishes. But instead, we all laugh as I call out, “Left to Right! Left to Right!” I have my suspicions they all know by now, but it’s become such a holiday tradition, we must feign ignorance. Now, for heaven’s sake, if someone beside you wants the dish, you don’t have to pass it all around the whole table, serve them first, but it’s a slippery slope.

It’s almost here y’all, and we know Southerners are nothing if not polite. Here are a few more tips for table manners should you or your family need a little refresher course.

  • Be sure to RSVP to any invitations, and show up promptly on time. Coordinating a dinner is a precise art, so your punctuality will be appreciated.
  • Dress appropriately. If you’re unsure of the attire, always dress a notch up. After all, your host or hostess is going to a good deal of effort to prepare a delicious meal.
  • If you’re planning a more formal, seated affair, instruct your staff to serve food from the left, remove plates from the right.
  • Since glasses are on the right side of youre table setting, pour beverages while standing to the right side of your guests.
  • Serve yourself with your right hand, and always place the dish down on the table to your left while transferring food from the dish to your plate.
  • Cut small, bite-sized pieces and, if necessary, use a small piece of bread to assist in pushing your food onto your fork.
  • It’s obvious momma always told us not to talk with our mouths full, but also try to refrain from drinking with food in your mouth.
  • When asked to pass the salt, or the pepper, they are always passed as a pair, even if the request was only for one or the other.
  • When asked to pass an item, always pass the dish and place it down on the table, rather than handing it to the guest.
  • When you’re finished, place your utensils at the “4 o’clock” position on your plate to indicate you’re through.
  • It’s always polite to offer to clean up, even if you’re denied.
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