Chef Anne Quinn Corr teachers dinner etiquette classes, and she's sharing her expertise with us.
"The term etiquette actually evolved from 17th century france, when there were noblemen and peasants," says Corr. "It was a very divided society, and after the french revolution, these divisions started to blur, and people started to go into those manor homes, and be invited to these events and they didn't know what to do, so there were little tickets near each dish to tell you what to do. So that term etiquette derives from that."
She says that etiquette is really all about leveling the playing field, and making everyone at the table feel comfortable. "Etiquette is all about the other person. Your thinking, 'How can i make that other person feel comfortable?' The reason we have so many rules, is that we all come from different backgrounds, and if we have a stable, system of etiquette at the table, everyone can know those rules and feel comfortable, and they can be more mobile within that situation."
Chef Corr says you can learn a lot about what you'll be eating simply by looking at the utensils on the table.
"You can see you have a salad fork, so you're going to be having a salad before you have your main course," says Corr.
You should always start with the silverware on the outside and work your way in. The forks, bread plate and butter knife should go on the left, beverages, knives and spoons on the right.
If you dirty a piece of silverware that you may need for another course, you are to leave that on your plate, the wait staff should know to bring you a clean one with the next course.
"You don't want to put a used utensil on the sacred linen of the table, that would be a no-no," says Corr.
She says when the meal begins, you'll want to take all of your cues from the host. "When that person takes their napkin and puts it on their lap, that's your cue to do so. You don't want to be the one to initiate that. You always follow the lead."
Of course, there is an exception. Etiquette is all about making everyone at the table comfortable, so if somebody makes a mistake, Corr says it's better for everyone to make a mistake too. "It's sometimes good for everyone to do a wrong thing, rather than make that person feel like 'Oh, well, he's started eating before everybody else.' 'oh, he started eating, let's all start eating!"
If dishes are being passed, they always get passed from left to right., starting with the bread basket.
"When you're served the bread, you want to be sure to just break a piece and butter that piece up one bite at a time. You don't want to slit it in half and slather the button on like you might do at home because you want to be very dainty and delicate about it," says Corr
But before you take that first bite, you'll want to make sure everyone at your table has already been served.
If you're the host, you'll want to serve food from the left, and drinks from the right and clear them both from the right. You'll also want to be sure to clear all of the dishes at the same time. "So that somebody who is a doddler, that takes longer to eat, does not feel uncomfortable because other plates are being removed."
And don't even think about stacking plates. Chef corr says that's bad etiquette too.
Speaking of bad etiquette, what happens if you put something in your mouth that tastes horrible? Chef Corr says it's OK to spit it out, but you should do so inconspicuously into a napkin and then somehow sneak it back onto your plate. "It's kind of like a dance, not just on the plate, when you're cutting the food and eating the food, but also at the table. And everyone knows the dance steps and the dance rules, everybody feels comfortable and you're at ease."
Here's a few more tips for you.
Chef corr says when you're eating soup, you should always move your spoon from the front to the back of the bowl instead of pulling it straight towards you.
And when you're passing the salt and the pepper, they both have to go over together, almost like they're married to one another. She says it's also bad etiquette to steal a dash of salt or pepper while they're traveling around the table. You should pass them to the person who asked for them, and then request them once that person is done.