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Mariettaquette: Dining Tips for Success!

Last week my office hosted a dining etiquette seminar for our students. Our guest speaker for the evening, Robert Shutt from R.A Solutions, is dynamic and knowledgeable and the students always benefit from the presentation. As I sat through this year's session, like most of the students at my table, I giggled nervously as I sipped my soup and fumbled with the napkin on my lap. A few students at the table told me that their parents enforced dining decorum each evening at the family dinner table and it made me think about meals in my home.

While I've participated in similar dining events for nearly a decade and have put the rules into practice at several work-related meals, I realized that I completely check professional dining etiquette at the door step of our house. As a matter of fact, not only do we not practice anything remotely like what Robert recommends, we have established our very own rules at the Marietta table- it's what I like to call Mariettaquette. So that you really understand, let me share with you some comparisons between the two styles.

Who should sit first?
Professional Dining Etiquette: You should wait for your interviewer/host to ask you to sit down before taking your seat. If he/she doesn't ask you to sit, wait for him/her to be seated, then sit.
Mariettaquette: Kids and Dad sit first. Mom sits last. As soon as Mom sits, kids ask her for more to drink RIGHT NOW.

Which glass is mine?
PDE: Your drink is on the right (hold up your lright hand and place your pointer finger and thumb together. It forms a "d" for drink.)
Mariettaquette: Take Mommy's drink from her when she gets up to get you more juice. When you get your cup back, drop it on the floor 3-6 times. Laugh.

What do I do with my napkin?
PDE: As soon as everyone is seated, unfold your napkin and place it across your lap, folded, with the fold toward you. Do this discreetly without flourish. If you need to leave the table, place your napkin on your chair, folded loosely (NEVER wadded).
Mariettaquette: Grab a stack of 20 or so paper napkins from the snowman tin (used year round)and spread them all over the table and floor.

How do you use the napkin to wipe your mouth?
PDE: It is considered poor etiquette NOT to use your napkin. The purpose of the napkins is to keep food off your face. Use it frequently to discreetly dab or wipe (no ear to ear swiping, please) your mouth. Replace the napkin on your lap loosely folded, not wadded and not stuffed between your legs.
Mariettaquette: Mom will lick her fingers and then repeatedly press them against your cheek until the food/smear is all gone.

What do you do if your hostess uses the wrong utensil?
PDE: You should eat correctly, but never point out errors of others. If you don't know how to eat a certain food, follow the lead of your host.
Mariettaquette: When in Rome, do as the Romans! Or, when in Fly Creek, do as the Mariettas: eat with your hands!

What is an appropriate way to explain a food allergy?
PDE: Be polite and appreciative. Quietly speak to the server in advance about your allergy or just don't eat that food on your plate. Remember, it's not about the food. It's about the people and the conversation.
Mariettaquette: Cough, cry and projectile vomit.

Is it ok to spread butter on my bread at one time?
PDE: No. It is appropriate to break off a bite-sized piece of your roll, butter it and eat it, one bite at a time. If the piece you break off is slightly too big to make one bite, it's fine to eat it in two bites, and much better than stuffing a too-large bite into your mouth.
Mariettaquette: When Mommy is not looking, stick your hands in the butter and then smoosh it onto your roll. Lick fingers and repeat.

Is it rude to season your food before eating it?
PDE: Yes. This is considered an insult to the chef. You should not salt and pepper your food before tasting it. Try a bite first, then season if necessary. Don't over season; this can appear childish.
Mariettaquette: Eat everything by dipping it in ketchup.

Is it rude to order dessert?
PDE: If your host orders dessert and it allows you more time to continue your conversation, go ahead. Don't go out of your way to order it if your host does not order.
Mariettaquette: Start asking about what's for dessert before the table is set.

Can I ask for a doggy bag?
PDE: No. Remember, it's not about the food, it's about the conversation. If you are still hungry, get something else to eat after you have departed from the event.
Mariettaquette: Food that gets stuck in your hair or in your neck rolls is fair game any time after dinner and before tubby.

What do I do if I pass gas?
PDE: It happens to the best of us, especially when we are nervous. Own up to your mistake and politely say, "excuse me."
Mariettaquette: It happens to the best of us, especially when you are a kid. You have two options. Loudly shout, "e'muse me, I farted!" or put your thumb up to your forehead and blame it on the last person to catch on.

I welcome you to my home any night, for an evening of frozen pizza, ketchup, juice in a sippy cup, disposable utensils and plates and impromptu dinner theater by Caroline. We promise not to blame the fart on you.


dianne said…
Hilarious! I especially liked the snowman tin mention. Love that you're keeping it real!

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