Don't be a ghost on Sunday

Giving thanks for good manners

I heard something on a radio talk show this week about a “bail culture” that exists today.

It’s not about people in the court system, it’s about people who don’t fully commit to attending an event and “bail” on the host.

With one of the year’s popular holidays fast approaching, please consider this post a friendly reminder. You should be sure to confirm your attendance, or not, if you’ve been fortunate enough to be invited for dinner.  

Apparently, this phenomenon of not deciding whether to show up when you get an invitation is also called ghosting.

Younger generations have coined the term, and tend to be the ones experiencing this behaviour, either as hosts or as the ones not there. 

As much as it can be fun to have people over (or plan a party such as a wedding or other big occasion), it’s a great deal of work. It takes time and money and attention to many details.

Those efforts deserve to be appreciated and respected, not neglected and ignored. 

I realize the art of sending handwritten notes as a thank you after attending a party is a dying one, something from days gone by. But even a casual gathering deserves our serious attention.

I have heard the reasoning that people don’t want to disappoint the host and so they don’t say no, even when they don’t seriously intend to go.

I think I would be more disappointed if someone told me they would come and then “ghosted” my party.

But, enough about not showing up. Thanksgiving is about celebrating together, so let’s get on to that. 

How about what to do if you do show up? Good manners represent your respect for the importance of the occasion and the relationships you have with those you share those memories.

  • How does one behave at a formal dinner party?
  • Do you know what to do with all that cutlery around your plate?
  • Or perhaps you’re wondering how to set the table if you’re hosting for the first time. 

Here are my top tips for making sure you don’t have to feel awkward at the table.

If you’re setting the table...

you need napkins, knives, forks, spoons, and glassware for each guest. The knife and spoon go on the right of the plate, and the fork goes on the left. The glass goes at the top right of the plate. Napkins can go in an empty glass, folded or with a napkin ring on a plate, even draped under the plate if you like. If you want to use bread plates, they go to the left.

Once you sit at your place around the table...

your napkin can go in your lap. Use it to wipe your mouth as needed. (And when you are done eating, it doesn’t need to hide those turnips you didn’t want to eat. You can put it beside your plate if you want to move it.) Your phone should be off the table too. If you need to keep it on your person, put it in silent mode. 

Take note:

if the dish in front of you looks a bit too fancy to be a plate, it might be a charger (a fancy sort of liner for your plate.) It is not for putting food on, it’s just for decoration. The plates will be brought out later or may be at a buffet. The diners on either side of you are not for decoration; it is your responsibility to engage with them to make the most of the event.

When there is more than one type of cutlery around your plate,...

Just remember to use the one on the outside (furthest from the plate) first, working your way to the inside with each new course. Cutlery at the top of your plate is for dessert. If you want to remember how to use your soup spoon, here’s a great old ditty: “As a ship goes out to sea, my spoon it sails away from me.”

Then, if you spill, it’s on the table, not in your lap.

When you are engaged in a course...

your elbows should be off the table. It is OK to prop your elbows on the table between courses — even Emily Post, the famous etiquette guru, said so in the 1920s.

When you are finished...

place your cutlery together in a parallel fashion on your plate. (If you place them on opposite sides in a crossed pattern, this is the symbol for “I’m taking a break, don’t take my plate away yet.”)

While some of this is finer stuff that you think you may never use, it will undoubtedly come in handy someday. You will impress your host and probably help another guest by setting a good example, just as we often do in life in awkward situations. 

And that is why I wrote about something as stuffy as table manners for Thanksgiving.

Show your gratitude in everything you do, even how you behave when you are invited out. It represents your respect for your fellow human beings, and for the food you are sharing.

If we start with the basics, we have a solid foundation for a happy society.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories