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College of Health and Human Sciences

Pesci reminder: 'Mind your manners'

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This holiday season don't let your bad manners get you relegated to the kids' table.

Pat Pesci, director of the hotel and restaurant management program, said that holiday meals always seem to ramp up people's focus on dining etiquette and table manners.

"Typically, Americans don't sit down and dine together," Pesci said. "People just don't break bread anymore; they multitask. Then at this time of the year, you have all these holidays and the large family meals that go with them."

The holiday meal can bring a lot of stressors into one event: family members who don't see each other that often; different age groups; different opinions; uncommon and varied cuisine; and fancier tableware.

Pesci said it is important to ask your host if you can assist in any way, and also to ask, rather than assume, where you will be sitting.

It is standard to wait until everyone has food before you begin eating, Pesci said. When faced with uncertainty about which of your multiple utensils to use, start at the outside and move in toward the plate.

Another pitfall during holiday meals is the conversation.

"Holiday meals often last an hour or more," Pesci said. "And while you should eat slowly, it doesn't take that long to consume food. Because so often we eat in front of the television, many people aren't used to carrying on lengthy conversations while eating."

Remembering not to talk with your mouth full is one thing. Knowing what to talk about is quite another. Pesci said it is best to avoid topics that might make people uncomfortable, such as politics, religion, sex and controversy. Great conversation starters are more neutral, like sports, weather, professions, travel, movies and where people are from.

"It is important to get everyone involved," said Pesci. "We often miss out on talking and listening to people and finding out about them. Holiday meals are a great time for that."

When the meal is finished, it's polite to place your napkin to the left of your plate and push your chair in when leaving the table.

Finally, one of the most important tips is to never correct someone's etiquette at the table.

"Correcting someone else's manners in a public setting is rude. That's one of the No. 1 rules," Pesci said.

This article was posted on Thursday, November 18, 2010, and is filed under College News, Hospitality Management.