As soon as you are seated, place your napkin on your lap. It is acceptable to tuck your napkin into your shirt collar should you be eating something particularly messy such as spaghetti. When leaving the table, remove the napkin and place it on the left hand side of the setting unfolded. It is considered courteous to leave elbows off the table and to sit up straight.
Laying out plates and cutlery
Using your fingers is socially out and multiple knives, forks and spoons are in. A general rule is to work your way inwards as the meal progresses, starting with the salad fork and soup spoon. If in doubt, watch the host and hostess and follow their lead. The knife should be held firmly in the palm of your right hand and should never be held like a pencil. The fork should be held in the left hand with the prongs facing downwards. Once used, cutlery should be rested on the plate. Remember – never gesture with your cutlery. Your glass should be on your right, your bread plate on your left.
Eating with hands
The more formal the setting, the less inclined you should be to eat with your hands. Nevertheless, there are certain foods which are considered acceptable finger foods, including bread, pizza, corn on the cob, fried chicken and French fries. However, it is important to bear in mind that French fries should be eaten with cutlery if the rest of the meal is being eaten with a knife and fork. Tacos are also considered to be finger food but any filling that falls out should be retrieved with a fork.
It is important not to lean across the table to help yourself to seconds. Make sure others have been offered anything they might want first and serve yourself last. Should you wish to share a meal with a companion, rather than reaching across the table to do so, simply slide a bite-sized portion onto the recipient’s plate. Alternatively, this can also be done on a bread plate.