In the Italian language there’s a saying which states that you can tell whether someone is a true gentleman by his table manners.
Since I was little I was taught to adopt a quiet and polite behavior at the table and to observe a few simple rules: do not place your elbows on the table, do not bite off bread, do not play with food, wipe your mouth before drinking, and when you do so, take small sips, do not chew your food with your mouth open and, least of all, do not talk with an open mouth. You certainly don’t have to be a Windsor to know how to behave at the dinner table and, in my honest opinion, even if these teachings weren’t passed on to children, they should still be adopted when a person reaches an adult age. This doesn’t mean that when you’re out with friends you shouldn’t enjoy yourself: you can still have fun while observing a good table etiquette.
Having said this, I do let go from time to time in the privacy of my home and I don’t observe all of the good manner rules (oh yes, I’m amongst the people that say “enjoy” before eating or say “cheers” before a toast, even though both these things shouldn’t be done, and that does what we call in Italian “scarpetta”, which is basically when you clean off your plate with a piece of bread as to enjoy every last bit of food that was in it). Nevertheless, I always try to keep a certain decency while seated at the dinner table, especially when I’m eating out.
There’s nothing more disgusting than people that gulp down food and drinks, talk with their mouth open with consequent “rain-effect” on their poor dining companions. I might be too well accustomed but I think it is only a matter of having a bit of thought and respect for the people you share a meal with! Knowing how to behave at the dinner table is not something concerning an elite or a social class alone: it concerns everyone! We’re talking about having good taste and being polite. As I was saying, you don’t have to be a part of a certain environment or spend time with posh people to know what lacks of good taste and politeness!
In Rome there’s the Italian Academy for Good Manners, Etiquette and Decorum, an establishment in these areas of study. On their website you’ll find several courses: etiquette and good manners, good manners and leadership and, last but not least, posture.
If you need to brush up on the things that are best avoided at the dinner table, I advise you to read the following post by Madame Bonbon who has listed a few useful tips on the topic of table manners: Modern Table Manners by Miss Debrett. Otherwise, you can just do a Google search and you’ll find plenty of insightful material to read to clarify any doubt!
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