Stone Soup for Five: Mrs. W. B. Riley's Etiquette Lesson #1

Mrs. W. B. Riley's Etiquette Lesson #1

I picked up a book at Goodwill yesterday from 1945 on etiquette.  It is actually laugh out loud funny and also sad at how much we've slipped as a culture into just 'whatever'... though I have to admit, I'm also thankful because I'm not a fan of pretension or fussiness.

So without further ado:   
Lesson #1 The Table
(My comments in small font and italicized.)

From Mrs. W. B. Riley:  Hospitality is confessedly in decline.  The guest chamber (what? Guest chamber? Like a guest reception area?  jail?) is no longer found in every house; but the one social center that survives is the dining table.

Don't imagine you can conduct yourself properly in company if you do not practice good table manners in private.  It just can't be done.  How seldom (that's a word that we don't use much anymore.) we see the son pulling out the chair for his mother (okay, that is something we NEVER see anymore...) or showing the same consideration for his sister as for someone else's mother or sister! (I'm feeling GREAT if my boys will eat without laughing with mouths full of food, and remember to say Thank You when they get up--both of which seldom happen. [+5 bonus points for using 'seldom'... but back to Mrs. W. B. Riley.]

 When no knife is being used, the fork is held in the right hand, with prongs up.  However, it is entirely correct (and European) to convey meat to the mouth with the fork held in the left hand; then the knife may be retained in the right hand.  

Do not overload the fork.  Burdens dripping with juice and gravy must not be lifted to the lips.  

One who practices good manners will refrain from holding the empty fork-prongs in the air while conversing.  He never points with his fork.  When the fork is not actually in use, it must rest on the plate.  (and I do believe I saw Tommy Lee Jones cutting his steak this way, with the fork prongs down, in Captain America when he was interrogating the bad scientist/doctor guy!  Go Tommy!)

Unlucky is the person who thrusts knife or fork into the butter or pickle dish, who uses his fork as a spear for securing a potato from the dish or a slice of bread from the tray, who drops bits of chicken bone, fruit seeds, or skins directly from his mouth into his plate.  Use a fork or spoon to remove from the mouth such an article; if you have a great deal of difficulty, hold the corner of your napkin before your mouth while performing this operation.  (Unlucky indeed.)

One of the most vital rules is that which exacts noiseless eating.  All food should be taken in moderate mouthfuls and chewed with little hurry and no apparent effort.  Toast and crisp foods should be taken in small quantities.  When the mouth is filled with food, it should never be opened until the last morsel is consumed.  Half-opened-mouth eating is disgusting.  A careful person will take up food from the plate without unnecessarily striking either knife or fork against the china.

What did we learn from Mrs. W.B. Riley today?

1.  My boys are disgusting.
2. No spearing at the table, eat like Tommy.
3. Fork prongs down when cutting, up when no knife-ing, and never use to illustrate converstaions.
4. And I must remember, I do not serve my meals on "plates", but rather "china".
5.  Sincerely, Mrs. C.D. Denker.
6. Weird.


  1. That first image is one that urks no end me when I see it...I first saw a fork strangled in such a manner on my first flight to the USA...Such miss use of a utensil would have got me cracked across the knuckles with the back of my fathers butter knife as a child...not good etiquette or proper of a utensil use either I am sure...but none the less what would happen.

    It does sadden me how by the way side many social graces have fallen.

    Blessings Kelsie

  2. Excuse my is hard to type and make corrections with a 3yr old snatching at your hand and screaming that daddy will not play with her.

    hmmm Can I borrow that book to teach her some manners??

  3. LOL Kelsie. I can send it to you but it's rather small, and not that good for whacking on the head with...


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