Too many Forkin' Forks
Many steampunks dress up as aristocratic types, all in fun of course. But what happens when we sit down to a table with fine china and excess silverware and we haven’t a clue how to use them, It’s time for another installment of my steampunk gentleman series. How to eat dinner like the Gentleman you pretend to be.
Everything I think I know
Before I start my research, I thought it would be fun to see what I think I already know. Elbows off the table, start with the silverware on the outside edges and work your way in through each course. Forks on the left. Put your cutting knife down when not in use. That’s it. I’d say not bad for a guy raised by wolves, but I bet there’s more to it.
A late guest should be given no more than 15 minutes to arrive, else the party should begin without them. Do not eat until everyone is served. Except at a buffet or banquet where the rule is relaxed.
After you sit down, take your napkin and place it on your lap. If there’s a host (say the boss who’s taking you to dinner), wait until they do so, then follow suit. When you use it, dab, not wipe at your mouth, then return it to your lap. If you need to excuse yourself for the restroom, leave the napkin in your chair. This signals you are returning. When finished eating, place the napkin, dirty side hidden, to the left side of where your plate was. This signals you are truly done.
Sneezing related issues should be handled with a handkerchief. No gentleman should be without one of those.
I was right on the outside in rule. However desert silverware may be placed above the plate. On completion of the course, place the utensils across the plate, along the 10 and 2 position. Don’t place your silverware back on the table or propped up on the edge like a boat oar. They rest on the plate, at any other angle.
Hands, Arms and Elbows
Only cut one bite at a time, then place the knife down. Except for knifework, use only one hand at a time. Any hand not in use is to rest in the lap, without fidgeting. During dinner, keep arms and elbows off the table. Afterwards, while talking business, the rule doesn’t apply.
Food and Mouth Dis-Ease
Everybody knows not to talk with food in your mouth. But nor should you drink. In fact, you should dab your mouth with napkin before drinking to avoid leaving debris on the rim. One should also put down utensils while speaking, and never wave or point with a utensil.
Purses and Modern Distractions
Purses, phones, keys should stay off the table. Like a tea setting, the dining table is a formal work of art and these things detract. At a home, the host should plan to set aside a place for stowing purses and coats (a bedroom, a chair, etc). In a restaurant, in your lap, by your chair or even behind you on the seat will suffice.
Hats, Hair & Attire
This article series focuses primarily on manners, but the aim is for steampunks. At a steampunk social, protocol might deviate from proper formal behavior. In a normal formal dinner event, hats are not worn. This defeats half of the fun for a steampunk. It might be considered acceptable to wear a hat in that case at a private event. Out at a proper restaurant, one should do as the romans and remove the headwear.
While researching this, I also learned that one should not touch, adjust or groom their hair at the table. Best to excuse oneself to the privy and straighten up.
It is expected to wear a jacket and tie. This normally isn’t a problem for steampunks, but if the setting is truly formal, perhaps the ragged pirate coat should stay home and don the best.
I was right, there was more I didn’t know. I found the articles in the References section quite helpful. In truth, I feel I have only summarized the material from the other articles, so definitely read them if you want to learn more.
Check out the rest of my Steampunk Gentleman series at https://www.klforslund.com/blog/category/Gentleman
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