Wash your plate after eating

Oh horror, a treat!

In a nutshell

  • It used to be perfectly normal to eat with your fingers.
  • The table manners developed because the nobility wanted to stand out from the mob.
  • Rules for eating should be a matter of course.
  • The role model function of the parents is important.
  • The menu influences the rules of behavior.
  • You can also overdo it with the nagging.

A few hundred years ago, the noble gentry apparently did not behave in a grand manner. At least that is what the recommendations of “table breeding” by the so-called Tannhauser, a text that summarized the rules of behavior for the upper class in the 13th century, suggest. It said: You shouldn't eat unwashed, you shouldn't hang over your bowl like a pig and smack your lips, not eat so greedily that you bite your fingers, not drink with a full and greasy mouth and not even on the tablecloth or blow your nose in your hand.

In the early Middle Ages (approx. 500-1050) the Greco-Roman culture was mixed with the Celtic-Germanic in Europe. The sometimes extremely cultivated table manners of antiquity were lost. Nobles and peasants behaved in a similar way: They used sliced ​​loaves of bread as plates, usually ate with their fingers, spoons or knives were only used in exceptional cases. After dinner, everyone wiped their smeared fingers on their clothes, which also served as handkerchiefs.

Those who serve up such manners shouldn't be surprised if the hosts lose their appetite for another invitation. Not only at Christmas, by the way.


The ten no-gos at the table

  1. Lick the plate or knife.
  2. Keep your elbows on the table when eating.
  3. Place or use your mobile phone on the table (make calls, answer Whatsapp or look at e-mails and move to after dinner).
  4. Reach into someone else's plate without being asked.
  5. Put used hygiene masks on the table.
  6. Waving the cutlery around.
  7. No hand washing before eating.
  8. Talking and eating, slurping or smacking your lips at the same time.
  9. Use toothpicks at the table.
  10. Topics of conversation that spoil the appetite.

At today's tables it is frowned upon to eat, smack or burp with your fingers. Katrin Künzle (56) from Oetwil an der Limmat ZH is an expert in table manners. The licensed etiquette trainer is very familiar with the rules of etiquette at the table and gives courses for adults and children. “We don't come into the world with good table manners, we learn them,” she says. «Small children have to feel their food and use their hands to do so. As they get older, they can handle the spoon, fork and knife. The role model function of the parents is important. " So when there is anarchy at the table at home, one cannot expect the little ones to learn to behave better. «Children are very attentive. In courses I keep hearing: 'My mother or father doesn't do that either, or it does it wrong.' ”She then encourages the boys and girls to correct their parents at the table - but only close family members. A meal with grandma or uncle who doesn't follow the rules can be snubber.

Showcase days

Table manners are an issue, especially on the holidays. Regardless of whether you dine in a large group or, this year, due to the corona, there will be a small group: At Christmas and New Year's Eve, something special will be served, the table will be more opulent and there will be more extensive meals.

Those who serve up such manners shouldn't be surprised if the hosts lose their appetite for another invitation. Not only at Christmas, by the way.

Interestingly, the menu has an impact on the rules of etiquette. "With a cozy raclette, they are a little looser than with the elaborate, festive seven-course menu with the right wine," says Katrin Künzle. But since not every day is a Sunday or a holiday, the etiquette often changes during the week. “On normal days, we sometimes eat while standing or in the home office from the refrigerator, and when the children come home at midday, things also have to be quick. Table manners are bad at these meals, ”says the behavior trainer. "However, the community at the table is very valuable and that is why we should, whenever possible, find enough leisure and time to eat with good table manners." This also includes, for example, the correct posture of the arms. Katrin Künzle explains this to the children in her courses as follows: “Approximately ten centimeters of the forearms are on the table, there is room for a cat between the table and the stomach, and a mouse can scurry through between the back and the back of the chair. You can keep your elbows on the table between courses of the menu, but not during the meal. " And how do you hold the cutlery correctly? Take the knife and fork in your hands from above, stretch out your index finger and place it at the fork arch or at the base of the knife blade.

A business card


How important are table manners?

  • an absolute must 38%
  • I take it easy 35%
  • It bothers me if people eat indecently 26%
  • I don't care 1%

Source: Representative opinion poll Link / 504 Interview

Whether someone eats well and knows how to behave is particularly evident on festive occasions, but is also noticeable in everyday life. It is not for nothing that there is the saying «Show me how you eat and I will tell you who you are».

Our ancestors also realized that at some point. When the rising bourgeoisie began to imitate the customs of the nobility at the beginning of the 16th century, conditions began to improve, because the blue-blooded wanted to continue to stand out from the social classes below them. So eating habits on the farms became more and more complicated and civilized. In the 18th century, a standard was finally reached that is still more or less valid today. From then on it was considered proper that everyone had their own plate and used a knife and fork. Reaching into hot food with your fingers, which had long been perfectly normal, was now considered disgusting.

"It depends on who behaves and how at the table," explains the etiquette expert. When should you say something if someone makes a mistake or even just misbehaves? “If my guest doesn't hold the glass by the stem or if he doesn't put the napkin on his lap, I gallantly ignore it. But if a younger family member deliberately burps, smacks loudly or slurps, so that everyone at the table loses their appetite, corrective action should be taken. "

You can, however, overdo it with the nagging. “If every meal consists only of following rules, children lose the desire and enjoyment of eating together. Then you did something wrong. And let's be honest: Who among us adults shows impeccable table manners every day? ”Says Katrin Künzle. And she has an unconventional tip: «Why not introduce a 'Pig Day' once a month, on which people can eat with the fingers, as in the past with the nobles, and a 'Day of Kings', on which, as now, the court dines in style ? » Because, like most people in the course of their lives, blue-blooded people have acquired good table manners over the centuries. 

The top ten table culture rules

  1. A straight, upright posture without supporting your elbows.
  2. The hostess first places the napkin on his or her lap, the guest follows the example. After the meal, the napkin is folded slightly and placed on the left of the plate.
  3. Use the cutlery for several courses from the outside to the inside - so the outermost cutlery is used for the first course. In the case of a multiple person, place no more than four pieces of cutlery on the right and no more than three pieces of cutlery on the left. More cutlery comes with every course.
  4. Use cutlery language. I take a break: put a knife and fork on the plate in the form of a "tent" - like the hands of the clock when it is twenty to four. I'm done: Place the knife and fork parallel to the bottom right of the plate. The knife is on top, the cutting surface faces the fork.
  5. Do not touch the tablecloth with used cutlery. Put the knife and fork in the plate. In the case of a multiple meal, new cutlery is handed out, or you hold it in your hand until the new course is served (if there is no «knife bench»).
  6. Hold cutlery correctly.
  7. Break the bread on the left side, do not cut it. The knife is only used when you apply butter to the broken piece. Don't eat the bun the person sitting next to you on your right - yours is on your left.
  8. Always hold a stemmed glass by the stem and not by the stomach.
  9. If you are invited and would like to forego certain dishes, inform the host: "I'm very happy to come, but I won't eat fish or meat."
  10. The remark "I'm going on a diet" is not a good subject to talk about over an opulent meal.