As a business student, I’ve had my fair share of etiquette dinners at which employers show you how not to eat like a heathen in front of them. Not because the content’s so demanding it necessitates hammering in from the start of freshman year; it’s more of a “how many free three-course meals can I sneak in before they start recognizing my face” kind of deal.
Hey. Some of us are born rich. The rest of us have to learn how to pretend to have class by scamming our way into free dinners.
The dinners are essentially sponsored networking opportunities with the employers sitting at your table. You chat about appropriate topics and wonder if there’s salad stuck in your teeth while the podium speaker rattles off handy dining etiquette tips usually in the form of “don’t ever do __ if you want to get hired.”
One of my favorite etiquette tips concerns how to eat cherry tomatoes in your salad. Cherry tomatoes are unpredictable in that they can squirt red in a five-foot radius if you’re not careful when stabbing or slicing or, god forbid, chewing.
How to Properly Eat Cherry Tomatoes
Other Memorable Tips
- Form an “ok” gesture with each hand. Your left hand should look like a “b” and your right a “d.” This corresponds with bread on your left, drink on your right.
- You use silverware from the outside to inside.
- Don’t clean out your plate, i.e. don’t show up to dinner starving. Not particularly fond of this one, for obvious reasons. Leaving a bit of food on your plate for the sake of it is such a waste. If I were an employer, I’d probably have the opposite opinion, which is probably why I’m not an employer.
- Cross your fork and knife on the plate to indicate completion.
- If you’re temporarily excusing yourself from the table, fold the napkin and place it on your chair. Or to the left of your plate. It varies from person to person, so I guess if you’re unsure which your neighbors prefer, you can just suffer in silence.
Naturally, having become so “experienced” in etiquette, I thought I’d seen it all.
I was out of town last weekend (hence no post) attending a regional business competition. My team was slotted first, at 9AM, so we just lounged around the rest of the day while the results were being tabulated. After we took too many pictures and stumbled through the career fair in the lobby, we made our way to the business luncheon.
Upon sitting down at the nearest round table, I was unnerved by the slab of chicken on my salad. There wasn’t anything wrong with the chicken, per se—I can’t say in any other scenario I’d be opposed to the unexpected presence of chicken—but now I didn’t know how to confront the ambiguity. Usually the first course would be a plain salad, but did the chicken make it the main course? Was I then supposed to use the salad fork?
My teammate, of course, had more pressing concerns.
Teammate: I’m vegetarian.
Guy from Nature Nates: Is it a thing where you can’t eat what meat touches?
Teammate: Yeah. Culture and preference.
Me: They probably have a vegetarian option. I’d ask someone.
Teammate: Yeah, okay. Don’t they usually ask you first, though?
I conceded the oddity and looked around to find chicken on every dish within sight. A different teammate dressed her dish in zigzags, morose. A waiter (server?) came over and politely frowned, scooping up the dish and bowing out with a low apology.
Teammate 2: I’m… also vegetarian.
Waiter: *takes her plate* I will be out with the vegetarian option for you both.
Guy from Nature Nates, to Teammate 2: Why did you dress the chicken if you weren’t going to eat it?
Me, thankfully in my head: So it’d look good for a night out.
Teammate 2: Well, I mean, I was going to just eat around the meat if there was no other choice.
I reached for the sheet of butter sitting in the middle of the table only to find there was no bread anywhere in sight. The guy from Nature Nates started to eat dessert, mousse in a wine glass. I blinked. What was going on?
The waiter returned with similar-looking salads in each hand. We thanked him, and he bowed. I thought about asking him my questions and then decided against it. I was out of my depth, clearly.
Teammate: Wait, this is…
Her salad was dressed—or, parts of it were, anyway. The undressed area was, suspiciously, in the shape of a slab of chicken.
I burst out laughing. All those business etiquette dinners hadn’t prepared me for this kind of situation; I guess the only solution is to go to more of them.
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