December 23, 2010

This post is in the practical advice category. It contains info that I wish I’d had as a young Chinatown ghetto nerd who was trying to figure out mainstream dining. What did I know about bread plates and water glasses? As a kid, the family meal was simply a matter of sitting down with a bunch of bowls, forks, chopsticks and paper napkins.

Then I went out into the world in my Tahari suits and the guessing game started. I always felt that I was bluffing my way through business-related meals. Reading up on table etiquette never stuck in my head; too many rules! For a while, I resorted to watching how other people carried themselves at formal gatherings and nice restaurants — which was a hit-or-miss strategy. I eventually figured out that folks who were educated and/or rich didn’t necessarily know how to navigate porcelain and cutlery either.

But a few years ago, my friend June Jee made everything clear with her “BMW” trick. No, she’s not referring to the fancy car. For her, “BMW” stands for “Bread-Meal-Water.”

Like this:

Thanks to June, an executive who dines out a lot, I no longer have trouble with identifying which of these items are mine. Oh, if I only knew about BMW when I used to attend tons of black tie dinners and party at four-star restaurants! Those were the good old days of my youth, back in the ’80s when I was in my 30s…

Okay, here’s another trick. This one helps me when I’m having company and need to set a proper table. Before learning this tip, I could never remember if the fork belonged on the left or right side of the plate. Then, I learned the secret: “The fork is left alone.”

Like this:

If this post sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because I wrote about this stuff in a post on my old blog. But I couldn’t figure out how to import it to my new website here. So I’m serving up the contents again, in a new format. Figured it would be especially useful now, during the stressful holiday season.

Here’s one more little tip that helped me:

Of course, there are many, many fine points to dining and old-fashioned social networking. If you have more insights for us, please do share!

And can I start the conversation by adding one thought….? Even though I’m doing this polite post about etiquette — I’m actually thinking about how ambivalent I am about the holidays. This is a life-long issue for me that only got worse during my divorce, when I experienced what it was like to be single around some rude married couples.

So tomorrow, look for me to deliver an extra post on my pet peeve. It will be a list of some things that have happened to me. I am the elephant who forgives but never forgets. Hope you’ll join me for that one. xoxo.