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When you wine and dine, do you act fine?
You are meeting a business contact for lunch for the first time. Your garments have been chosen with great care to create a professional image. You discretely check your reflection in the restaurant door as you enter, and take one last look at your shoes. You have prepared what you want to say, but have you given any thought to your dining etiquette?

There is something about the dining table that makes it a strategic trying ground for prospective employees or possible suppliers of goods and services. The white tablecloth and its accompanying tableware can be a bewildering battlefield if you are not equipped with an accurate map. Dining etiquette can provide you with the strategies required to turn the table in their favour.

Test your dining protocol by either answering "true" or "false" to the following questions:

1. At a formal dinner, once everyone has been seated, you may begin eating.
2. You have not ordered an appetizer. It is permissible to place your elbows on the table while the others at the table eat their appetizers.
3. When you have finished eating, you should place your napkin over your plate to indicate to the wait staff that you are done.
4. A red wine glass is smaller than a white wine glass.

Answers:

1. False. At a formal dinner when the host is served and picks up his/her fork to begin, you may take this as your cue to commence eating.
2. True. It used to be that only your wrists were allowed on the table when eating the meal! It is now permissible to place your elbows on the table if it is between courses and the dishes have been removed, or if you have not ordered food for a particular course and you are waiting for the others at the table to eat that course. Be careful: if your dining companions do not know of this change in etiquette, in their ignorance, they may judge you erroneously.
3. False. Whether it is made of paper or cloth, never place your napkin over your plate. To signal that you are finished eating, your dinner knife is placed on your plate to the right going diagonally with the sharp side down. Your fork is placed below it parallel to the knife with the tines up or down. Your napkin is casually folded and placed either to the left of your plate if it is still on the table, or in the middle of your place setting if your plate has been removed.
5. False. The white wine glass is smaller than the red wine. White wine is most often served chilled and will warm up too quickly in a glass that exposes a large surface area. The surface area created in the larger red wine glass also allows the bouquet of the wine to be delivered up more quickly.

Catherine Bell is President of Prime Impressions, a Kingston-based image consulting company, seminar leader, and author of Managing Your Image Potential. Enquiries and comments can be directed to Catherine Bell at: tel: (613)634-1820, fax: (613) 634-1830, EMAIL www.prime-impressions.com