MS. BEHAVING hears that Dining Dilemmas are on your mind. So, my pets, let’s solve them!
A READER WRITES: What’s your take on communal tables? I see them more and more in the U.S., and they are staples in certain European restaurants. Is it best if you’re a duo to sit side-by-side, or across from each other? Is there an etiquette about joining or not joining a tablewide conversation?
MS. BEHAVING REPLIES: You have touched on a trend, my friend! Ms. Behaving often happily dines solo at communal tables, making new pals in the process. If you are a duo, she suggests sitting across from one another (a good way to avoid a stiff neck whilst dining). The conversation part is trickier, as it is a distinct possibility when one is seated at a table with strangers. If this possibility fills you with horror, steer clear of the communal and opt for a table for two. If that option is not available and tablemates get chatty, then let civility rule … and bloom where you’re planted. Smiling monosyllabic answers to their overtures should deter intrusion, but do consider that good conversation – and perhaps new friends and insights – can be had if you get into the spirit of place.
A READER WRITES: I’m still fuming about our blow-out London dinner with friends at a Michelin-starred restaurant. All of us but one opted for three courses, but he insisted on ordering the six-course tasting menu. The meal dragged on endlessly as we watched him pig out. What to do?
MS. BEHAVING REPLIES: Such rudeness is a pet peeve of Ms. Behaving, who has suffered this situation more than once. But no more! To avoid it, make ground rules before you go. All at table, especially at such a stellar eatery, should agree beforehand how many courses they’ll have for harmony’s sake. If you get there and all decide the tasting menu is too good to pass up, so much the better … as long as the whole group agrees. This is best done when you’re playing the “what are you going to have?” game before ordering. Bonne chance!
WHAT’S YOUR QUANDARY? Have questions about etiquette, local or global travel customs or awkward moments on the road? Fear not! Ms. Behaving is ready to answer. Send your queries (putting "Ms. Behaving" in the subject line) .
Photo above: Ms. Behaving at Royal Ascot.