MS. BEHAVING is feeling quite Continental these days! Which brings us to more dining dilemmas:
A READER WRITES: I’m always confused at the order – and names – of courses at a fine French restaurant. Translation please?
MS. BEHAVING REPLIES: Mais oui! Dining in a great establishment brings with it the need for a certain savoir faire, but Ms. Behaving is here to help! At table, you’ll have “l’entrée” first (in France that’s the word for appetizer, in the U.S., for the main course, hence the confusion), then “le plat,” or main course (yes, “plat du jour” is the main dish of the day). These will be followed by “la salade” which is a fresh palate-cleanser and, Ms. B believes, a great idea. Traditionally “le fromage” comes next; you can always skip it if you want but if you’re in France why would you? Then “le dessert,” followed by coffee. Important: the French structure exists for a reason, for each course to be savored and enjoyed before the next. Hence the fact that coffee/tea comes last and not with cheese or dessert. Wait for it at the proper time, and you’ll see why. Bon appetit!
A READER WRITES: We’re invited to a gala in Lyon. Any tips on how not to look like a doofus at dinner?
MS. BEHAVING REPLIES: Ah, those tricky fork moves! Ms. Behaving has basic advice to look very French for the occasion. First, make sure that both wrists are on the table (never elbows!). We’re taught to put hands not in use in our laps, which in Europe is a no-no … something to do with concealed weapons in ancient days, and all that. Don’t dig in until everyone at the table has been served. Now zee fork: held in the left hand, tines down, and never transferred to the right hand, no matter what you’re eating (use the knife for help; a small piece of bread is okay for assistance with pesky veggies). When it’s soup, the point of the spoon should never enter your bouche; sip from the side only. Knife and fork (tines down) placed horizontally in the center of your plate signals you’re finished. Just observe everyone else for other basics, and enjoy!
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.