It's simply NOT asking too much. I do not expect the world to quote Peggy Posts Etiquette verbatim. I just want people to have good manners, especially at the table. And good manners require a modicom of knowledge on proper etiquette.
In every person's life there comes a time when table manners will be needed. I don't care if your father sports a mullet or you were born a governor's child, table etiquette will be required. Etiquette, being nothing more than good manners, is something everyone should know the rules on. I hate using the words "rules" but for lack of better word, there you have it.
I sat down recently with a group of whom all should know the basics of dining etiquette. I was amazed at how many did not even place their cloth napkin in their lap. The issue here is not so much those who don't know what to do. The problem comes in when others at the table are aware of the proper ways of doing things. I'm not suggesting a bunch of stuffy people not enjoying themselves. I am suggesting knowing the basics for that time in life when it's required. I can hear the soothsayers now. But they are wrong. A job interview, an awards banquet, meeting the new in-laws, dinner after the baby christening, whatever the case, the day will come.
The rules are simple. (Please allow me to list some basics.)
1. Place your napkin in your lap upon being seated.
2. When asked to pass the salt, always pass both salt and pepper.
3. When eating soup, dip the soup away from you so as to not appear you are shoveling.
4. If you leave the table at any point during the meal, place your napkin in your seat. When you are finished, place it on your plate.
5. If something is not to your liking, just don't eat it. The rest of the table does not want to hear your diatribe on what's awful.
6. If you get a bite of something unsavory or possibly gristle, use your napkin to remove it from your mouth. Continue use of napkin with it folded containing the offensive item.
7. Do not lay dirty silverware back on the table. Place it on your plate.
8. When in doubt, watch for cues from others. Always start with outer utensils. For instance, salad fork is usually farthest out, salad usually first course.
Parents are absolutely responsible for their children's manners at the table. No, not perfection at each meal, each day. Just exposure to a degree of fine dining. A retired, very wise principal at the local elementary school rewarded students who received good citizenship. She invited them to her offices for lunch. The tables were set with tablecloths and cloth napkins and classical music was piped in. The children were so impressed with Ms. Gayle's "fancy" lunch and repeatedly raved.
I highly suggest that each child headed into their teens should own a copy of Tiffany's Table Manners for Teens . The book gives illustrations each young child understands and finds humorous. Set a proper table for celebrations such as birthdays or holidays and gently coax them. It's very easy to whisper "Don't forget your napkin goes in your lap." Each and every young person, boys and girls alike should have full knowledge of a properly set table. You will be doing your child a huge favor.
I love a casual, comfortable meal as much as the next person. In most settings, proper table etiquette is not at the forefront. It's just when I get in a setting that they are of utmost importance that the lack of is obvious. I am not supporting stiff, formal dining in any fashion (though there is a place for that in some worlds). I only want good manners at the table.
Sit down. Put your napkin in your lap. Smile. Bon Appetit.