One again we take our seats to be served another dollop of Victorian dining etiquette and explore how exactly Victorians were meant to behave when they were actually sitting at the dining table. And the first complete no, no was to sniff or smell the food. So, with that little tit bit we continue to chew on the etiquette dining details.
Victorian Table Manners
The golden rule at table was never to speak with food in your mouth, or to chew with your mouth open. Also, while you are at table, be as polite to the servants as to your hosts. Never ever raise your voice to the servants waiting at table even though they may have spilled soup in your lap. But by the same token, the Victorians were quite demanding of servants waiting at table, even though they were only guests in the household. After all it was their job to make sure the guests got everything they wanted. These servant rules included the hosts who would never show their displeasure at the waiting staff in front of the guests.
The Eating of the Meal
Each course was to be enjoyed at leisure as conversation was just as important than the eating of the food. After all a formal Victorian meal was a great social occasion. The actual meal could easily take a couple of hours depending on the number of courses, the food was there to be enjoyed and never rushed. It was also etiquette not to eat large portions of anything, male or female. And unlike past etiquette’s using one’s fingers to put food in your mouth was strictly frowned upon. Guests could politely comment on a dish if they liked but not overtly so.
As this could be mistaken as disliking previous dishes!
And if you did come across a piece of gristle in your mouth, it was considered polite if you attempted to swallow it rather than taking it out of your mouth or spitting it out. If this was impossible a napkin should be used to cover your mouth whilst you disposed of the offending morsel.
After the Meal
The eating of the Victorian meal was just part of the overall Victorian dining experience. After the meal was finished the guests were expected to retire to the drawing room and converse together for at least a couple of hours. During this time, music was often played and drinks such as liqueurs and port would be served. The ladies often took coffee rather than drinking anything alcoholic. The conversation was always light and polite, and never focused on serious matters such as politics, this was completely taboo.
A Victorian formal dinner was not something that was laid back and casual, it was an occasion to show off your social skills and cement your standing in society. The food and drink served at table was also lavish and was often the best the hosts could afford. As a guest you had to be polite to the hosts and show the correct etiquette throughout the occasion. The guests were just as much on test as the servants and the food and had to respond in an adequate manner.