20-40-60 Etiquette: At the table, pass food to the right

Is it still proper to pass food to the right at the table? 20-40-60 Etiquette answers, with Mollie Bennett as guest.
by Helen Ford Wallace and Lillie-Beth Brinkman and Callie Gordon Published: June 9, 2013
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QUESTION: Is there a correct way to pass food? At the dinner table, I was taught to pass food to the right. Recently, and actually several times, I have been at a dinner and the food is being passed to the left. Have the rules changed through the years. Which way should the plates or bowls of food go?

CALLLIE'S ANSWER: Yes, if you are passing the food to your right it would arrive at the persons left. The food and plates are passed to the right. If it is a casual setting, some people don't think about the way they are passing.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: No, the way to serve food hasn't changed, but people probably forget or may not know in the first place. Pass the food to the right (counterclockwise), unless the person is sitting next to you, directly to your left, and you can just hand the food to them. This method is a long-standing etiquette tradition, but it also keeps the table-passing running smoothly, without collisions.

HELEN'S ANSWER: We are still passing to the right. This is the convenient way to pass food so there is no confusion for guests or problems with someone caught in the middle of dishes coming both ways. Guests can pass the dishes along the table and hold it for the person on his right if that person needs help with serving.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Mollie Bennett, Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon coordinator: Always pass the dishes, or anything else at the table — such as the bread, dressings, and salt and pepper — to the right.

Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email helen.wallace@cox.net. For more 20-40-60 etiquette, go to blog.newsok.com/partiesextra.


by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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by Callie Gordon
Freelance Writer
Callie Gordon, a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, is working at Chesapeake Energy in the Environment, Health, and Safety Department. She was previously an event coordinator for Chesapeake Energy.
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