Quick Tip! How to Talk With Food in Your Mouth

By: Maralee McKee

Happy Friday Everyone!

Your mom probably told you since you were knee-high to her that it was rude to talk with your mouth full. I remind my two boys of this sage advice — again and again. The reason I give is the same one parents for the last five-hundred-plus years have used: “It’s not pretty for those sitting around you.”

What if I told you there’s a little-known exception to that age-old commandment?

It’s for use all those times someone (often the server) asks you a question a nano-second after you’ve popped the delicious morsel from your fork into your mouth.

An exception to a rule we’ve been led to believe has been carved into stone? It’s hard to believe, I know!

Now dear Manners Mentor family, please gather close! Because you care deeply about manners and living your life graciously, I’m about to share this secret with you. This is definitely not Manners 101. It’s for those seeking their master’s degree!

First, just one request!

I ask it in consideration of parents everywhere striving to teach their children how to shine in their encounters. Please promise before reading further that you will consider this information only fit for us grownups. Teach a child an etiquette skill and then say there are exceptions, and they’ll consider every occasion the exception!

Friday Quick Tip! How Do I Respond to a Question When I Have Food in My Mouth?

We all seem to handle the situation with our own unique spin. Some of us hold up our index finger signaling “wait.” Some of us point to our mouths. Some just smile for a moment. Some people (none of us of course!) just talk and let their tablemates suffer the consequences of the view. Then there are those who sip their beverages to wash the food down quickly, and those who cover their mouths with their hands as they talk and chew.

Which of the above options is the most savvy and why?

“Just smile for a moment” is the answer. Why? Patience and quiet grace are two of the fruits of etiquette (“quiet” in this case as in no need to say anything). With that in mind, a brief smile lets the asker know you heard the question. Don’t rush. You’ll probably feel rushed (I always do!), but don’t rush to swallow. In actuality, there’s probably only a five-second gap between the time the question is asked and the time you’ve swallowed the food and are back in the conversation!

If that just isn’t working for you, then here’s plan B. You probably took just a small bite. So go ahead and “place” the small bite with your tongue towards your right cheek. (If you’re left-handed, it will be easier to use your left cheek.) Answer the question and then swallow. No one should be able to see the food, and you’ve just gracefully talked with food in your mouth. Honest! Try it today! Just keep your bite small, and remember: mum’s the word with our little ones!

My Call from the White House

Before I go, I promised Wednesday to tell you about my phone call from the White House! Some people get giddy about celebrities. Not me — at least I don’t think I would. I’d be polite, but not excited.

Well OK, there’s one exception. I got called once to be on the “Oprah” show! They were going to do a whole segment on cell phone etiquette with me as the guest. You know TV — things change; there was something else she covered and the show idea was shelved. I was excited, but terrified to do it. I know my day will come. I just hope I can remember my own name, much less etiquette skills. After all, come on, it’s OPRAH!

I digress. Back to the White House. A client of mine spoke this week before a senate judiciary committee and wanted to make sure his opening remarks followed the protocol of whose name to say first, etc. It took seven phone calls: the White House, the State Department, the United States Sergeant at Arms, the Judiciary Committee clerk. Sad thing: no one knew the answer. Well, some of them kind of thought they knew but admitted they weren’t sure. Some said it probably didn’t matter. (That’s sad!)

Anyway, a very nice protocol officer from the White House returned my call about 4:30 PM. My knees were shaking! My first thought was, “Oh, I look awful today.” Then I thought, “Wait, I’m on the phone. It doesn’t matter!”

It was a lovely ten-minute conversation. She shared generously of her knowledge and was eager to set up the gentleman I was assisting for success. Don’t we all just love being around people like that?

Monday, join me for an important post: Swine Flu Etiquette.

It looks like this thing is spreading, so in case it comes to your hometown (I hope it doesn’t!), you’ll know how to keep your family safe and interact with polish in the midst of everyone else’s panic.

Blessings on your weekend!


Maralee McKee

About Maralee McKee

Maralee McKee is the founder of Manners Mentor. With her best-friend style, sense of humor, and knack for updating etiquette to meet our modern sensibilities, she has been referred to as "Sandra Bullock meets Emily Post!" Maralee shows you how to become the best version of yourself. No fluff. No pretense. Just you at your authentic best! The person you were always meant to be! To learn more about Maralee click on the "Meet Maralee" or "New? Start Here" links at the top of this page.

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