Black and White Social gives lesson on etiquette

Tim Streit, Staff Writer

As students gathered in Ervin Dining Hall’s Palmetto Room on Monday night, the setting was prepared for a lesson in proper dinner etiquette.

The event, hosted by Zeta Phi Beta (ZPB), had the purpose of informing FMU students of appropriate protocol for business dinners as part of the sorority’s nationwide Z-Hope Program. Held annually since 2005, the Black and White Social aims to introduce students to the world of fancy silverware, rules and manners that sometimes accompanies business dinners.

Joceline Murdock, the evening’s main speaker, gave several informative tips to those in attendance.

“Our key word is ‘fancy’,” Murdock said, while explaining that there is a whole different set of eating utensils and codes of behavior for high class business meals.

First of all, Murdock pointed out that cell phones should always be on vibrate or silent at a dinner, as it would be rude to take a call or text message and ignore fellow companions. In the lead up to a dinner, the audience learned that men should always wait for the women to be seated first and, only then, should the men take their seats from the right hand side.

Murdock also let attendees know about some tricks on how to keep one’s plates and glasses in correct order. One trick involved forming one’s left hand into a lower case “b” while the right hand forms a small “d.” This way it is easier to remember that the bread plate belongs on the left side of the place setting, while the drinks sit on the right side.

Some students attending the event were not aware of all the etiquette required at business dinners.

“It’s real informative,” freshman Lenton Holley said, noting that he appreciated having an actual demonstration of the rules and manners.

These types of sentiments were exactly what the members of ZPB hoped would be expressed.

“It’s a way to encourage students to feel prepared,” Murdock said, stating that it would give the audience a chance to become familiar with the way things are done in the business world ahead of time.

Murdock also explained how to keep up with knives and forks at a fancy dinner. For a salad, one should always use the fork furthest away and the knife closest. When finished with a dish, the appropriate action is to place the silverware that was used over the top of the plate, signaling to the waiter to take it away.

As for how to approach the food itself, Murdock had plenty of information about that as well. Some of it was more light-hearted than serious.

“I know we just had Thanksgiving, but unlike that, at a business dinner you can’t gobble down on your food,” Murdock said, eliciting some chuckles from the crowd.

Instead, she directed the attendees to use their forks and knives to gently cut the meats that would be in front of them. After finishing the main course, Murdock gave the final direction to use the spoon at the top of a place setting for the dessert, concluding the meal.

When the presentation ended, the event moved on to a decidedly unbusinesslike pie eating contest in which the winner was awarded a Subway gift card.

Senior Derek Turner, a member of the audience, was quite pleased with the outcome of the Black and White Social.

“It was educational, relaxing and a good atmosphere,” Turner said, adding that he would gladly come again to such an event simply to refresh his etiquette skills and because events like these tend to broaden a person’s horizons.

The etiquette lesson and pie eating contest were followed by a chicken dinner prepared by ZPB and a time for socializing.

The Black and White Social on Nov. 29 was ZPB’s last major event of the semester, but the group is planning more activities for the spring term, to be listed on the FMU calendar.