Marta Belt shows Nichole Stidam the proper placement for her salad fork. (Staff photo by Brett Eppley/beppley@madisoncourier.com)
Marta Belt shows Nichole Stidam the proper placement for her salad fork. (Staff photo by Brett Eppley/beppley@madisoncourier.com)
Good manners can be a lost art, for both young and old.

On Friday, those groups came together for luncheon to brush up on their skills as some of them prepare to enter the professional world or to, perhaps, make a new friend.

Ivy Tech Community College students dined with residents of River Terrace Health Campus as the culmination of a lesson on everything from handshakes and conversation, to the use of silverware and cell phones.

Marta Belt, Ivy Tech communications faculty member, has been teaching manners for 25 years. For students, she said, it’s another chance to give them a bit of “polish” before graduation.

In the past, Belt said, Ivy Tech partnered with Hanover College or other peers, but this most recent course provided the opportunity to bridge a generational gap. After all, she said, many seniors grew up with a greater focus on manners.

“So many young folks don’t even eat at the table anymore, so they’re not learning this stuff,” Belt said. “They just don’t hear it anymore.”

Students taking the non-credit course said they saw potential real-world benefits that made it worthwhile.

“I’m looking at it from the career development angle,” nursing student Amanda Miller said. “In the future I might have to have dinner with an important person, and I want to make sure that I don’t have any faux pas.”

Along with navigating the layout of a proper dinner table, Belt outlined a myriad of ways diners should handle themselves when eating.

Belt’s top three guidelines for manners at the table?

• Use your napkin. Keep it folded your lap when seated, gently folded beside your plate if you need to excuse yourself.

• Place your used pieces of silverware on a plate at the three or 4 o’clock position when you’re finished. Servers will recognize this and make the process that much smoother.

• No cell phones at the table. Our phones are often covered in germs and, more importantly, distract from conversation. As Belt said, “love the one you’re with.”

“I don’t think we need to change basic table manners to fit culture, I think we might need to come back just a little bit,” Belt said of making a move to pre-cell phone era. “Really, Emily Post said it best when she said, you know, one of the biggest reasons is to slow down and enjoy your food – the money you put into food, the time you put into preparing it, all that.”