The 35 students gathered at long tables in the Fullerton IV Elementary School gym Thursday evening were all decked out in dresses and ties, to barely fidgeting at all. They responded politely when asked about the first of four courses: Chicken Noodle Soup served in fine china bowls.
And finally, they knew just what to do with all those spoons and forks.
It was the fifth-annual Fine Dining event sponsored by Roseburg Public Schools. The event was more than tasty soup, pear salad, Parmesan chicken and dessert du jour — it was also a chance to learn the finer points of dining etiquette.
Kyle Micken, food service director for Roseburg Public Schools, said good etiquette makes everyone feel more comfortable. He started by asking the students to get up and introduce themselves to others at the table.
He admonished the students not to say bad things about the food, then asked why they should put their napkins in their laps rather than around their necks like a bib.
“Because you’re not a baby,” said one of the diners.
Then Micken went on to explain the arrangement of the forks and spoons, and the mystery of why the teeth of their knives pointed inward toward the plate. It helps protect the diner from accidental cuts.
Fifth-grader Clark Gibson said he was excited to attend the dinner, but some things were different than he expected.
“I sort of thought there would be more than two forks. I did not know that the knife’s teeth would go in,” he said.
His father, D.J. Gibson, sat next to him, and said he thought the dinner was a good idea.
“I think it’s a good thing teaching kids proper etiquette and manners. We work on it at the house, but normal life, living, you know kind of rush to eat meals half the time,” he said.
On Wednesday night at home, for example, the Gibsons said they had tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner, and each ate with just the one spoon.
Jose Guzman had experience working in seafood restaurants in the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta, but was looking forward to a different type of dining experience with his son Emmanuel Guzman.
“That’s good, I’m learning something with him,” Jose Guzman said.
Emmanuel was looking forward to the food, especially the Parmesan chicken.
“It’s a pretty good event so far,” he said just after the soup was served. He was surprised, though, by how much silverware was involved.
Erika Franklin and her niece Kyra Phelps came out because Kyra was interested in gaining the experience.
Kyra said she learned what to do with all that silverware.
Franklin was dispensing additional lessons, like how to move the soup spoon.
“Typically you’re going to move it away from you and not have so much that it will fall off of your spoon,” she said.
Domonic Redmond attended the event with his grandma Sheila Miner.
Miner said the food was really good, and Domonic was enthusiastic about the whole event.
“I think that it’s really fun. All I’ve been doing my whole life has just been eating regular, and it’s just a new experience to get to eat fancy,” he said.