Proper manners from Downton Abbey and rules of etiquette for dining on soup

Downtown Abbey & Rules of Etiquette for Dining

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read my original blog here.


If, like me, you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, the Masterpiece Theater series on BBC, then you must adore the display of proper manners that fill every episode. The rules of etiquette for dining are especially fun to watch.

Have you noticed that all of the formal meals eaten around the elegantly set dining room table begin with soup? I don’t know if it’s just an easy prop for the set designers to employ or an opportunity to showcase aristocratic deportment when faced with a hot liquid. Either way, I love watching the Crawley family eat soup!

It never ceases to amaze me how a humble pot of soup can become elegant in the right hands.

There are several advantages to eating soup that are worth preserving in our fast-paced and ill-mannered lives over here on “this side of the pond” circa 2013. Taking a cue from the aristocracy and paying homage to National Soup Month, there are some simple rules of etiquette that can be learned by eating soup. You might even discover that using proper table manners improves your family life.

The Setting

Hot soup requires a place to put the steaming plate, bowl or cup. This forces us to return to the civility of sitting at a table. In order to protect the finish on the table, a placemat or tablecloth may be needed, which instantly elevates the dining experience to something special. Then to provide a place to rest the spoon, a saucer or under liner should be used beneath the soup bowl. That presentation is enough to make everyone sit up straight while eating.

The Conversation

A steaming bowl of soup requires our attention while eating, so reading the newspaper, watching television or typing text messages is not an option. Once those distractions are abandoned, we can actually have a conversation with one another while waiting for the soup to cool since blowing on soup is completely unacceptable.

The Pacing

Eating soup requires the use of a spoon, unlike a sandwich (which was invented by a British Earl) that can be eaten out of hand. Spoons can only hold so much, no matter how hungry you are, so there’s no chance of over-stuffing your mouth. And since slurping is frowned upon, you really can’t build up any speed over the others at the table. Sipping soup off the edge of a spoon helps set the same pace for everyone.

The Pauses

If the soup is hot, that will also help with pacing, especially if you wear glasses and need the fog to clear before you can resume eating. These pauses encourage more polite conversation and allow time to drop a few croutons into the soup since crushing crackers is totally barbaric!

British Rules of Soup Etiquette

Carefully dip the spoon into the soup plate at the 12:00 position and delicately move it towards the back of the plate to fill it halfway. Lightly touch the bottom of the spoon on the far rim of the plate to catch any drips on the bottom, then slowly raise it to your mouth to sip the contents off the side of the spoon, never the end, and – heaven forbid – never put the entire spoon in your mouth.

Volumes have been written about the importance of gathering your family around the table to reconnect over meals. If you’re having a difficult time making the connection, why not try serving more soup?




Posted in Children, Eating Habits, Eating Right, FAMILY GOES STRONG, Family Traditions and tagged , , , .

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