NORTHROP - For some students in Sarah Garcia's seventh- and eighth-grade class at St. James Lutheran School in Northrop, Thursday's formal meal was a refresher course. Other students were learning and using proper etiquette for the first time.
"I knew about using the silverware from the outside in," said Tristan Taylor of Truman. "But I didn't know about the napkins."
"I just thought you put your napkin on your lap and that was it," added Isaac Creech of Estherville.
A group of girls from Sarah Garcia’s seventh- and eighth-grade class at St. James Lutheran School of Northrop prepare to place their linen napkins on their laps after receiving their cue from the dinner “host” during a formal lunch Thursday.
As part of their food and nutrition course, Garcia said the class decided it should learn about presentation.
"They cooked and analyzed recipes, and learned how to make some recipes more healthy," Garcia said. "Then they decided they should learn about presentation, so we decided to have a formal dining experience."
Most of the students had some experience with formal dining, but there was still more to be learned.
Along with using the proper silverware (working with the pieces farther out to start, and moving to each set inward with each meal course), the class learned a few other things, such as waiting for the dinner host to sit and place his napkin on his lap before doing the same.
The group also only drank from their water glasses until the food arrived, and learned about serving from the left and collecting used dishes from the right.
"This morning, we folded the linen napkins, and talked about place settings," Garcia said. "The girls were working in the kitchen, and were wearing aprons over their nice dresses. They really rose to the occasion."
The Rev. Robert Trueblood, who played server for the meal, also was impressed as he whispered a few helpful hints as needed throughout the meal.
"You can just push those to the side of your plate," he told a girl who wasn't too thrilled about the asparagus draped across her meat.
"Yes, you eat the whole thing," he told a boy who wanted to know if all the asparagus was edible.
"I think it's important that we learn the social niceties," Trueblood said. "It's something that's been lost. People don't eat together as much anymore with grabbing fast food, or grabbing something on the go."
Trueblood recalled a story regarding one of his children's friends who stayed over at his home.
"This girl was in high school and had no idea what a dinner table was," he said. "Her family had always ate in front of the TV or taken their food up to their room. She never had dinner at a dining room table ... But the dinner table is a social place, and there are things you need to know."