February 08, 2017 9:15AM
For most of the past 27 years, Peggy Snyder has been telling PSU students how to behave at the dinner table.
On Wednesday, Feb. 8, Snyder will oversee her last Etiquette Dinner at PSU. A professor of human resource development, Snyder is retiring this spring.
Snyder said she began teaching dining etiquette around 1990, in large part because of her educational background in family and consumer sciences. Learning dining etiquette is important, she said, because sharing a meal is often an important part of the job interview process.
Wednesday’s etiquette dinner is hosted by the Office of Career Services and is one of two that the office holds each year to help students prepare for job interviews. In addition, Snyder said, she has led etiquette dinners for a wide range of student groups, including sororities and fraternities.
Snyder said a lot has changed over the years that she has been teaching dining etiquette, but the basics are still the same.
“I don’t think that the rules of etiquette have changed,” Snyder said, “but families seem to spend less time around the table together and there’s not much focus on conversation. Also, the fast-food culture means that foods are more often eaten with hands, rather than knives and forks. Using a knife and fork may sound simple, but it takes practice to do it properly.”
Snyder said her goal is to help students master the basics of good table manners, not prepare them for an episode of “Downton Abby.”
“We focus on the basics and keep it practical,” Snyder said. “We normally begin with a salad. We have a chicken breast so they have to cut meat, a baked potato, and a nice dessert. We practice passing and serving food and learn what to do with a fork and knife when we’re not using it.”
But even with preparation, the unexpected sometimes happens.
“I was at a board meeting recently when the plastic fork I was using broke and food went flying,” Snyder said. “It can happen to anyone.”