Individual salt cellars have the ability to elevate any place setting. They can take a look from “How nice...” to “How elegant!” Or, from “Drabulous to fabulous!” as a friend once enthused. And though we are not suggesting that salts and peppers are set on a table merely for decorative purposes, Etiquipedia kindly requests that you politely taste your food first, prior to adding anything like salt. Even after tasting the food, do not send a “non-verbal” complaint to the host or hostess by making a show of heavily salting and peppering your meal. As a thoughtful guest, please remember that you are not there to eat, but to dine and enjoy the company of your hosts.
– Photo of a Michael Aram salt cellar and salt spoon
with a Touch of Pepper
🍴Polite guests always taste food prior to adding salt –or adding any spice or condiment– out of respect and graciousness to those who have prepared a meal, or invited one to a meal.
🍴If you are a guest, even after tasting the food, take care not make a show of salting your food. This is rude. It implies that the meal is “less than it should be.” It also could imply that you have an unsophisticated palate and are not able to taste subtle flavors in the meal. If invited to dinner in a private home, “non-verbal complaints” like salting food before tasting, or pouring catsup all over your food, is most impolite.
🍴In some countries, like Portugal, it is impolite to even ask for salt. It is considered an insult to the chef, whether you are a guest in someone’s home, or in restaurants. If salt, pepper, other spices or condiments are not on the table, do not ask for them to be brought to you.
🍴The etiquette rule above applies in the reverse situation, as well. If one is hosting someone from another culture or country, and they prefer to have salt and pepper at the table, though it is not the norm for you, feel free to provide these items to make your guests feel more welcome.
🍴 If invited as a guest to eat in a restaurant, or perhaps a wedding reception or birthday celebration, and someone else is paying the tab, such non-verbal complaints about the meal are impolite, as well. Remember, you are a guest!
🍴If asked to pass the salt, always pass it with the pepper, so that the two do not get separated.
🍴 Always say, "Excuse me" if you need to reach in front of someone caught up in conversation, when passing salt (or anything else) at the table.
🍴Be aware of those around you at the table. If the salt is nearest you (this also applies to butter, rolls, etc...) don't allow yourself to be so caught up or lost in your conversation, that someone has to reach in front of you to pass the requested item.
🍴 Judith Martin shakes out “The Salt and Pepper Question”
Q: In a set of identical salt and pepper shakers, should the salt be placed in the shaker with one or two holes? My friend's feeling is that the salt is used more, therefore it should go in the two-hole shaker; I feel that because it pours faster, the salt belongs in the shaker with one hole. We resolve to abide by your decision.
A: If Miss Manners were to tell you, in a blustery way, to use salt cellars and pepper grinders, would you consider it a cop-out, as it were? Yes, of course you would. The truth is that Miss Manners didn't know that salt pours faster than pepper, and is now sitting here with little black and white specks all over her lap. Just a minute. (Brush, brush, brush.)
All right now, the decision is that your friend's reasoning is incorrect, but her conclusion is correct. (Miss Manners used to get her arithmetic papers back with that remark.) Salt goes in the two-hole shaker, not because it is used more often, but because more of it is used. Put another way; over-peppered food tastes worse than over-salted food. – Miss Manners, Copyright (c) 1979 and United Feature Syndicate
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia