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The ABCs of Soup

I love soup. It’s particularly great for lunch or as an appetizer when I go out for dinner. In fact, the soup at the Burlington Country Club here in Burlington, Vermont is well-known for being especially tasty. Their soup rep is the basis for a piece of advice I offer people who will be hosting a business meal: Know the place you are going to well enough that you can recommend specific items on the menu to your guests. Whenever I take someone to the Burlington Country Club for a meal, I always recommend they have the soup.

Once that cup or bowl of soup arrives, what is the best way to eat it and where should you place your spoon?

The recommended way to eat soup is based entirely on practicality. Most people dip the spoon into the cup or bowl and then bring the spoon right up to their mouths. The problem with immediately bringing the soup-filled spoon toward you is that a drip from the spoon can easily fall onto you. Instead, dip the spoon into the soup and raise it with a motion away from you. As you raise the spoon, gently let the bottom of the spoon rub the edge of the bowl or cup to catch any drip. Then bring the spoon to your mouth. Under-filling the spoon will also help avoid wayward drips.

It is okay and perhaps may even be necessary to blow gently on the spoonful of soup before putting it in your mouth. Once the soup has cooled a bit, blowing is no longer necessary. Slurping, however, is never okay. The noise is unattractive and off-putting to others at the table. Practice eating soup with finesse.

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Is tipping the cup or bowl acceptable? Of course it is. It’s the best way to get the last spoonful of soup out of the bowl or cup. It’s better to tip away from you and avoid any possibility of soup spilling into your lap.

The soupspoon goes in the same location whether you’re in the middle of eating and just want to put the spoon down briefly or if you have finished. If the soup is in a cup with a saucer under it, place the spoon in the saucer rather than leaving it in the cup. It would be easy for your arm to knock the handle sticking up from the cup, and you could end up with soup in your lap. If the soup is served in a low or shallow bowl you can leave the spoon resting gently in the bowl with the handle on the edge. When you are finished be sure to leave the handle pointing to the lower right (four o’clock, if you envision your bowl as the face of a clock). When it is in this position the wait staff knows you are finished and can clear your place.

If you have a business etiquette question, email it to [email protected]

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.

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