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Release date: 12/28/2004.
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Sage American Advice on Soup Etiquette,
roughly chronological

(Take It or Leave It)

Anon., 19th century, American:
Eating peas with a fork is as bad as trying to eat soup with a knitting needle."

An American lady, True Politeness,, 1853:

"It is usual to commence with soup, which never refuse.... When all are seated, send a plate of soup to every one. Do not ask anyone if they will be helped, as everyone takes it, of course."

Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the U.S. and ghostly interlocutor of Hillary Rodham Clinton:

Eating Soup. Thick soup served in a soup dish is eaten with the soup spoon. If you want to get the last bit of it, there is no impropriety in tipping the dish away from you in order to collect it at the edge. Indeed you are paying a subtle compliment to your hostess by this demonstrating how good it is. Drink thin soups and bouillons served in cups, as you would tea or coffee, ;but if there are vegetables or noodles left in the bottom, eat them with the spoon, rather than struggle unattractively to make them slide from the cup into your mouth. (Book of Common Sense Etiquette, 1962)

Bennet Cerf, 20th century American humorist:

"Good manners: The noise you don't make when you're eating soup."

American expert Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette, 1952:

Tipping of Dishes. The tipping of soup or dessert dishes is acceptable if the plate is tipped away from the spoon, not toward the eater.
The Handled Soup or Bouillon Cup. Soup or bouillon served in a handled cup or even in a small cup-size bowl (Oriental fashion) is drunk. If there are dumplings or decorative vegetables or other garnish floating on top, these may be lifted out first with the spoon before the soup is drunk. Noodles or other things which may be in the bottom of the cup are spooned up after the liquid has been drunk. How to hold cups. A handled cup is held with the index finger through the handle, the thumb just above it to support the grip, and the second finger below the handle for added security. The little finger should follow the curve of the other fingers and not be elevated affectedly. It is incorrect to cradle the cup in one's fingers if it has a handle. This is done only when the cup is of Oriental style without handles.

American expert Amy Vanderbilt 20 years later, in 1972:

Larger soda crackers should not be crumbled into the soup and are best kept on the plate and eaten with the soup. The exception to this would be when eating chowder. In this case, the water biscuits served with it are meant to be crumbled into the soup.

At a family dinner, soup may be on the table when the family is called. Soup, in this nice friendly way, can be served from a tureen in front of the mother.

At formal dinners, the soup course is always served in flat soup plates.

At formal luncheons, the soup spoon is always at the right of the knife(s). In the case of a clear soup, the spoon should be used to eat any floating solids out of the soup before drinking from the cup...then used again to spoon up any bottom solids at the end.

At informal dinners or luncheons, a hot or cold soup entré may be served in a handled cup, a pottery bowl, or a cream-soup cups. Soup should be served in cream soup or bouillon cups, not in flat soup plates...OR chunky, rich soups may be served as a meal from a tureen in soup plates with generous portions and served with thick slices of French bread on the side.

It is polite to tip a dish of soup to get the last spoonfuls, but away, always away from the diner.

Charlotte Ford, Guide to Modern Manners, 1988:

Soup in a cup may be sipped with a spoon until it has cooled a bit. Then you can drink it from the cup if you like. Use your spoon to eat any vegetable or meat at the bottom of the cup.

When you near the bottom of a cup or a plate of soup, tip the dish away from you to eat the last spoonsful. You may tip the spoon either toward you or away from you; it makes no difference.

Oyster crackers or croutons, when served with the soup, are put in the soup whole. Drop oyster crackers in with your fingers, since they're dry. Use a spoon to drop croutons into your bowl, as they might be buttery.

Emily Post's Etiquette, 15th edition, by Elizabeth Post, 1992:

Soup at luncheon is never served in soup plates, but in two-handled cups. It is eaten with a teaspoon or a bouillon spoon, or after it has cooled sufficiently, the cup may be picked up. It is almost always a clear soup: in the winter, a bouillon, turtle soup, or consommé, and in the summer, a chilled sopu such as jellied consommé or madrilene. Vichyssoise is also popular in hot weather.

At dinner parties, guests may come to table with a cold first course in place, but if it is a hot course, such as soup, the butler serves it after people are seated.

Letitia Baldridge, Complete Guide to the New Manners for the 1990s:

Sup your soup quietly, and if you are blowing on a spoonful to fool it down, do that quietly too.

If you are drinking clear soup from a two handled cup, spoon any solids out of the cup first and eat them, then pick up the cup and drink the broth.

American Dairy Association Survey on Soup Etiquette Preferences:

87% of Americans in the survey preferred to spoon their soup from bowls, rather than sip it from mugs...and chicken noodle was the hands-down favorite

Marjabelle Young Stewart, Commonsense, 1999:

How do we eat our soup? We skim our spoon delicately across its surface, as if we were sending a ship out to sea, then bring it to our lips and silently sip.

There are two kinds of soup bowls: rimmed and not rimmed--and the rimmed are traditionally used for cream-based soups. There are two kinds of soup spoons: round for clear soups in deep cups; oval for cream and hearty soups in rimmed plates.

Fill the spoon with soup by pushing it away form you, then sip from its side.

American etiquette maven Miss Manners (Judith Martin), special to The Canadian St. John's Telegram, 5/1/2002:

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When eating soup from a bowl on a plate, where is the proper place to set the spoon between spoonfuls and again when finished? Is it the bowl or the plate?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners is going to drive you crazy on this one. You want a simple answer so you can eat your soup in peace and propriety, and she is about to douse you with technical terms.

Soup may be served in bowls or cups with small plates under them, in which case the spoon is always parked on the underlying plate, whether you are finished or just resting up for the next spoonful. That would be a simple anser if this were all there were to it, but there is more.

At more or less formal dinners, soup is served in a so-called soup plate, which doesn't look like a plate because it is a rimmed wide, shallow bowl, but it is called a plate anyway. It goes on top of the service plate, and both are removed together when replaced with the plate for the fish or meat course.

When a soup plate is used, the spoon is parked in it, not in the flat plate below the soup plate. This is a shock to people who only learned soup-bowl etiquette, and will think you don't know any better, but it is the correct method.

You can achieve an even greater shock with two-handled soup cups, where it is not strictly necessary to use a spoon at all, but permissible to drink from the lifted cup. However, Miss Manners does not consider herself responsible for the consequences of Fun With Soup.