How to Eat French Onion Soup
and Other Soup Tips

French Onion Soup

A friend recently shared an interview experience with a person who was applying to work at his law firm. The employment offer was off the table after having lunch with the applicant. The person completely blew eating their French Onion soup! (Details left to the reader’s imagination.)

How to Eat French Onion Soup

It’s interesting how one little bowl of soup can bring about the level of anxiety this one does. Although steeped in tradition, served in French market cafés primarily as late-night fare, the bread and cheese hooding the fragrant broth and onions creates confusion for those hoping to eat it with some semblance of decorum.

So, how DO you eat French Onion Soup with confidence and fewer drips?  Etiquette experts, Emily Post and daughter, Peggy, have shared, “With such a soup, a knife is your friend, not your enemy.” That’s right, it is acceptable to use a knife when eating this soup, especially when it helps avoid your wearing strings of cheese on your face.

  • Much can depend on the soup as prepared by the chef.  If, as in the picture above, cheese has baked down firmly onto the sides of the bowl, the diner must be careful with the first knife move to avoid a possible burst of steam.
  • With the soup spoon in your dominant hand and a knife in the other hand, push the cheese from the middle outward to the rim of the bowl.
  • Use the knife to cut and nudge bits of cheese onto your spoon. In the case of long strands of cheese that are difficult to get into the spoon, you can twist the strand around the wide part of the spoon and then cut it with the knife.
  • You can also switch hands and use the knife to cut the crispy bread, while using the soup spoon to leverage it.
  • It's tricky!

Doing Business During a Meal

If your business includes working with clients, the business lunch is a perfect social occasion with a goal that is professional. On a very small scale it is like a networking event with food and drink involved. And, if you are being interviewed over lunch, know that the potential employer will be imagining how you will interact with their clients. Having good dining skills is paramount.

When you are dining with a potential employer, it’s no time to be adventurous with food. Make sure your meal is within your skill level comfort zone. If you order soup, make sure that it is creamy or a broth and that can easily be eaten with a soup spoon alone, never requiring the use of any other utensil or bread. 

When you order soup at a business lunch or dinner:

  • Order “easy” to eat soup that will allow you to concentrate on the conversation at hand.
  • Never add salt or pepper without first tasting.
  • Hold the spoon so that the bowl of the spoon is angled away from you.
  • Do not fill the bowl of the spoon too full or make any slurping sound.

A business or working lunch, like any meal, is meant to nourish you and be enjoyed. But primarily, it is intended to make doing business more convenient and in a social context.

In most gatherings where people are eating, we tend to make food the primary subject. But when business is being conducted during mealtime, business should be the primary subject. Which makes knowing how to eat French onion soup, and many other foods that require special knowledge, worth the time and practice.

“Good manners: The noise you don't make when you're eating soup.”
~ Bennett Cerf

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