Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eating flowers and getting jobs

This week, Ferrum College Student Melissa Maldonado has the keys. She was one of many Ferrum College students who attended the annual Protocol Dinner -- designed to show students how to handle a business meal and/or interview situation. Here are Melissa's thoughts.

Mom could only teach us so much when it came to table manners, but, she never had occasion to teach us about flowers in our salad. Issues such as that were right in front of us at the annual Ferrum College Protocol Dinner, where students join faculty, staff and local employers for a fancy dinner in the Blue Ridge Mountain Room.. Our host, and guide for the evening was Jack Sharlow an etiquette specialist.
Students walked into the Blue Ridge Mountain Room to find tables with more silverware than we had ever seen around a plate and a very interesting looking soup. At that moment I was intimidated.

But host Jack assured us that this dinner was a learning experience and a comfortable setting. He started off by showing us basics like the proper way to put the napkin in your lap (fold it diagonally halfway). He then told us to open sugar packets by tearing the paper only halfway. No sooner had he said that than I did what I always do – tore all the way through, leaving TWO pieces of paper on the table instead of the preferred, one. I looked around to see if anyone had noticed. The business executive for Safe Sleep beds, Mr. Al Flora to my left laughed and said " I know, its hard to break habits." This made me feel a lot better and I began to relax.

The first serving was a melon soup. In the soup was a thin bread stick with ham wrapped around it. It looked kind of like a ham lollipop. I was completely lost on how to begin eating this and by the look on everyone else’s face they were too. We are instructed to scoop the soup away from us, so would not dribble on ourselves. This made sense. As far as the ham-on-a-stick went, we were relieved to learn we could simply pick it up. I sighed in relief this dinner might be a little easier than I anticipated.
The salad was next, it came with a surprise, flowers! I was lost again. We were told the flowers were edible and that we should eat them. I did not see this coming, but why not try something new? I put the yellow flower in my mouth and shocked! It was horrible. I tried my hardest not to make a face, I could not spit it out . That would be completely inappropriate. I was glad it was all over when I swallowed it.
Our next plate was the entree; skewers with chicken steak and vegetables. I knew this was not going to be a barbecue were I could just pull it off with my teeth. To get the food off the skewer we had to use a fork and gracefully slide the pieces off individually, “one or two at a time.” With the chicken it was not a difficult task, but the steak was a completely different story. I could see the senior to the right try and scoot the steak off the skewer slowly. Then suddenly the steak launched into his lap. We knew it had to happen to at least one of us.

Finally desert and coffee. I don’t recall what it was exactly but it was absolutely scrumptious and easy to eat -- thank goodness.
Overall the dinner was a success. Everyone at the table engaged in good conversation. We all admitted that we had some manners to brush up on and that we all will take something away from the experience. I learned to always eat my flowers.