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by Abigail Van Buren

High School Sweethearts Set Their Sights on Different Goals

DEAR ABBY: When seated at a dinner table where the food is served "family style," which is the proper way of passing the dishes -- to the left or to the right? I have yet to sit at such a dinner and have the plates come from one direction. They come at me from both sides!

I have a tendency to pass to the left. I am right-handed, and I hold the dish to my left and take my portions with my right hand. Because the plate is already to my left, I pass it to the left. I have also gone to some dinners where the plates were passed back and forth across the table.

Is there a correct way of passing food around the table? -- LEFT OR RIGHT? IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR LEFT OR RIGHT?: According to "Emily Post's Etiquette" (which I'll paraphrase), the dishes are "traditionally" passed to the right (counterclockwise) so they move in one direction. After helping him- or herself, each diner holds the dish for the next diner or hands the dish to the person to the right so that person can take a portion. If the dish is heavy, it can be placed on the table with each pass. Any dish that has a handle should be passed so the handle faces the person receiving it.