We have all been there, beautiful weddings and swish corporate functions dressed to the nines in teetering heels and polished brogues when suddenly, the canapé tray emerges from the kitchen. The most sophisticated party-goers can turn from Jekyll to Hyde, leaving wait staff wondering how they ended up with a torn shirts, tousled hair and an empty tray (with teeth marks in it) in the space of three minutes.
Canapés require a tactical approach as there are a many things to consider namely size, quantity, timing and method. There is a certain etiquette around the way you conduct yourself at a cocktail function so, before you go throwing yourself at the waiter's tray, please familiarise yourself with these canapé offenders and avoid being one at all costs.
Look around; there isn't a dinner plate in sight. That is because this is not dinner. Bears are the only creatures on earth that are excused from tearing at picnic baskets and breaking into cars in the hope of finding a stealthy meal. You are not a bear. Canapés are merely a decorative gastronomic morsel for you to enjoy with your chosen beverage. You should not balance your drink under your elbow whilst gathering as many into your cupped hands. The Bear also tends to linger around the kitchen door hoping for easy food 'prey'.
The '2 for 1'
Keep in mind that two pints of beer per one cream cheese stuffed mushroom will have you in bed at 9pm (when the function started at 8pm). Pace yourself with drinks and food. If you have prior knowledge that your function is a cocktail food only event, then having a light meal beforehand would be a wise decision.
The 'double dipper'
Canapé sacrilege. Do not swirl your witlof leaf around the aioli dish, take a big bite, and recommence swirling. Claiming to other guests that you 'brushed your teeth that morning' just will not do. Select the canapé you wish to eat and walk away from the tray.
It is difficult to choose from such a wide array or delectable bites, but it would be wise to avoid emerging from the bathroom and touching every canapé on the tray before making your selection. You will spend the night friendless (on the upside, not hungry). Stick with choices that you know you will enjoy, particularly if there are many 'unusual' canapés on offer.
The Crown Prince of Dubai is approaching. You know he will be congratulating you on your highly successful business venture of which he has a keen investment interest. This is not the time to stuff your cheeks full of arancini
. Be conscious of you guests and hosts, and the conversations going on around you.
Tips for the host
Paris-based lifestyle and etiquette expert Nathalie Findlay suggests that the host "should never serve themselves without offering the food around first, especially if there are ladies present".
Canapé etiquette is common sense, the key rule to remember is that the host isn't supplying a meal, they are simply providing you with a small taste that complements your chosen drink. Enjoy your evening and remember to thank your waitress.
Trish Gallagher is a regular contributor to ninemsn Food. You can find more of her recipes on her Pink Leopard blog.
Now read: How to live life with no regrets.