Etiquette expert reveals the correct way to butter and eat bread - and it's not how you think

We're been doing it wrong this whole time?!
We're been doing it wrong this whole time?! Photo credit: Getty Images; apwasiwine / TikTok

In the world of food and fine dining, there are a few things that can trip you up - chopsticks, for example, are a minefield. Eating spaghetti somewhat elegantly without splashing sauce on your chin - also tricky. Resisting the urge to immediately salt the meal before tasting it - restrain yourself.

But when it comes to the bread basket, it's our time to shine. You select a piece of bread, slather it in a layer of spread, and chomp away. It's even in the name - the saying 'bread-and-butter' is used to reference something everyday or ordinary. How can you go wrong?

Yet according to an etiquette expert, we're all animals.

Dr Clinton Lee, a critic, lecturer and certified wine and spirit specialist, says while the common bread-buttering method is "practical", it's "incorrect" based on traditional table manners.

In a now viral video, Dr Lee demonstrates how to butter bread like a culinary connoisseur.

"Many people will take the entire piece of bread and [butter] it on their plate," he explained.

"Practical, certainly. But in terms of etiquette, incorrect."

The clip, which has since amassed more than 4.4 million views on TikTok, shows Dr Lee placing the butter on his plate first - instead of slathering it straight on the bread. 

"Take the entire piece of butter and place it onto your plate."

Dr Lee then begins to tear up the slice of bread into small, bitesize pieces.

"This is where the saying comes from, 'breaking bread'," he said.

"You break the bread into small pieces, mouth-sized, butter it and there you go. Perfect."

The informative video has proved divisive among viewers, many of whom were quick to counter Dr Lee's interpretation of the expression, "breaking bread". Several pointed out that the saying originated from the Bible, and is used to describe sharing a meal or food with others to ensure everyone is fed.

Others complained that traditional table manners are outdated in today's society.

"Imagine having to live by these rules," one commented. 

"I'm gonna look fancy AF at Texas Roadhouse next time," another joked.

"How to waste time doing something desperately simple," a third said.

"If someone is going to shame me for how I butter my bread I don't need them in my life," a fourth chipped in.

"This doesn't even make sense, it looks like it made more mess," another added.

Person buttering slice of bread with a knife
Prepare to wow your conservative in-laws at the next family dinner with this etiquette hack. Photo credit: Getty Images

But many defended Dr Lee, noting the importance of keeping long-established culinary customs alive. 

"Why are people hating so much? He's showing what other people [do], and it's great information. It's not a waste of time," one said.

"Wow, that's classy," a woman commented, while another said she had "always wondered which way was the right way".

"Every video I watch I realise I'm a monster," another joked.

"Makes me feel like a real lady when I follow your tips," a woman added.

"This is how my grandmother taught us. Of course she was a table manners' enforcer. I've had many people over the years tease me about it," another shared.

Despite the objections, Dr Lee's method is correct in terms of dining etiquette, particularly in a formal setting. 

Other rules recognised by etiquette experts include only eating the bread as an accompaniment to the courses, rather than beforehand, and keeping the bread to the left of the main dinner plate. 

According to modern etiquette coach Maggie Oldham, all bread - whether it be a roll, muffin, croissant, etc - should be treated the same way: break off, butter, and eat bitesized pieces. The only exception is toast at breakfast time, she says.

So just in case you have an upcoming date with the Queen - now you know what to do!

It's not the first time social media users have been blindsided by a revelation that they've been doing something simple completely wrong. Last year, a professional cleaner revealed on TikTok that people clean their toilets incorrectly all the time - much to the dismay of viewers.