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Emily Post's Favorite Party & Dining Tips (Collins Gem)
By Peggy Post
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Peggy Post
All right reserved.
Some people are so proficient at wielding eating utensils that they could teach a course in table manners. Many more are fairly comfortable with their table manners but feel they need to brush up on the finer points. Then there are those who feel uncomfortable to the point of dreading what could be seen as a mistake at a fine restaurant or a dinner party. Are they nervously overreacting? That depends. The world's not going to end because you don't know which fork to use or have no idea what to do with an artichoke. Then again, there are times when good table manners become vitally important. One instance is when you are taken to lunch by a potential employer who, for all you know, may be looking to gauge your overall finesse. (Legions of job applicants have missed being hired simply because they chewed with their mouths open or held the fork like a shovel.)
That's why it's a good idea to practice good table manners on a daily basis at the family dinner table or even when eating alone. When used routinely, table manners become second nature, lessening the chances of any missteps whether you're dining inside or outside your home. There are plenty of bonuses in not having to worry about concentrating on how you're eating -- one being the opportunity to focus on the people with whom you're sharing a meal.
It's easy to make sense of a traditional place setting -- especially an informal one, which calls for only a few utensils. The basic rule: Utensils are placed in the order of use -- that is, from the outside in. A second rule, although with a few exceptions: Forks go to the left of the plate, knives and spoons to the right.
The Informal Place Setting
When an informal three-course dinner is served, the typical place setting includes these utensils and dishes:
Dinner plate. This is the "hub of the wheel" and usually the first thing to be set on the table.
Two forks. The forks are placed to the left of plate. The dinner fork (the larger of the two) is used for the main course, the smaller fork for a salad or appetizer. Because at an informal meal the salad is usually served first, the small fork is placed on the outside at the far left.
Napkin. The napkin is folded or put in a napkin ring and placed either to the left of the forks or in the center of the dinner plate. (A folded napkin is also sometimes placed under the forks, though this makes diners go to the trouble of removing the forks before opening their napkins.)
Knife. The dinner knife is set immediately to the right of the plate, cutting edge facing inward. (If the main course is meat, a steak knife can take the place of a dinner knife.) The dinner knife could also be used for a first-course dish.
Spoons. Spoons go to the right of the knife. A soupspoon (used first) goes farthest to the right, and a teaspoon (and sometimes a dessertspoon) between the soupspoon and knife.
Glasses. Drinking glasses of any kind -- wine, water, juice, iced tea -- are placed at the top right of the dinner plate.Other dishes and utensils are optional, depending on what is being served:
Salad plate. This is placed to the left of the forks. If the salad is to be eaten with the meal rather than before or after, you can forgo this plate and serve salad directly on the dinner plate. However, if the entree contains gravy or other runny ingredients, a separate plate for the salad will keep things neater.
Bread plate with butter knife. If used, the bread plate goes above the forks, with the butter knife resting on the edge. dessert spoon and fork. These can be placed either horizontally above the dinner plate (the spoon at the top and its handle to the right; the fork below and its handle to the left) or beside the plate. If placed beside the plate, the fork goes on the left-hand side, closest to the plate; the spoon goes on the right-hand side of the plate, to the left of the soupspoon.
Coffee cup and saucer. If coffee is to be served during the meal, the cup and saucer go just above and slightly to the right of the knife and spoons. If it is served after dinner, the cups and saucers are brought to the table and placed in the same spot.
The Formal Place Setting
The one rule for a formal table is for everything to be geometrically spaced: the centerpiece in the exact center, the place settings at equal distances, and the utensils balanced. Beyond these placements, you can vary other flower arrangements and decorations as you like. A formal place setting usually consists of the following:
Service plate. This large plate, also called a charger, serves as an underplate for the plate holding the first course, which will be brought to the table. When the first course is cleared, the service plate remains until the plate holding the entree is served, at which point the two plates are exchanged.
Butter plate. The small butter plate is placed above the forks at the left of the place setting.
Salad fork. Unless the salad is to be served first, the small salad fork is placed at the left and closest to the plate.
Dinner fork. The largest of the forks, also called the place fork, is placed to the left of the salad fork and is used to eat the entree and side dishes.
Fish fork. If there is a fish course, this small fork is placed farthest to the left because it is the first fork used.
Dinner knife. This is placed to the right of the dinner plate.
Fish knife. The specially shaped fish knife goes to the right of the dinner knife.
Butter knife. This small spreader is placed diagonally on top of the butter plate.
Excerpted from Emily Post's Favorite Party & Dining Tips (Collins Gem) by Peggy Post Copyright © 2005 by Peggy Post.
Excerpted by permission.
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