Befuddled by the Flatware at a Formal Dinner?


formal-place-setting-silverwareMiss Meredith Sweetpea loves to attend a formal dinner. All the courses, with their delightful tastes, are just a pleasure to enjoy.

Attending a formal dinner, however, can befuddle some who are not familiar with the array of flatware (a.k.a. silverware) that is set upon the table. Often you’ll see a variety of forks, knives and spoons set beside and above the plate setting, along with a number of drinking glasses.

According to Miss Manners Judith Martin, when it comes to silverware,”Ten would be the maximum number of complements that could be on the table at the same time: a seafood (or cocktail) fork (nestling in the soup spoon); the soup spoon; sets of forks and knives for three courses (usually fish, meat, and salad and/or cheese; if more are needed for additional courses, they should be brought in separately); and a dessert spoon and fork above the plate.”

“A teaspoon has no place at a formal table because tea and coffee are not served during the meal; after-dinner coffee, formally served in a drawing room in a demi-tasse cup, requires the small spoon. If people do wish to drink coffee at the table, for example, the appropriate spoon should be put on the saucer.”

Which Utensil Do I Use for Which Course?

As a rule, silverware should be used from the outside in. In other words, the pieces farthest away from the plate on either side of it should be used first. After each course in a formal dinner, the used silverware should be placed upon the plate to be taken away, leaving the next set of flatware available on the outside of the serving plate. Soup spoons are often served on the plate with the soup, a butter knife usually rests on your bread plate to the left of your forks, and dessert utensils are generally placed above the plate and should remain there until the dessert arrives.

Follow the Host

If you are still befuddled by the array of flatware, the simple rule is to watch the host and do what he or she does.

–excerpted from “Miss Manners’ Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium,” by Judith Martin.

 

 

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