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November 17, 2010

Learn How to Set a Proper Table for the Holidays

Driving back home from Bryce's school in the morning, I spotted these guys, and they've begun to show signs of nervousness.  No ToFurky for this family, we eat the real thing.  Although, we aren't hosting Thanksgiving this year so no turkey needed.  My feathered friends, you are safe, at least from our family for this year.

The holidays are usually the only time of year that the fine china is dusted off and comes out of storage for many of us, or at least at our house.  With that comes table placement.  What goes where?  How many forks?  How many glasses?  Does everyone need their own butter dish?  So instead of figuring all this out at the last minute, I visited the person with all the answers....Emily Post.   Actually her website, to find out and document my findings for future use. 

Here's what I found on her site:

Informal Place Setting

This illustration, courtesy Emily Post, shows a setting for the following menu:

•Soup course
•Salad or first course

a. Dinner plate:  This is normally the first thing to be set on the table.  It would be placed where the napkin is shown in the illustration, with the napkin on top of the plate.
b. Two Forks:  Forks are set to the left of the plate.  The larger dinner fork is used for the main course.  The smaller fork is used for the salad.  They are arranged from the outside, in.  The fork you use first would be on the outside.  The forks are placed to the left of the plate.
c. Napkin:  A folded napkin is placed to the left of the forks, on the dinner plate itself and sometimes under the forks. 
d. Dinner Knife:  The dinner knife is set to the right of the plate with the cutting edge facing in.  The knife can be used for all courses but should never be placed directly on the table, place mat or tablecloth when dirty. 
e. Spoons: Spoons go to the right of the knife.  Same as the forks, the spoon used first should be placed on the outside.  Soup spoon then dessert spoon. 
f. Glasses: Drinking glasses, all types - water, wine, juice, iced tea - are placed above the knives and spoons.

Other dishes and utensils are optional for a informal setting, depending on what is being served, but may include:

g. Salad Plate: Would be placed to the left of the forks. If salad is to be eaten with the meal, you can forgo the salad plate and serve it directly on the dinner plate. However, if the entree contains gravy or anything runny, it is better to serve the salad on a separate plate to keep things neater.

h. Bread Plate with Butter Knife: If used, the bread plate goes above the forks, with the butter knife placed diagonally across the edge of the plate, handle on the right side and blade facing down.

i.  Dessert Spoon and Fork: These can be placed either horizontally above the dinner plate or beside the plate. If placed beside the plate, the fork goes on the left side, closest to the plate (because it will be the last fork used) and the spoon goes on the right side of the plate, to the right of the dinner knife and to the left of the soup spoon.

j. Coffee Cup and Saucer:  If coffee is being served during the meal, the coffee cup and saucer are placed above and to the right of the knife and spoons. At home, most people serve coffee after the meal. In that case the cups and saucers are brought tot he table and placed above and to the right of the knives and spoons.

Formal Place Setting

For a formal table setting {illustration courtesy Emily Post} all the utensils, glasses and plates should be geometrically spaced.  Center piece should be in the exact center of the table.  Again, outside utensils are to be used first and should be placed in order of use.

The illustration shows a setting for the following menu order:

•Appetizer: Shellfish

•First Course: Soup or fruit
•Fish Course

a. Service Plate: Or charger plate, serves as an under plate for the plate holding the first course, which will be brought to the table. When the first course is cleared, the charger stays until the plate holding the entree is served, at which point the two plates are exchanged. The charger may serve as the under plate for several courses which follow the entree.

b.  Butter Plate: The small butter plate is placed above the forks at the left of the place setting.

c. Dinner Fork: The largest of the forks,  is placed on the left of the plate. Other smaller forks for other courses are arranged to the left or right of the dinner fork, according to when they will be used.

d. Fish Fork: If there is a fish course, this small fork is placed farthest to the left of the dinner fork because it is the first fork used.

e. Salad Fork: If the salad is served after the entree, the small salad fork is placed to the right of the dinner fork, next to the plate. If the salad is to be served first, and fish second, then the forks would be arranged (left to right): salad fork, fish fork, dinner fork.

f. Dinner Knife: The large dinner knife is placed to the right of the dinner plate.

g. Fish Knife: The specially shaped fish knife goes to the right of the dinner knife.

i. Soup Spoon or Fruit Spoon: If soup or fruit is served as a first course, then the accompanying spoon goes to the right of the knives.

j. Oyster Fork: If shellfish are served, the oyster fork goes to the right of the spoons. Note: it is the only fork ever placed on the right of the plate.

k. Butter Knife: The small knife is placed diagonally on top of the butter plate, handle on the right and blade down.

l. Glasses: There can be up to five and are placed so that the smaller ones are up front. The water goblet (la) is placed directly above the knives. Just to the right goes a champagne flute (lb); in front of these are placed a red (lc) or white (ld) wine glass and a sherry glass (le).

m. Napkin: The napkin is placed on top of the charger (if one is used) or in the space for the plate.

Hope this helps to make your holidays go smoother!

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