Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Setting the Formal Table

Here’s what you need:
  • Table decorations (centerpiece). When it comes to table decorations, many interesting variations and options are possible. Some examples of these decorations include flowers, fruits and vegetables, collections of figurines, and candles.
  • Butter plate and knife. These go to the upper left of your plate above the forks. The butter knife is placed horizontally across the top of the plate with the blade facing down. Some hosts place a few butter pats on the butter plate just before seating the guests, although it’s also fine to pass a small plate containing butter pats with a butter knife for guests to help themselves. Don’t own butter plates? Don’t worry. Pass around a small dish containing butter pats or balls. You can also use a dish into which you have spooned soft butter or margBulleted Listarine from a plastic tub, or a decorative container that disguises the plastic tub of butter or margarine by fitting around it perfectly. Pass around a butter knife or other small knife with the container so that guests can serve themselves. Guests should take from the container what they want, put it on the side of their plates, and pass the container to the next person.
  • Salad plates. Salad plates range in diameter from about 71⁄2 to 81⁄2 inches. (Salad plates can also be used for dessert, to hold soup cups and saucers, or to serve small food items.) Many people don’t have salad plates and simply put their salads onto dinner plates. Also, a separate salad fork is nice but not necessary. It is no great hardship to eat your salad with your dinner fork. If, however, you are serving a separate salad and cheese course between the entree and dessert, each guest will need a salad fork and a small knife as well. The sequence is this: The salad plates should be in front of all guests at the center of the place setting. Then pass the salad bowl, followed by a cheese tray with a cheese knife. Next pass the crackers. You can choose to follow the crackers with softened butter and a butter knife if guests have a coronary death wish.
  • Napkins. These are best folded and placed in the center of the plate. However, they can also go to the left of the forks or can be folded imaginatively in the glassware. If you are an avid napkin folder, you can pick up some books on the subject and enjoy this opportunity to be creative.
  • Flatware. Set the table so that people eat with utensils from the outside in. As a guest, when in doubt, this practice is always a pretty safe bet. Another idea is to single out the classiest-looking, most composed person at the table and do what that person does. If you are wrong, at least you will be in good company. The dessert fork and spoon can go horizontally at the top of the plate, the bowl of the spoon facing left and the prongs of the fork facing right. You don’t need both, but the fork often makes a useful “pusher” for the dessert. You can also serve dessert implements with the dessert.
  • Glassware. “Drink right, eat left” means that glasses go on the right and bread and butter plates go on the left. In other words, if you hold the fork in your left hand, you’d drink with your right hand.
  • Salt and pepper shakers. Place a pair of salt and pepper shakers at each end of the table. If you have a large supply of them, it’s nice to provide a pair for each guest or a pair between two guests. Sometimes people use saltcellars, which are tiny receptacles for loose salt. These have a tiny spoon either in them or on the table next to them.
  • Candles. Use candles only at an evening meal. Place them in the center of the table or elsewhere, as long as you make the arrangement visually appealing and keep candles out of your guests’ sight lines. Many people also place candy dishes on the table, and it is a nice, sweet touch. Place one at each end. You can use a small dish or bowl or even a stemmed glass. A good idea is to include small, excellent chocolates.

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