The world is becoming so casual a place that many times people forget that there is such a thing as a formal place setting. It used to be that on holidays and Sundays for dinner, families would put mom’s china and silver on the dining room table and practice knowing how to eat with all the utensils laid out. That tradition has somewhat fallen by the wayside.
Maybe it’s time to revive it.
So, how do we do that? First be sure to have a full service of china and silverware (that means dinner, salad and dessert plates as well as all the cutlery that comes as part of a formal place setting), and water and wine glasses. Full-service sets do not have to be new, and frequently can be found for the price of one place setting in antique malls.
The center of a place setting is the dinner plate. To its left are forks. In order, those forks are for fish, salad, and dinner and are laid out in the order of the courses to be served. They are removed as each course is cleared. To the right of the plate are the knives, spoon and an optional oyster fork that is used during the fish course if one actually is served. Each course has its own knife and those are removed with the dishes.
In addition, each place setting has a bread plate with a butter knife above the forks, and the glasses above the knives. Glasses are placed at a slight angle in this order: water, red wine, white wine, and champagne for an opening toast. As white wine would be served with fish, and red wine with meat, the glasses are also removed in order as they are used.
And the linen napkin? It goes on the dinner plate smack dab in the middle.
Confused yet? Don’t be. It’s actually very simple and learning the order of formal dining is a skill that can come in handy for business dinners and when on a cruise.
Seriously, not everyone eats Ramen noodles straight out of the pot.