Cygi Grammer

  Protocol & Etiquette Consultant

  Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia  Canada  B0J 2E0

   PH:  902.624.6199   FX:  902.624.6100   E-mail:

Cygi Grammer Protocol & Etiquette Consultant



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Tableware Savvy


From the Summer/Fall 2004 issue of Progressive Choices,

Tableware Savvy

Are you tableware savvy? If not, you are not alone. If you are going to attend a dining event in the near future, this article will teach you how to "read" a simple basic place setting and become tableware savvy.

The most common question heard at a dining event is "I wonder what is going to be served?" My answer, "Let’s read the tableware." Not only does this response raise a few eyebrows, but it also makes for lively conversation and complete table interaction. As an etiquette consultant, trainer, and connoisseur, I can usually deduce the number of courses and approximate what will be served—just by looking at the tableware (a.k.a. the place setting) in front of me. The flatware (a.k.a. the forks, knives and spoons) should reveal how many courses will be served, what will be served, and in what order the service will take place. The basic place setting includes a salad fork and knife, a dinner fork and knife, a soupspoon, and a dessert fork and spoon.

Let’s start with something we are all acquainted with—the soupspoon. The shape of the soupspoon informs you about the type of soup to be served…round is for broth or creamed soup (meaning without particles), while oval is for hearty soups (with particles). If a soupspoon is set in the tableware before you, then the first course will be soup.

The salad fork and knife can be set before or after the main course flatware. How to tell? The salad fork may have indented outer tines (a.k.a. the prongs), but both the salad fork and the knife will appear smaller than the main course fork and knife—the main course flatware is always the largest in a basic place setting. And here is a fun caveat; the main course knife could be a piece of cutlery, a utensil with a cutting edge (a.k.a. a steak knife). Cutlery identifies the main course as a meat course.

Finally, let’s discuss dessert. Often at a 2-4-course meal, the dessert fork and spoon will be set horizontally at the top of the place setting. The fork is set under the spoon. The handle of the fork faces the left, while the handle of the spoon faces the right. The direction of the handles is simple and important. Knowing that all spoons belong on the right hand side of the place setting and all forks (except a cocktail fork) belong on the left hand side, the savvy diner knows the direction to "slide" the flatware to its proper place. This sliding action is known as "bringing down" the flatware. And remember, it is the responsibility of the diner to "bring down" the dessert flatware when dessert is served.

Now that I have helped you learn how to "read" a basic place setting, your next step is to learn how to properly hold and use your tableware and stemware (a.k.a. the glasses). This knowledge will display true dining savvy. Developing your dining etiquette is part of developing your image. It can make or break a relationship, especially in business. And remember this: etiquette is the ultimate form of respect—respect for others that results in respect for you.

Cygi Grammer, Etiquette Consultant

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