From the Summer/Fall 2004 issue of Progressive
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
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