Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Setting a table the correct way...

My work on the site is done and as you might have noticed a couple of things have changed on my blog. I've been working very hard to add a few extras, update some of my labels, and change the layout with a new template. It's fairly busier than my clean layout from before, but I hope yo enjoy it nonetheless.

I'm excited about today's post because I love learning about etiquette, you know, doing things the 'proper' way. Generally speaking I can set a table correctly for informal family meals, but when I recently served up some tea and scones to work colleagues of mine, I had to go look up how to set the table for a tea party. Whilst doing my research I went the whole hog and looked up how to lay a table for all sorts of occasions. I am no expert, I'm merely trying to learn myself, so I can't claim that these images are 100% correct nor do I have all the necessary glassware, forks and spoons... but then you might not either, so I hope you find this post useful. And if you'd like to correct me on any of these, please do so and I'll update the pictures.

Let's start with laying the table.
Tablecloths look smart, but they are not essential. Instead you might want to show off your glass or antique table and use place mats instead. This is also a good option if you don't fancy ironing a tablecloth. Because, of course, a creased tablecloth looks very untidy unless you're going for a very creased linen rustic look. But saying that, it's only for formal dinners where the tablecloth needs to be immaculate IE. showing only one crease line that runs the length of the cloth. Unlike shown in my amateur photos, a white damask cloth is used only for dinner (silly me!). Prints and coloured cloths are great for ordinary home meals where you might like to re-use the tablecloth more than once (that is a clean cloth for dinner to take you through breakfast and lunch the next day).

A centre piece is not essential, but makes an occasion out of any meal. Using a simple centrepiece of picked garden flowers is elegant, and will make even the simplest family meals feel special.

Now, onto the specifics...
These are of course basic guidelines only. Place settings should be adapted depending on what is served in what order. Cutlery should always be laid with forks to the left, knives to the right with two exceptions: the fork goes on the right when there is no knife, and an oyster fork goes to the right or on the plate. All utensils should face upwards, with the sharp edges of knives turned towards the plate. Spoons go to the right of knives. The utensils that are to be used first are laid at the outer positions. Water glasses are set above the tips of the knives, wine glasses are to the right of water glasses. And if two wines will be served, three glasses should be set in a triangle. Dessert utensils are placed above the main plate, and teaspoons are placed on the saucers. Never lay out any utensils at a setting that do not have a purpouse during a meal.

Breakfast
I've only set out a bowl here, but actually, it should be a plate for hot food, a bowl for cereal on top, toast plate with butter knife on the top left. A glass for water, a glass for juice and a cup and saucer to serve tea or coffee to have with the breakfast.

Lunch
This setting is for a lunch serving that includes a small plate at the top left for salad, and a large plate for the main course. Two glasses above the knife and spoon are provided for juice and water. The napkin can of course be placed to the left of the forks as with other settings.

Morning or Afternoon Tea
I've shown a setting that would be used with serving cake and scones. The knife is for the butter, and the fork for cake. It is preferable to use a small cake fork of course, but I don't have any. Generally a smaller 6" luncheon napkin should be used, and looks ever so sweet in a neat triangle.

Informal Dinner
This setting has a small plate and knife for bread and butter, a soup bowl and soup spoon, a main plate with knife and fork and two glasses, one for water, the other for wine.

Formal Dinner
Once again, I'm afraid I don't quite have all the necessary utensils. But this setting has a bread and butter plate with knife, soup bowl and spoon. There's also a salad fork, main plate and a the teaspoon for use with tea or coffee that is served after the meal. The teaspoon can also be placed on the saucer (I have found evidence of both uses, but perhaps one is wrong?). The glasses are set so that either white or red wine could be had, and a water glass.

Extras:
With formal meals, or meals where guests are attending, try and avoid commercial packaging on a table (jars, cartons, butter tubs etc). Three things I think are essential to add to your dinner services are a milk jug (my mother-in-law is particularly oppose to having a milk bottle at a table), a butter dish or small pots to put butter into and a pretty oil and vinegar set. For serving tea, there should be an extra pot with hot water and for the sugar, sugar cubes are ideal or a pretty sugar bowl and spoon set. Remember that when serving tea, if milk is taken, it is the 'proper' thing to add the milk before pouring the tea. Also remember that water glasses are filled three-quarters full, and wine glasses half full (I'm sure that rule goes out the window as the evening progresses).

So there you have it - a quick basic course on setting the table. Have I left anything out? Do let me know. Oh, and is there anything else you as a reader would like to see added to my blog?

Speaking of which, I'll soon be starting a new weekly post alongside my normal ones about doing one odd-job around the house a week. You know, little things that might not get done normally, so kind of a reminder of one cleaning odd-job to do every week.

I've also found a new home-keeping blog called This Home Sweet Home. Pop over and say hi, there are some great informative posts there about all things home related.

Have a lovely week!
xxx

Many of my tips are adapted from Cheryl Mendleson's "Home Comforts" - an excellent all rounder weighty book for home-keeping. A favourite of mine.

10 comments:

Steph said...

loving the new look and i still find it very neat :) that was a really informative post. i feel the need for a dinner party now! well, maybe when the allotment isn't taking over my life ;)

Caroline said...

Great Post I am sure most people can learn something from it. Like the look of your blog, I don't find it to busy. Still easy to read.
Caroline

Nicola said...

I think you'd also like this blog, it's a Swedish lady who seems as organized as you are!

http://chezlarsson.typepad.com

Florence and Mary said...

Your blog is looking great now and what a great post. I can't wait to have my own dining table to lay out "properly".

Victoria xx

LaundryBasketCase said...

Hi Nicola, thanks for letting me know. I have actually popped by the Chez Larsson blog before - I'm truly falttered that you think I am as organised as Benita, but I'm afraid Benita is what I aim to be when "I grow up" :) She is amazing with her organising skills and inspires me so much. I need to actually link to her site from mine, so thanks for reminding me!

Mary Poppins said...

Ohooo my what a wonderful post, how brilliant and exactly what I love to read and learn about. I think meals should be a little formal at times and I like pleases and thank yous and elbows off the tables !

Our most formal meal is actually breakfast, we don't all sit down for it in the week so love to set the table at weekends all nicely, and we have fresh orange, and pan o chocolate, toast, cereal and maybe a prune or two. We love to chitter chatter ;)

Love and hugs

x

Ivy said...

Awesome!
For dinner settings, the fork and spoon above the plate is for dessert right?

LaundryBasketCase said...

Hi Ivy - Indeed the fork and spoon above the dinner plate is for dessert - my favourite part of the meal.

Mary - that sounds lovely! Weekend breakfasts are a great time to catch up.
x

This Home Sweet Home said...

Wow blog looks fab,looks very neat and the new size header sets it off nicely, thanks for the mentionby the way.

Anonymous said...

The correct way to serve tea is milk after tea. In the UK the nouveau riche set are dismissively referred to as mifs - milk in first.

A note on perfection

Many of the posts featured on this blog are about doing household chores the correct, or so to say perfect way. My intention is not to make readers feel that the way they are running their households are wrong. So if making the bed, or ironing shirts in a certain way doesn't fit your lifestyle, do not feel guilty about it. But by learning the correct way of doing things it might just come in handy for those times when special guests are staying, or when you need to iron that shirt perfectly for a job interview. So enjoy the learning, but skip the guilt and LOVE your homes. x

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