Wednesday, 7 December 2016

7th December 2016 - Setting the Scene - Or Seeing the Setting

Thought for the day:"I used to be really good at reading braille, but I lost my touch. "

I had to re-assess my learning in life today. I have always prided myself upon being brought up correctly, that I know how to drink my soup and why it is different from eating your sweet.

(Soup should be scooped from the side of the bowl furthest from you, and sipped (never slurped!) from the side of the spoon that faces you. Bring the spoon up to your mouth instead of leaning over the bowl while eating. To eat the last bit of soup from the bottom of the bowl, tilt the bowl away from you slightly to scoop it up with your spoon. Sweet course ( not dessert - that is the cheese or fruit after the "pudding" if there is one ) is supped towards you with the bowl lifted towards)

But, and it is a big but, I thought that all the cutlery was placed in vertical lines when eating formally - and that the dessert spoon and fork were just the last items in the row...  today it seems I am wrong..

a formal setting
Things I knew - cutlery is set approximately 1 inch apart, and parallel to the table edge (assuming square) and about 1 inch in form the table. But I would have put the bread plate next to the forks - and not at 10 o' clock .. which caused me to look more closely ..

So, yes I knew a distinction between formal and informal  - but in this diagram it just suggests no dessert cutlery, and only one wine and water glass. Napkin placed upon the plate rather than to the side, thought eh first picture does have the napkin in its setting on the plate.

A closer look shows the requirements, and again the dessert spoon and cake fork above the plate.

This one is from the 1902 book of etiquette and dining by a Mrs Seely.

Interestingly you can read all 560 pages on line here : I have no doubt I am going to revisit this book in due course - if only after reading the section on the duties of Master and Servant and the role of the fourth (or useful) man (!!)

a setting for 12 covers - Mrs Seely

In general research, and leaving Mrs Seely (who it must be admitted is writing for her French and American readers - here is Mrs Beeton as an alternative),  I note the following general instruction appear standard..


Both forks are placed on the left of the plate. The fork furthest from the plate is for salad. The fork next to the plate is for the dinner. (Please Note: At more formal meals where the salad is served after the main course, the order of placement is reversed.)
Fork tines should be placed upward, though on the continent they have been know to be placed downwards.

Dinner Plate

The dinner plate is placed on the table when the main course is served and is not on the table when the guests sit down.
Large plates, such as the dinner plate and luncheon plate, are laid about one inch in from the edge of the table.

Salad Plate

The salad plate is placed to the left of the forks.
Small plates, such as the salad plate, fish plate, and dessert plate, are laid about two inches in from the edge of the table.

Dinner Knife

The dinner knife is placed on the right side, and directly next to and one inch away from, the plate. The blade should face the plate. If the main course requires a steak knife, it may be substituted for the dinner knife.


The soup spoon is on the far right of the outside knife.

Bread Plate with Butter Knife

A small bread plate is placed above the forks, above and to the left of the service plate.
The butter spreader is laid on the bread-and-butter plate.


Usually one wine glass is used along with a water goblet. If the table setting is uncrowded, there is room to arrange glassware in any way you like, such as in a straight line parallel with the edge of the table or a diagonal line angled toward the table's edge.

Water Goblets

The water glass is placed in a position closest to the hand, approximately 1 inch above the tip of the dinner knife.

Wine Glasses

At least one wine glass should sit to the right and possibly above the water glass.


Place the napkin in the place setting's center, or left of the last fork.

Coffee Cups

Place a cup and saucer to the right of the place setting. The coffee spoon goes to the right of the saucer.
Place approximately One inch beyond the outermost piece of flatware. The top edge of the saucer is aligned with the top rim of the plate or bowl.
Cup handles are faced in the four o'clock position for easy access

Dessert Spoon and Fork

At an informal meal, when two utensils are provided for dessert, the utensils are laid on the table or presented on the dessert plate.
The dessert spoon (or dessert knife) is laid on the table above the dinner plate in a horizontal position, handle facing right.
The dessert fork is laid beneath the dessert spoon (or dessert knife), handle facing left.
The dessert utensils may also be presented on the dessert plate in the same way as formal service.

Salt and Pepper

Since more people use salt than pepper (and most people are right-handed), the salt shaker is placed to the right of the pepper shaker, in a position closer to the right hand.
The placement of the pepper shaker is to the left of the salt shaker, and for added definition it is angled slightly above the salt shaker.
They are placed above the cover or between two place settings.
Because salt is finer than pepper, the lid of the salt shaker is punctured with smaller, more numerous holes than a pepper shaker.

And of course the greatest etiquette - leave your damn phone at home !! or at least never get it out at the table!!..

Maybe I will have fish and chips tonight and eat it from the paper ..
Cheers !

Mrs Beeton - Full PDF here

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