A reporter asked me recently what triggered my interest in dining manners. My answer? A political internship in Washington, D.C.
I attended a high-profile affair filled with political power-players, Hollywood celebrities, and academicians whose published work was required reading in graduate school. I should have basked in the glory of the occasion and strategically networked with such a distinguished group. Instead, I played the unfortunate role of follow-the-leader. Why?
The plate setting I encountered was similar to the one below:
Help, please! At the time, I was overwhelmingly daunted by the sheer abundance of table accoutrements. I've since mastered the art of "Decode-the-Plate" and enter future situations with confidence. You can too. Share with the family and office, for here's the truth:
Your Plate Setting is Communicating; Learn its Language
Nine utensils are placed at this plate setting. What you've probably heard in the past is true; Start from the outside and work your way in.
My take on this table setting?
Five Courses Served:
3. Main Entree
1. The first course appears to be the soup. Notice the spoon to the right, although a true soup spoon would have a wider bowl. A less likely option is that the spoon is a teaspoon for after-dinner coffee. My guess, however, is the artist intended this to be a soup spoon in a 5-course meal.
2. The second course appears to be fish. Observe the uniquely shaped knife next to the spoon. See the hook? That's to navigate fish bones. The first fork to the extreme left accompanies this course.
3. You'd then have your entree (middle fork and second knife). If you want to quickly determine which is your entree, look for either (1) the biggest fork and/or (2) the fork that, while the same size as all the others, is placed "higher" in row lineup. You rest easier knowing which is your entree. Once determined, other utensils can become easier to decode.
4. The fork and knife closest to this plate is for the salad. You're perhaps curious. Why would the salad follow the entree? In America, we eat salad before the main course. But formal place settings (the picture shown) follow European tradition, where the salad is eaten after the entree.
5. Silverware placed above the plate setting is for your dessert. In my corporate dining tutorials, we have anything from creme brulee to raspberry mousse served in chocolate shells. Technically, the only course that should ever be refused is dessert. That said, I'm not--nor ever will be--the person who does so. Sugar makes my life better. Just sayin'.