Plate Settings And Silverware

Plate settings and silverware. If you are looking down at your plate setting, forks are on the left and knives and spoons go to the right. Robin Thompson, owner of Etiquette Network and the Robin Thompson...

Robin Thompson, owner of Etiquette Network and the Robin Thompson Charm School, says, "If you are looking down at your place setting, forks go to the left of the plate, and knives and spoons go to the right. Knives are closest to the plate with the blades turned inward toward the plate, and then spoons go to the right of the knives."

Thompson says that when you eat, "you always start with the silverware on the outside and work your way in. You should never have more than three forks at your place setting. You start with the outer fork, which may be an appetizer fork or a salad fork, but you don't have to worry about it, because whatever it is, you are going to pick it up and use it and work inward. There may be a fork and spoon at the top of your plate, and those would be for dessert. I see a lot of people pick up the fork at the top and use it for their salad, but the proper way is starting from the outside and working your way in.

"Here in America," Thompson says, "we usually have our salad before the main course. So, the salad fork would be first and the dinner fork would be next. The dessert fork can either go at the top or to the right nearest to the plate. If you are in Europe, or in some American French restaurants, a lot of times they will serve the salad after the main course. In that case, you should have your dinner fork on the outside and then your salad fork, but again don't worry--just pick up the one farthest away from your plate and you will be okay.

"If you don't know what to do," Thompson says, "watching and listening are your best teachers. So observe, casually take a sip of water, pat your mouth with your napkin, look around, and see what everybody else is doing. If on the other hand, everybody else is looking around wondering what to do, ask the waiter. You might say, 'I have never had caviar before, what's the best way to eat this?' The wait staff will be extremely helpful. They are there to serve you. You should treat them with respect by all means, but never be intimidated by them. They are there to help make your meal a pleasant experience.

"As far as glasses," Thompson says, "you don't have to worry too much because the waiter will come and fill the appropriate glass. If you have two wine glasses, white wine will always be served before red wine. You go from light to heavy. So you might have an aperitif sherry in a V-shaped glass with your soup, and then maybe white wine. The glasses will be lined up going inward to your left. There might be a red wine glass, and then maybe a beverage glass for tea, and then your water glass. If you are having champagne. then you would have a fluted glass, and it's usually placed a little bit behind the others. Typically you have your water glass a little bit in the front and then all the other glasses, but again you start from the outer glass and work your way in.

"Also keep in mind," Thompson says, "that if they are serving wine, you don't have to drink it all. A lot of times people are traveling for business or they are having a catered meal at a wedding reception, and alcohol is being served, and they are just drinking away, not really realizing that they haven't eaten anything yet. There's no need to tell anyone if you are feeling tipsy, just say no thank you when they come around with the wine. Don't try to keep up with the person next to you."

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