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In my last article we visited place settings of the past and future.
This week is going to be about place setting present. Just as Scrooge needed to visit all of these areas in order to fully understand Christmas, we too need to know all of these areas in order to understand proper dining. Although, formal place settings vary depending on the menu, you should know what is going to be served by looking at the place setting.
In a formal table setting, knives and spoons will always be on the right side of the plate, and forks will be on the left. Your drinks will always be on the right hand side of the plate just above the knives and spoon and the bread and butter plate and knife will be to the left side of the plate just above the forks. The only fork you will ever see on the right side of the plate, also the first course served, is the seafood fork which rests in the bowl of the soup spoon.
Remembering to start from the outside and work your way in, the next course will be the soup. With the soup there generally is a glass of sherry which is first in line of the drinks. This is not intended to be drunk; instead it is to be poured into the soup.
Continuing, the next course is the fish, which will utilize a fork and knife. As you work through the utensils you are also working up the ladder of drinks. The white wine is to be drunk with the fish course. After that course is removed you would not go back to the white wine but on to the entrée which is served with red wine, water is the only one that can be drunk with any course. You will use a slightly larger fork and knife for this course.
In formal dining, the salad is served last and this fork is the closest to the plate. The reason for this is the salad cleanses your palate to prepare it for dessert. In some restaurants, they serve the salad at the beginning of the meal and a sorbet with champagne after the entrée to cleanse the palate. In both instances the dessert fork and spoon will be above the plate. Coffee, tea, or champagne may be served with dessert.
You might be thinking that there is no way to remember all the positions of the utensils. What if you accidentally use the wrong fork ??? Will the ghost of Christmas past pluck you up never to be seen again? No. Practice makes perfect, and then comes confidence.