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Archive for Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Manners for all seasons

Tips solve fine dining faux pas

December 20, 2006

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Catherine Corey is surprised how often she goes to dinner parties where the silverware and glasses simply aren't where they're supposed to be.

"People think they know," Corey says. "Interestingly, I'll go to a friend's house or to an event and things are going backwards, like the napkin will be on the right instead of the left. It's 'Where were you when they did Place Setting 101?' It's in almost any cookbook."

Granted, not every family or group of friends cares about setting a table properly. Some are just more casual that that.

But Corey, an etiquette expert who lives in Leawood, says this is the time of the year - with so many Christmas dinners and holiday parties - that many hosts and hostesses could take a quick lesson on where everything goes on a dinner table.

And besides, she says, you never know when you might be in a formal dining situation with important social or business implications.

"There are rules if you're in a social setting," she says.

Corey is owner of a National League of Junior Cotillions franchise in Johnson County. She teaches etiquette from everyone from kindergartners to adults, including the occasional Etiquette Dinner at Kansas University.

When it comes to silverware, the general rule is start on the outside and work your way inward. For instance, the salad fork is on the far left of the plate, and the dinner fork is closer to the plate. Same goes for the spoons to the right of the plate - the one to the far right is for soup, the one closer to the plate is for dinner.

The dessert spoon and fork go to the top of the plate, with the bread plate and knife going above the forks.

Glassware also has its rules. All of it goes above the spoons and knives, to the right of the place setting. The water glass goes farther to the left, with wine glasses to the right.

Corey says many people think the placement is arbitrary. But she says proper placement can prevent an embarrassing faux pas.

"If you don't know the people around you," she says, "you need to know which one to grab."

And it appears someone has used a glass, plate or silverware that was supposed to be yours, Corey says, "you just lean over, switch plates and say, 'I think you used my plate.'"

"You can do that politely," she says, "unless you're interviewing at Hallmark and it's (CEO) Don Hall."

Corey says not everyone has all the silverware and glassware to host a formal dinner. If that's the case, she suggests borrowing a complementary set from a friend or renting some from a country club or rental store.

Or, if you're using antique glassware, Corey says it's OK to mix and match.

Some other common manners issues Corey frequently sees at the dinner table:

Catherine Corey is surprised how often she goes to dinner parties where the silverware and glasses simply aren't where they're supposed to be.

"People think they know," Corey says. "Interestingly, I'll go to a friend's house or to an event and things are going backwards, like the napkin will be on the right instead of the left. It's, 'Where were you when they did Place Setting 101?' It's in almost any cookbook."

Granted, not every family or group of friends cares about setting a table properly. Some are just more casual than that.

¢ The salt and pepper should be passed together, not separately.

"I know this sounds really nerdy," she says, "but the salt and pepper are married. They always take vacations together."

¢ Pass food from the left to the right.

¢ Hosts or hostesses should set the table before guests begin to arrive.

¢ After excusing yourself to go to the restroom, place your napkin on your chair. When you're done with the meal, leave it on the table.

¢ It's considered bad manners to talk with your silverware in your hands.

¢ Your centerpiece shouldn't be so tall that it blocks your guests' view from one another.

Corey says she fears formal dining is becoming a way of the past. But she thinks families and friends would find it fun if they tried.

"The biggest reason to know this is so other people can feel comfortable around you, and for you to feel good about yourself," she says. "You don't want to sit down and say, 'Oh, my gosh, there are too many utensils.'"

Comments

Janet Lowther 8 years ago

I have a fair number of cookbooks, and I don't remember seeing place-setting instructions in any of 'em. Admittedly it would only be one page, but. . .

bevy 8 years ago

Well, EVERYONE (ha!) knows that this type of place setting was instituted by that Maven of Flexibility - Queen Victoria. Forks are on the left because Good Queen Vic was left handed.

Personally, as a red-blooded American, I refuse to be dictated to by a dead British queen.

That being said, if we want to talk about manners, can we talk about some that are IMPORTANT - like -

DON'T TALK WITH YOUR MOUTH FULL

CLOSE YOUR MOUTH WHEN YOU CHEW

TAKE OFF YOUR HAT AT THE TABLE

Say Please and Thank You

Ms. Whats-her-name needs to realize that most Americans, sadly, do not have that many opportunities to sit down for meals together. We don't need the added holiday stress of obsessing about where the dessert forks should go. As if we HAD dessert forks.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!

sloppyscience 8 years ago

Congratulations Catherine Corey, you just shot from unranked to #1 on the list of people I hope I never meet.

truthhurts 8 years ago

Actually I heard the salt and pepper were not married, but had entered a civil union. Terry Fox has proclaimed any dinner that offers pepper/salt as "family unfriendly."

gconfo 8 years ago

Shelby,

Thanks, I couldn't pass that one up.

Linda Endicott 8 years ago

I hope, if I ever get to the point where I'm obsessing over whether everything on the damn dinner table is in its proper place, somebody will just shoot me and put me out of my misery.

Honestly...with all the important things in the world to worry about, and this woman is going on and on about forks??

Well, lady...fork you...

Let's see this one get deleted...lol.

Linda Endicott 8 years ago

75x55...

The spork goes on the opposite side of the plate from the foon...

gconfo 8 years ago

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