This article will be a somewhat autobiographical. My mother decided before I born in good old New York City that English would be my first language. Her first language is Spanish but she is fluent in English. As a child she would tell the horrors and laugh at herself about buying ” sheets” and asking for “shits”. She knew the difference but the tongue trained since birth to speak one language does not just happily agree to to the terms and conditions of another language. I warmly and lovingly hear how Spanish speaking people every year wish me a ” Happy Shangivin’.” My shortcomings in speaking Spanish are many but I’m going to guess that after all these years I’ve finally put that subtle accent to rest. But still I do engage in my Spanish version of ” shits”. It makes life interesting.

My mom never taught me to cook or engage in her many talents but she corrected my Spanish, so it would be proper Spanish. Now when I curse in Spanish, which I enjoy, my step-dad says: “Oye Gallega, cogelo con calma!”

I wasn’t taught to cook but I was taught to set a beautiful table. My mom grows roses and if she planted the kitchen sink it would give birth to little sinks. She is the true essence of a green thumb. I lack her talent but I do have her inspiration.

In a world that has embraced anti-intellectualism, its important to emphasize the knowledge and use of basic manners. Learning these lessons has helped me throughout my life as much as my education. Why? Because you are comfortable any where, at any time in this entire planet. Decent table manners will make you welcome in circles of people that aren’t your own tribe.

I made it a point to teach my entirely uninterested daughter the joys of a beautifully set table. You do not have to be rich to embrace these habits. All you need is the desire to do it and a bit of good taste. It helps if you know how to shop.

Please put the cat away. The funny picture isn’t. Anyway the building block of a lovely table are the chargers. The dinner plates are placed on top. Notice that this table has not tablecloth. The chargers pick up the ‘offerings’ from the plate. We all aren’t tidy dinners which is cool, because food is meant to be enjoyed.

Emily Post, renown for her lessons on manners, has this picture in her site listed as a formal table setting.

The picture above demonstrates how to place and use the table setting. When you set that table or are a guest, the flatware, plates and stemware are coordinated to meet the needs of the meal to be served. Like a musician looking at the score prior to placing his hands on the piano, when you sit down just glance at your table setting. This will indicate is there will be a salad, an appetizer, a soup, a main course of fish or meat, and dessert. It will tell you if you will be served an aperitif, red or white wine, or maybe champagne, and an after dinner brandy or cordial. Lot’s of information from a glance.!!!

The placing to the flatware will indicate the order and what will be served during the meal. The order and shape of the stemware will indicate what beverages will be served through the courses to be presented.

Let’s star with a soup.

You can see the following arrangement. Place mat. Charger. Dinner plate. Soup plate and soup saucer. The stemware is for champagne . The serrated knife placed on the right side, always on the right side, indicates that there will be meat, not fish in the next course. I wrongly placed the knife blade facing outwards. Never let that happen. Mistake!!! On the left of the dinner plate you place your fork/s. In this case there will only one more meal after the soup. Notice that the meal has already started and the soup spoon has been picked up and placed on the soup saucer. Keep it each time you rest the spoon. This keeps the other plates underneath clean.

See the knife rest sitting above the knife. It’s meant as a place for your used knife to avoid soiling the tablecloth or placemat. My very first knife rests were wine corks. Very chic.

My after dinner demitasse cup is place to the upper left hand side with a proper sized spoon. Notice that above the dinner plate sits a set of knife and fork. Seems like dessert will be served after soup and the main meal are finished! Yum!

Missing in this picture is the napkin since it has been picked up and promptly placed on you lap!!! Don’t wait around. Do this first.

Looking back a Emily Posts picture notice that they are serving shrimp, soup, salad, a meat course and dessert. The large glass is for water and the smaller one for red wine, if they are serving meat.

I’ll take pictures of stemware and flatware to get into the specifics of what’s what and expand on this base.

Bring out your china and treat yourself like company. I’ve done this every day of my life ( once I figured it out! LOL) and thoroughly enjoy it. Everything tastes better in a lovely setting. Thanks for reading.

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Categories: Metro Gourmet

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