A proper setting before the feast
November 23, 2005
Jody Boles will abide by at least one thing today that culinary experts say is proper dinner etiquette.
Boles will insist that her gathering of four wait until everyone is seated before America’s major signature feast begins.
“My goodness, off with their head,” the Raley’s Stateline worker said of anyone who would start prematurely.
Boles doesn’t usually buy into having the whole formal place setting for major meals, but she did learn the proper procedures as a child.
“I used to screw up the salad fork and the regular fork, but then I remembered to use the outside one first,” she said.
Apparently, she’s not alone. Many believe setting a formal table setting is a lost art, contributing to the confusion about what goes where and why. At no other meal does it become more pertinent than Thanksgiving.
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Glasses are always on the right with the spoon and knives (always facing in), and the napkin goes on the left with the forks – and there are three of them in a formal setting.
Sharon Weik’s 11-year-old daughter Lindsey knows how to create a proper place setting because her mother taught her.
Weik rattled off the proper setting, and Lindsey concurred since she’ll be the one to set the table for their gathering of 10 people today.
“Some parents teach their kids,” Weik said.
Her 16-year-old daughter, Melissa, learned about proper place setting on a Brownie troop field trip to Evan’s American Gourmet Cafe, a fine dining restaurant on Emerald Bay Road in South Lake Tahoe.
“I don’t think kids are being taught that in school. In that sense, I guess it is a lost art,” said Evan Williams, a longtime South Shore resident who owns Evan’s. “There’s a small group of people – ‘foodies’ – that are into it, and the rest just want a good meal.”
Williams has been in the restaurant business for three decades, and he sees the trend leaning toward minimizing the clutter on the table. That’s why his servers take away the salad fork if the diners only order an entree.
“Years ago when I started, you’d have a ton of silver on the table. Like this is borderline silver overload,” he said, pointing to a graphic of a place setting at http://www.culinary-yours.com.
He glanced at his own tables at the restaurant and noticed one big difference.
“We bring the bread plate down. People want it closer,” he said.
Bread is one of a few food items diners are allowed to eat with their hands. Williams believes the most confusing issue at the table may be what side the bread plate is on. It is to the left.
And with people graduating from white to red wines through the night, the table can soon fill up. When wine drinkers are finished with one type of wine, it’s removed immediately.
Those are the type of questions Jim Warlow of The Cork & More on Al Tahoe Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe gets this time of year.
“Mostly, people will ask what different types of glasses go with what wine,” he said.
— Pass dishes from left to right.
— Salt and pepper are always passed together.
— Bread and rolls are broken off in bite-size pieces.
— Hold a stemmed glass by the stem.
— Start eating in groups of less than six people after everyone is served. In larger gatherings, it’s customary after four or five people have been served.