It concerns proper table settings, meant to be posted right before the holidays in case your parents or in-laws were coming and you might have needed a little help in knowing exactly where to put what on the dining room table.
It was inspired by my sister's recent visit to England. She stopped by Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire and sent a photo of a wedding party setup in the main dining room. To pay the taxes on such an enormous estate the Palace apparently hires itself out for weddings, anniversaries, and other questionable occasions like that.
Anyhow, at first glance the picture was dazzling. Enough tables to seat fifty or sixty guests with fine china, crystal wine goblets, and sterling silverware up and down the line. But on closer examination when you enlarge the photo, the tables were so hastily set that I almost croaked.
I understand that busy caterers threw it all together and that it was just a wedding party after all, not a state dinner with Regina and Prince Phillip showing up. But the silverware was all crooked, not parallel, and not properly measured from the edge of the table. While there were two wine glasses at each setting for the red and white wines, the third goblet for water was missing. And not to get down in the mud, but the napkins were simply rolled up beside the plate, instead of all the fancy options out there.
I could understand this more easily if the wedding was in Buttzville, New Jersey in the United States. But in England, the very source and mother-load of propriety and manners? Maybe the British are a little less uptight than the upstart new-rich here in America. Who knows?
In any case here's a link to some really beautiful table settings, from casual to formal. And here's a link to the diagrams you might need.
Don't freak out! They all make sense according to what menu you're serving for the evening. If soup is not the first course then you wouldn't put out a bowl or soup spoon, right? Tables are set according to the menu.
Once you have a basic informal layout in mind, then you can always expand it - all the way up to a more formal table, complete with a white tablecloth and white linen napkins.
It's actually all pretty simple: knives and spoons on the right of the plate, forks on the left, and the drinking goblets go directly above the dinner knife. One important rule is that the blade of the knife is always turned toward the plate, not toward the spoons. (You don't want your guests cutting their fingers when they pick up the tea or soup spoon, right?)
Now don't be alarmed, but if you're serving an eight-or-ten course dinner then there's going to be a lot more eating utensils on the right and left of the plate than just the basic five. But that's a whole different topic, coming up next.
Again, I hope you'll forgive my lameness for not sending this out before the holidays. But there's always some kind of