Etiquette Hell

Hostesses With The Mostest => Entertaining and Hospitality => Topic started by: Heavenly on May 28, 2007, 11:16:42 AM

Title: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: Heavenly on May 28, 2007, 11:16:42 AM
On one of my other forums (birth board) there was a discussion about how to set the table.

The question was...when you set the table (for dinner) do you put spoon, knife, and fork on the table (even if not all are necessary) or do you only set the table with what is needed?

One poster stated that etiquette wise you only set with what is necessary--her example being that when you go to a nice restaurant they remove the unnecessary utensils after you have ordered because of etiquette rules.

I have been to nice restaurants where they remove utensils, but they usually just remove the soup spoon/seafood fork/salad fork/dessert spoon/etc. leaving the spoon, knife, and fork on the table.  I've never had them remove my knife or fork if I was having soup or my spoon if I was having pasta.

For my perspective--I was raised that you always put spoon, knife, and fork on the table for dinner (lunch/breakfast are separate affairs) whether you need them or not.  So I'm intrigued with the answers that were given.

Any thoughts from the etiquette gurus here?   ;)
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: cicero on May 28, 2007, 11:25:28 AM
We just set the table with what's needed - knife, fork, spoon (if needed).

(i say "we" but its my sweet DS who sets the table - i trained him since he was a little kid!)
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: guihong on May 28, 2007, 11:35:30 AM
We don't set the table for everyday.  We serve ourselves from the kitchen, taking a napkin and whatever utensil is needed.  That said, I believe it's correct to set it with knife, fork and spoon.

gui
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: artk2002 on May 28, 2007, 12:08:46 PM
You set with what's appropriate for the meal.  Restaurants aren't good role models for this, because they have to accomodate a wide variety of meals -- many will set for the most complicated possible and then remove utensils, while some will do a standard set and add specialized utensils as needed.

At the risk of bragging, among my odd accomplishments is a blue ribbon from the Los Angeles County Fair in tablescaping.  In those compentitions, you will get marked down for having the wrong utensils for the menu.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: graceh9 on May 28, 2007, 12:46:17 PM
no guru here but I believe it is correct to put on the utensils you need for the meal -- we do that -- steak knives when there is meat -- soup spoons when there is soup and crossways above the plate if there is going to be a spoon using dessert -- we don't ever put teaspoons on the table although that is a common thing to do for some reason in the US -- the basic setting is knive and fork and then anything extra that will be needed -- we don't use  a salad fork for family meals but add it when we have formal guest meals if salad is being served
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: sparksals on May 28, 2007, 12:50:18 PM
For company, I always set the table for starters and dinner.  If there is salad/soup/shrimp cocktail, I put the necessary cutlery there.  Then, when it's time for dessert, I give the dessert spoon with the plate and the teaspoon for coffee/tea when it is being served.  That's how my mom always did it for special occasion dinners. 

I find when I go to restaurants and there's tonnes of cutlery, I wind up having to ask for more because the cutlery for later usually gets moved around or placed on the plates when the waiter picks up the finished meal. 
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: Heavenly on May 28, 2007, 03:15:45 PM
So, if you're only having a salad--you only put a fork on the table?

Spin off of original question...

My MIL doesn't use spoons unless she's eating soup or cereal.  So when we go to her house for dinner, I just make sure that we all have spoons because we like to eat our jello/corn/mashed potatoes/etc. with a spoon.  Should you provide for your eating styles or provide for the possible eating styles of your guests?
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: FoxPaws on May 28, 2007, 03:25:40 PM
This is a practical as well as etiquette matter. Why create extra dishwashing for utensils that aren't needed?

We set the table to suit what's being served.

Usually just a knife and fork.
Salad forks if we're having company or feeling fancy.
Steak knives for steak.
Spoons for soup, with a regular knife if there's bread and butter to go with it.
Iced tea spoons for those who are drinking tea.
Dessert spoons/forks passed out with the dessert.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: caranfin on May 28, 2007, 04:30:19 PM
We usually fix our plates in the kitchen and grab what we need from the drawer. But if we set the table, we only put out what we're going to use. Why would I put out a spoon or a knife if the meal doesn't require it?
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: Heavenly on May 28, 2007, 05:11:05 PM
Quote
In those compentitions, you will get marked down for having the wrong utensils for the menu.

I see how this would pertain to having a seafood fork if you weren't having seafood, or doing the full spread for a simple meal.  However, I'm wondering what etiquette says is polite for a sit down (regular) dinner.  Say you're having meatloaf, salad, and corn.  What do you put on the table?  Does that change if you're having pasta and salad?  Or do you just set with a set amount of utensils?   :)

Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: StuckInCube on May 28, 2007, 05:25:56 PM
We always set the table with the basic knife, fork, and spoon. I guess I've never thought about setting it with less silverware, such as the example of setting just a fork out if you're only having a salad. Our family is weird in that some people like to use a spoon on things I would use a fork for so it's best to put all the silverware out.

If we're having pasta we also set out a large spoon at each place because you can't eat spaghetti without twirling it on the spoon!!
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: artk2002 on May 28, 2007, 05:46:57 PM
Quote
In those compentitions, you will get marked down for having the wrong utensils for the menu.

I see how this would pertain to having a seafood fork if you weren't having seafood, or doing the full spread for a simple meal.  However, I'm wondering what etiquette says is polite for a sit down (regular) dinner.  Say you're having meatloaf, salad, and corn.  What do you put on the table?  Does that change if you're having pasta and salad?  Or do you just set with a set amount of utensils?   :)

As far as I know, it applies to "normal" stuff as well as the odd ones.  If I were serving meatloaf, salad and corn, I'd include knife and fork but probably forgo a spoon.  Same thing for just pasta and salad, because, despite my best efforts, the salad may not be reduced to bite sized -- if the pasta were long or the sauce someone runny, then a spoon would be added.  SOP in our household -- who wants to haul out silverware that's going to either get dirty (not through use, but collateral damage) or just get put away again?

The tablescaping competitions are based around themes (like "Christmas Dinner" or "Afternoon Tea" or "A Pre-game Picnic" or "The California Sesquicentennial" (don't ask!)), so they cover both casual and formal.  And yes, I've seen people marked down for having a soup spoon when soup wasn't on the menu.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: hkkatie on May 28, 2007, 08:58:52 PM
We also just set with what is needed for the meal. Why create more work for ourselves? After all, if you put the silverware out and they don't get used, you still have to wash them... (Ok, I would still wash them, and it's by hand because we don't have a dishwasher.)

edited to add: Yes, if you're just having a salad, you only need a fork. Unless its a chicken salad or something and you would need to cut the meat up a bit more. Or if you have the cherry tomatoes and you'd rather cut them in half than eat them whole... But I rarely use a knife or a spoon when I have salad, so I wouldn't put them out.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: Heavenly on May 28, 2007, 09:01:52 PM
I'm getting a lot of personal opinions (which I don't mind)--I'm just wondering what is the official etiquette in these situations.  Does anyone know?
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: hellgirl on May 28, 2007, 09:16:08 PM
Okay - I have pulled out my Miss Manner's book.

She doesn't seem to addres the problem directly - but one letter I found is pretty direct. (quote follows - the book is Guide for the turn of the millennium)

Dear Miss Manners
My boyfriend and I have moved into an apartment together, and every time I set the table I give each of us a fork, spoon and knife. Well, my boyfriend has the idea that if we don't have a dessert, we don't need a spoon on the table. I tell him that it is the proper way of setting the table. This questions has a bet going, so please tell us who is right.

Gentle Reader:
He is. Oh, dear. Miss Manners just hates to spread disharmony at the dinner table by taking sides, and is forced to do so only in the service of Truth in Etiquette. She hopes that the gentleman will be gracious in victory and take into consideration that you are disarmed, now that Miss Manners has taken your spoon away from you.

She also addresses restaurants, basically saying putting out all the silverware is pretentious, and a basic serving set should be provided then things added later as needed. The 'there is no excuse for this' came from the fact that in formal service the menu is planned and known in advance.

So there we go then  :)
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: Heavenly on May 28, 2007, 09:55:08 PM
LOL...thank you!!

I still put on a teaspoon because as I stated before--I don't like to eat jello/corn/rice/small things with a fork.  But it's nice to know the correct setting.  Hee Hee!
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: artk2002 on May 28, 2007, 10:36:27 PM
Dear Miss Manners
My boyfriend and I have moved into an apartment together, and every time I set the table I give each of us a fork, spoon and knife. Well, my boyfriend has the idea that if we don't have a dessert, we don't need a spoon on the table. I tell him that it is the proper way of setting the table. This questions has a bet going, so please tell us who is right.

Gentle Reader:
He is. Oh, dear. Miss Manners just hates to spread disharmony at the dinner table by taking sides, and is forced to do so only in the service of Truth in Etiquette. She hopes that the gentleman will be gracious in victory and take into consideration that you are disarmed, now that Miss Manners has taken your spoon away from you.

She also addresses restaurants, basically saying putting out all the silverware is pretentious, and a basic serving set should be provided then things added later as needed. The 'there is no excuse for this' came from the fact that in formal service the menu is planned and known in advance.

So there we go then  :)

Thank you!  (I couldn't find my copy of Amy Vanderbilt to reinforce my personal opinion above, so I didn't quote it.)
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: Sophia on May 28, 2007, 10:39:56 PM
I set it with what is needed. My mother believes in having everything.  Even while eating pizza. 
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: sparksals on May 29, 2007, 03:10:17 AM
So, if you're only having a salad--you only put a fork on the table?



If I had company, I wouldn't only be serving salad.  However, if dh and I were having only salad or only soup for a meal, then I would only put on the appropriate piece of cutlery.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: veryfluffy on May 29, 2007, 09:05:37 AM
If we're having pasta we also set out a large spoon at each place because you can't eat spaghetti without twirling it on the spoon!!

Unless you are Italian.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: Sophia on May 29, 2007, 10:34:17 AM
If we're having pasta we also set out a large spoon at each place because you can't eat spaghetti without twirling it on the spoon!!
Unless you are Italian.

I thought the South did, but the North didn't?  I am not Italian, just something I heard. 
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: ninja710 on May 30, 2007, 04:24:49 PM
Sorry, but I *have* to set the table with fork, knife and spoon plus anything additional needed whenever I set the table.  It just isn't right not to.  (I have a dishwasher so having extra unused utensils is no big deal.) 

For a regular meal we usually don't even set the table, just pick up what we need in the kitchen.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: graceh9 on May 30, 2007, 05:44:38 PM
My MIL doesn't use spoons unless she's eating soup or cereal.  So when we go to her house for dinner, I just make sure that we all have spoons because we like to eat our jello/corn/mashed potatoes/etc. with a spoon.  Should you provide for your eating styles or provide for the possible eating styles of your guests?
-------

obviously at your family table you can eat with your hands or eat with a spoon or whatever -- but eating things other than soup or other clearly 'spoon' foods with a spoon is considered gauche -- something only a child would do -- there is no place for a spoon in a normal dinner setting except for a soup spoon (but if grandpa likes to eat his corn and potatoes with a spoon -- well what the heck)

for a salad, it is appropriate to set the table with fork and knife (most of us don't have salad knives or other smaller knives -- so the table knife is used)

it is correct to set the dessert spoon and fork horizontally above the plate, but I find that when I do that, people end up using the fork on salad or whatever and I run out of forks, so I usually now, just bring in the forks with the dessert to save emergency fork washing between courses

teaspoons or coffee spoons come out with the coffee and a teaspoon doesn't belong in a table setting - although the typical 5 piece place setting includes them -- there is no place for them at an adults plate -- only with coffee or tea
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: kckgirl on May 30, 2007, 05:57:19 PM
We don't set the table at our house. Plates are made up in the kitchen from the stove, then you stop at the silverware drawer on your way by. We don't have dinner parties, casual get-togethers, etc., so this method works for us.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: Heavenly on May 30, 2007, 06:10:46 PM

Quote
obviously at your family table you can eat with your hands or eat with a spoon or whatever

Um...that was a little rude. 
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: hellgirl on May 30, 2007, 06:20:04 PM

Quote
obviously at your family table you can eat with your hands or eat with a spoon or whatever

Um...that was a little rude. 

Really? I took that quite differently, just to mean that it is very informal, so you are more able to eat according to personal preference rather than using the 'socially accepted method'. As in things you would have to attack awkwardly with a knife in public, at home you can pick them up (I'm thinking chicken with bones in particular).

But maybe that's because I will pick up grilled potato/capsicum/anything else pick-up-able with my hands if I feel like it if it's just DH watching and I feel like it. I would never do those things if someone else was around.

But then again if it's just me watching he will eat soup and put the spoon back after - as he's just used his bread to soak it all up. I'm not sure how many people have mastered eating soup with their hands, but he certainly has  ::)
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: Heavenly on May 30, 2007, 06:34:52 PM
Quote
obviously at your family table you can eat with your hands or eat with a spoon or whatever -- but eating things other than soup or other clearly 'spoon' foods with a spoon is considered gauche -- something only a child would do -- there is no place for a spoon in a normal dinner setting except for a soup spoon (but if grandpa likes to eat his corn and potatoes with a spoon -- well what the heck)

Perhaps I'm just being sensitive.

I found this whole paragraph rather demeaning.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: StuckInCube on May 30, 2007, 07:47:23 PM
If we're having pasta we also set out a large spoon at each place because you can't eat spaghetti without twirling it on the spoon!!

Unless you are Italian.

I'm Italian and we all have used the spoon method. All the Italians I know use spoons, the non-Italians typically don't, at least that I've seen.

Edited to add stuff
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: loopey2u on May 30, 2007, 08:06:01 PM
Quote
obviously at your family table you can eat with your hands or eat with a spoon or whatever -- but eating things other than soup or other clearly 'spoon' foods with a spoon is considered gauche -- something only a child would do -- there is no place for a spoon in a normal dinner setting except for a soup spoon (but if grandpa likes to eat his corn and potatoes with a spoon -- well what the heck)

I didn't find that comment rude at all either.  The OP was just stating that when you're eating with family it is generally more laid back.  That's all I got from it.  I don't think she was trying to insult anybody.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: StuckInCube on May 30, 2007, 08:11:38 PM
Quote
obviously at your family table you can eat with your hands or eat with a spoon or whatever -- but eating things other than soup or other clearly 'spoon' foods with a spoon is considered gauche -- something only a child would do -- there is no place for a spoon in a normal dinner setting except for a soup spoon (but if grandpa likes to eat his corn and potatoes with a spoon -- well what the heck)

I didn't find that comment rude at all either.  The OP was just stating that when you're eating with family it is generally more laid back.  That's all I got from it.  I don't think she was trying to insult anybody.

I think it was using the term 'gauche' and likening it to a child (with no manners basically) that may have caused some confusion. It does sound a little rude when you first read it, especially since someone had mentioned liking to eat peas (or corn?) with a spoon.  So, it could read as a bit of a slam against them.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: TamJamB on June 06, 2007, 10:42:56 PM
Well, it's just a fact that, from an etiquette perspective, grownups shouldn't be eating corn or mashed potatoes with spoons.  Jello could be eaten with a spoon, I suppose, since it's a dessert-type thing.  To me, it seemed a little amusing that the OP was asking specifically about the etiquette of setting the table, while admitting to the etiquette violation of eating vegetables and potatoes with a spoon.  But at a family meal you can certainly do as you please, of course.

I was raised to set the table with a knife, fork and spoon.  Once I grew up and started my own family I came under the influence of Miss Manners and, for 22 years now, I've set my table with just what we need to eat what I'm serving.  Usually this is a fork and knife.  My mom still sets her table with a knife, fork and spoon, though.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: Moogle on June 07, 2007, 02:49:07 AM
In my house, we only set a spoon and a fork.  The knives only come out when we have steaks.

In the Philippines, we eat using a spoon and a fork.  And with certain foods, the utensils are dropped in favor for eating with our hands.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: guihong on June 07, 2007, 04:40:55 AM
Well, it's just a fact that, from an etiquette perspective, grownups shouldn't be eating corn or mashed potatoes with spoons.  Jello could be eaten with a spoon, I suppose, since it's a dessert-type thing.  To me, it seemed a little amusing that the OP was asking specifically about the etiquette of setting the table, while admitting to the etiquette violation of eating vegetables and potatoes with a spoon.  But at a family meal you can certainly do as you please, of course.

I didn't know that!  I like to use a spoon with corn, because it contains the kernels nicely.  With a fork, they escape  ;D.

My father used to say:

"I eat my peas with honey
I've done it all my life
It makes the peas taste funny,
but it keeps them on the knife!"

gui
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: TamJamB on June 07, 2007, 05:10:11 AM
::laughs:: I think I'd like your father!

My first husband always ate half his dinner with his spoon.  He had terrible table manners anyway -- ate with his mouth open, hunched over his plate, blew his nose frequently and loudly into his table napkin... Really, using his spoon to eat his peas was the least of his problem.

Myself, if I were eating with you and your table manners were otherwise good, I might not even notice your eating veggies with your spoon.  I'm not super-observant, and I try not to scrutinize my fellow diners as they eat.  But it really isn't right, and any book on table manners would tell you so. 

That said, I use my knife to 'push' roll-ey food such as peas and corn onto my fork.  This isn't 'right' either, in the strictest sense, because the use of the knife as a pusher is a European custom, apparently, and, otherwise, I use American table manners.  So there you go!
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: Lynn on June 07, 2007, 05:35:40 AM
obviously at your family table you can eat with your hands or eat with a spoon or whatever -- but eating things other than soup or other clearly 'spoon' foods with a spoon is considered gauche -- something only a child would do -- there is no place for a spoon in a normal dinner setting except for a soup spoon (but if grandpa likes to eat his corn and potatoes with a spoon -- well what the heck)

When I serve applesauce or rhurbarb, I include a spoon in the place settings and consider this to be a normal dinner.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: jamiescudder on June 14, 2007, 03:19:20 AM
Our dinner table is always set with fork, knife and spoon. It drives my DH crazy when I put utensils on that he feels aren't necessary. The only problem with that is that he and I have different ideas of what is necessary. It's amazing how often I use utensils that he thought were unnecessary.

After reading this I have a question. Which is the worse faux pas: setting the table with too many utensils, or not having what your guests need available? I could see the second scenario happening quite a bit. I've noticed such a variety in how people eat that it could actually be difficult to tell what a person needs.

My other thought on this subject comes from eating with DH's best friend. He has a medical condition that causes his hands to shake. Because of the shaking using a fork is dangerous, so he always uses a spoon. If you've never eaten with him before, or never noticed this then you could create an embarrassing situation in which he has to point out his medical issues. I've been around him enough to know that it truly is a safety issue.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: Harriet Jones on June 14, 2007, 07:11:55 AM
After reading this I have a question. Which is the worse faux pas: setting the table with too many utensils, or not having what your guests need available? I could see the second scenario happening quite a bit. I've noticed such a variety in how people eat that it could actually be difficult to tell what a person needs.

I don't think a knife, fork & spoon are 'too many', it's not like you're putting out cocktail forks and jelly spoons  :D
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: 42_42_42 on June 27, 2007, 09:14:40 PM
LOL we don't even eat at our table unless we have company! We eat dinner on TV trays or infront of our computers (I know, bad, but we don't have kids yet...).  ;D

When we do have company, it's always casual, so I just put out what ever is needed for the meal.
Title: Re: Setting the (regular dinner) table...
Post by: Evil Duckie on June 27, 2007, 10:27:48 PM
We tend to use fork, knife and spoon most of the year and I usually have a tablecloth on the table.

Though during the summer, we are more casual, we use mainly fork and spoon or fork and knife depending on what we are having except for Sunday when the table will have fork, spoon and knife unless more is needed.

When it come to holidays or when we are entertaining I use as much of my silverware as needed with is usually more than day in and day out.

When we are camping we use as little silverware as we can get away with and not be rude.