When laying a table for dinner or even for breakfast a knife on its own just doesn’t seem right. A knife needs a partner, a fork is its significant other, it’s partner and playmate. Indeed it is difficult to imagine a time when they did not exist side by side in the cutlery table let alone a time when they did not grace the table together. Strange though it may seem the fork is actually a latecomer to the table and wasn’t widely in place until the eighteenth century that the fork became common place in Britain.
However, if when attending or hosting a formal dinner party you start to feel intimidated by which fork to use for what, then you will be relieved to know you are not alone. Don’t stress and start to view the multitude of forks at a formal dinner as an obstacle or worse still devils pitchforks out to maim and humiliate you, take a deep breath and get acquainted with the basic rules:
The Outside in Rule
Tables are laid with forks on the left hand side and knives and spoons on the right. As a general rule, the cutlery furthest away from the plate is intended for the first course. If you have any doubts, wait for the host to start eating and follow their lead.
Your Fork is for securing food to raise to the mouth
A spoon is for scooping not your fork! When eating, point the tines of your fork down towards the plate. Use your knife to squash food onto the tip of the fork and transport it to your mouth. You should not use your fork as a shovel, scoop or to carry out frenzied stabbing attacks on the food presented to.
Taking the Matter in Hand
The knife is held in the right hand, the fork in the left – this is basic etiquette and no matter our friends across the Atlantic do, the British rules are clear: the right hand is in charge of the knife and the left hand the fork!
A spoon should be held with your right hand. You should eat off the side of the spoon too, rather than at a right angle to your mouth.
Here are some other basic etiquette points that will take the stress out of formal dining:
- Keep your elbows off the table
- Keep your phone, purse or any other accessory off the table
- When it comes to wine glasses you need to choose the smaller one for white wine and the one with a larger bowl for red wine. You will normally find that the glass for red wine will have a shorter stem in order to allow the heat from your hands to warm the red wine.
- Remember that your wine glass should never be filled more than halfway to allow the wine space to breathe when you swirl it. The term here is swirl though not slosh.
- Use the side plate on your left for bread rolls and do not pile it up with things you don’t like or rubbish. If you don’t like something, push it to one side of your plate and eat around it do not pick and poke at food and do not start transporting it to other plates.
- Last, but not least wait until everyone is served before you start eating