Monday, December 21, 2009

Setting without the Fretting | Washington Times Communities

As seen in the Washington Times Communities!
Setting without the Fretting | Washington Times Communities

Dear Chef Mary,

I know this will probably seem like an obvious question to you, but I’m always wondering how to best set a table. Help!

Thanks so much, Jodi

I’ve always had a hard time remembering how to set a table. Back in the day, without fail, right before my guests would arrive, I would run to my drawer filled with placemats and tried, with no luck, to desperately remember what Emily Post would do in this situation.

Since rulebook etiquette isn’t second nature for most of us, I decided to draw a picture of my table to keep close at hand for future setting scenarios. Take a look at the picture above to get some ideas. I suggest drawing your own picture to help you stay focused and organized during the pre-dinner planning process or print mine out and keep it with your placemats. This will help to make your evening stress free and allow you to focus more on the food and fun.

Keep in mind, setting a table is a life skill and entertaining is one of life’s highlights. When I sit down to a plated dinner I always think about how I have to drag my arm across my plate to grab my fork with my right hand. I usually pray that whatever is on the plate won’t be on my sleeve. Hopefully a funny thought can help you remember that forks are always on your left.

Have you ever wondered whose bread plate is whose? Remembering the initials of a classic sports car BMW can help you to remember which plate is your bread and which is your water. BMW= Bread,Meal, Water – from left to right. It has taken me many phone calls to my Emily expert Margo Ward to keep this straight.

Last but not least make your guests feel as though they can relax. Wait to clear plates until everyone is finished. However, if you have a guest that is lingering over their meal, go ahead and begin to clear the plates and hopefully they will finish by the time you get to them.

“Whether you are hosting an elegant sit-down or a casual buffet, the table is the heart of a holiday party. All you need to make it special are a few basic elements, a unified look, and a decorative accent or two.”

- Holiday Entertaining by Williams- Sonoma

This is definitely the time of year when you’re entertaining more than ever, and when you’re entertaining so frequently, it’s the little touches that make a big difference. Simple touches – like a nicely set table, beautiful floral arrangement, and lit candles – are worth the extra effort. Place cards add a wonderful touch as well. With a medium to large-sized group, assigned seating in the form of a charming place card is a blessing and will ensure a really fun night that will put your guests at ease. Just like food, some people go together better than others.