Afternoon tea is a ritual with strict etiquette rules. Proper table manners help to make a positive impression, show respect for yourself and others, and make you feel confident and proud. If your table manners are graceful, people sitting at your table will notice and their perception of you will be very favorable. Today I would like to give you some information about tablesettings in general, but before I begin, I will briefly explain the American Style of Dining vs the Continental Style of Dining:
In the American Style of Dining, the food is anchored with the fork, tines down in the left hand and cut with the knife in the right hand. The knife is then placed on the upper right hand side of the plate, with the cutting edge of the knife facing the center of the plate. The fork is switched to the right hand and the food is conveyed to the mouth with the fork, tines up. This is the style of dining most Americans are familiar with.
A "silent signal" to the Waitstaff, "I am resting." (American Style)
A "silent signal" to the Waitstaff, "I am finished." (American Style)
In the Continental Style of Dining, the food is anchored with the fork, tines down, in the left hand and cut with the knife in the right hand. The food is conveyed to the mouth with the fork, tines down down, in the left hand, while the knife is still held in the right hand.
A "silent signal" to the Waitstaff, "I am resting." (Continental Style)
A "silent signal" to the Waitstaff, "I am finished." (Continental Style)
Let's take a look at some table setting displays:
This is the proper tablesetting for Afternoon Tea
Tea food may be served all at once or placed on a three-tiered tray. On the tiered tray, the savories are on the bottom, scones in the middle, and sweets on the top tray. They are eaten in that order, savories first, scones second, and sweets last. It is considered correct to eat an open-face sandwich with a knife and fork, but you must pick up a closed sandwich. Remember to use the three-finger rule when picking up food with the fingers.
There are several ways to properly eat a scone. But here is the one I find most comfortable. Place a scone onto your tea plate. Also, spoon small dallops of the lemon curd, preserves, and clotted cream, if desired. Break off a bite-size piece of the scone with your fingers. Using your tea knife, dab only the piece you will put into your mouth with jam/curd and clotted cream. Please do not slice the scone in half, smear preserves, curd, or cream and take a bite--that is an etiquette faux pas at tea! Remember to follow the same etiquette when eating bread; tear off only the piece you will put into your mouth, then butter that piece.
You might also be served soup at an afternoon tea as a first course. There is of course proper etiquette to follow when eating soup.
At an informal meal you may serve soup in a soup plate ontop of an underplate and provide an oval soup spoon. You will spoon the soup away from you and place the soup spoon on the underplate between sips or when finished.
Informal soup plate and oval soup spoon presentation
Resting and finished position--soup plateAt a formal dinner, soup must be served in a soup bowl with an underplate and a round/cream soup spoon provided. Again place the soup spoon on the underunderplate between sips or when finished.
Formal soup bowl presentation with cream soup spoon
Resting and finished position--soup bowl
This is a tablesetting for a Luncheon or an Informal DinnerThis is the proper tablesetting for a Formal Dinner
A formal dinner is a gracious and elegant event and has strict protocol. No matter how high-fallutin' or fancy your dinner party is, it's not a formal dinner unless you follow the proper protocol! A minimum of four courses are served. The charger plate is placed on the table first. Hospitality dictates that the space before the guests (called the cover) must always hold a plate; charger plates (also called service plates) are laid on the table before guests enter the dining room. The soup and fish appetizer plates may be served on top of the charger, but the charger is removed before the entree is served. The cover should only be empty after "crumbing the table" and before dessert is served.
At a formal dinner, there will be individual place cards.
When opened, the place card will contain the menu, the name of the host/hostess, the venue, and the date of the event.
I will help you to navigate the formal table setting in the photo above (Formal Dinner). The dinner plate is obviously placed in the center of the cover and on top of that is a linen napkin folded with the folded edge facing right. This is where the napkin should be placed at a formal meal. To begin, bread may
be served (but not at all formal events). You will know that you are being served a fruit cocktail/shrimp cocktail for your first course
, because of the dainty little cocktail fork which is placed at an angle on top of the bowl of the cream soup spoon. Yes, as your second course
you are having a cream soup, which contains sherry--how do I know this? There's a sherry goblet there. Never serve sherry unless you are serving a sherried-based soup. Your third course
will be some type of fish appetizer--see the fish fork, it's the one on the far left and the fish knife is just left of the the cream soup spoon. You will be served white wine with this course. Your fourth course
will be the entree--let's just say beef tenderloin, green beans, and potatoes (you will see the dinner fork, second from the left of the plate, and the dinner knife, second from the right of the plate). Red wine will be poured with the entree. Your fifth course
will be some type of salad--the salad fork is just left of the dinner plate and the salad knife is just to the right of the dinner plate. There will be no wine served with the salad--sorry!--the acid in the wine doesn't pair well with salad dressings. At this time the table is cleared and crumbed. All the goblets will been taken away except the water and champagne goblets. The bread plate, salt cellar and pepper shaker are also removed. It's time for the sixth and final course
--dessert and champagne! Dessert may be served two different ways:
The dessert fork and dessert spoon above your dinner plates indicates that you will be served a dessert ala mode...let's say pie and ice cream. Your would take the dessert fork and place it to the left of the dessert plate served to you and the dessert spoon would be placed to the right of the plate.
Dessert fork and spoon
Ready for the dessert
The fork is held in the left hand and used to cut the pie and to help place it onto the spoon with the ice cream. Then, you would eat with the spoon. Eat from the front of the spoon. Or...
You might be served a finger bowl with the dessert plate.
Again, place the dessert fork to the left of the plate and the dessert spoon to the right of the plate. Remove the finger bowl with the doily and place it to the upper left hand side of your cover. The dessert will then be served. After the dessert course has been removed, use both hands to pick up the finger bowl and doily in one gesture. Place the finger bowl and doily in front of you and dip only your fingertips, one hand at a time, into the bowl--then dry them on your napkin.
The goblets used in this table setting: From left to right--The water goblet, then angled behind and slightly to the right of the water goblet is the champagne goblet, then the red wine goblet, the white wine goblet, and the sherry goblet.
A salt cellar with a tiny spoon and pepper shaker will be at each setting.
If you have been following my tea posts during the month, I believe you are almost ready to host a wonderful Afternoon Tea or be the "Most Gracious and Well-Mannered Guest Ever." I only have a few topics left to discuss with you...The proper way to drink iced tea and hot tea, some tea faux pas you don't want to commit, and what to do when the tea is over. On Tuesday I will take part in Tablescape Tuesday and present a Formal Afternoon Tea Display. Thank you for stopping by today!