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How to Use the Correct Silverware 
by Emma Zerner July 05, 2005

Imagine: Being invited to a formal dinner or fancy party, and all you’re doing is worrying about the silverware! Not to worry though-there is an easy way to remember when and what to use when enjoying the meal--so you won’t get caught eating your soup with the coffee spoon.

The Basics

Silverware is arranged in the order that it will be used, following the dishes that are being served. Remember: Each course has its own set of silverware, up to three forks and three knives.

From the left side, there is the napkin (if it isn't set on top of your plate in the center), fish fork, salad fork, and dinner fork. The fish fork is shorter, and has broader tines to pick out the bones. The salad fork is shorter than the dinner fork, and often has one tine on the left side that is thicker than the others. This way you can cut the lettuce without a knife, and is sometimes delivered to the table chilled. The dinner fork is the one closest to the plate (s). When you work from the outside in, you will be left with the dinner fork and knife. The forks are always placed with the tines facing upward.

From the right there is the dinner knife (that is closest to the plate), fish knife, soupspoon and oyster spoon (if applicable). The knives are always faced with their blade toward the plate. The fish knife may have a curved broad shape that is also helpful for removing bones. In order to gracefully handle the fish, this knife should be more for pushing the fish on the fork, then for cutting it. If you need to cut the fish, use the curved side. The pointed tines point up when in use. If it is a less formal occasion, then it is okay to use the dinner fork for fish.

The soupspoon is the largest spoon on the table, and is set between the fish knife and the dinner knife. The bowl of the spoon faces upward when set on the table. The dessert silver is arranged above the plate, with the handle of the silverware facing the hand that it is supposed to use. The dessert fork is on the left, and the dessert spoon is on the right (following the main silverware).

The fruit silverware is brought to the table with the fruit plates. Any additional silverware needed will be brought to the table, including the spoons used for coffee. The butter spreader is placed diagonally on the bread plate, with the blade edge toward the dinner fork. All place settings are approximately 1 inch before the table edge, so don't spill on yourself or the table cloth!



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