setting the table

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Setting the table SETTING THE TABLE

The famous French gourmet, Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, maintained that "Inviting a guest into our home means being responsible for their happiness for the entire duration of their stay". To be completely successful in this, not only is it important to satisfy our guest's palate by preparing the choicest of foods, but also to provide a pleasant setting, attractively decorated with little, artistic touches. Even if the meal is not a special occasion it should still be relaxed, cheerful and enjoyable.
Here are ten fundamental rules concerning the setting of the table, based on common sense as well as correct etiquette.
1. The tablecloth and serviettes should always be snow white, or perhaps pastel coloured, to provide a simple background on which to the present the delicious food.
2. The glasses should always be clear and uncoloured, so that one can appreciate the colour of the wine.
3. The dinner plates, whether elegant or everyday, white or coloured, should not be higly decorated: one really cannot appreciate the appearance of the food, which is just as important as the flavour, if it is surrounded by complicated patterns.
4. A few flowers really do make your table look as pretty as a picture. Be careful though not to turn it into a jungle: remember that you do want to talk to your guests, and should therefore avoid creating a barrier between them and you.
5. Candlelight adds to the intimacy of a supper. The size and style of the candlesticks depends on the occasion itself, but they should never be too grandiose, unless you happen to live in a castle.
6. Whether silver, stainless steel or coloured, precise rules govern the placing of the cutlery. Starting with those furthest out, one works inwards. The knife and soup spoon are set on the right of the plate with the cutting edge of the knife turned inwards. The fork is on the left with the serviette beside it. Above the plate, perpendicular to the rest, are the dessert knife and fork: first the knife with the handle turned to the right and the blade towards the plate; immediately above is the fork, with the handle turned towards the left. If a spoon is also required it can either be brought to the table with the dessert, or may be placed above the fork, with the handle to the right.
7. Glasses are placed to the right of the plate, in decreasing order of size: water, wine and lastly dessert wine. The dessert and the glass for the accompanying wine may also be brought to the table together.
8. If you like to provide a bread plate, this should be placed to the left of the fork.
9. If you are serving antipasti, provide a side plate on top of the dinner plate. If beginning with pasta, put a pasta dish on top of the dinner plate.
10. At the end of a course, plates are removed from the left and clean plates are offered from the right.

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