Setting the Table, An Etiquette Primer

Having your kids set the table is one of the first ways you can have them help in the kitchen and learn some etiquette. Here is a fun way for them to remember where to put what that can also help with spelling and counting.

Place Setting -Kids

Now we all have been in the restaurant or at an affair and been bewildered by the amount of dishes, glasses and utensils in front of us. First, take a deep breath and find your knife. NO do not use it to slit your wrists, it is your compass. It points to your water glass. Take a sip and remember the picture below.

Place settings - adult

Generally at an affair or restaurant,  the napkin will be on your plate. Unfold it and put it on your lap, not your collar unless you are eating a whole lobster. Otherwise a bib is not necessary.  Look to your left. That is your bread plate. Since you already have your glass in your right hand it is serendipity that you have the bread plate on the left in easy reach of your left hand.  Once you have reached for that roll, do not cut it in half like a sandwich, tear it apart.  You know you wanted to do that anyway, didn’t you. See the butter knife? You use that to take a chunk of butter out of the butter dish and put it on the bread plate (sometimes called the bread and butter plate). The butter you put on your plate is then used to butter your bread. I am sneaking in a bunch of etiquette into this post, be patient with me.  I only want to help.

Now depending on the meal there can be even more utensils.  Basically you work from the outside in.  If the first course is a salad, you will be using the outermost fork first. If you are in Europe where the salad is served last, the smaller fork would be on the inside.  This is a good way to predict what will be served when.  Same if true if there are more utensils on the right.  Using the outermost utensil first is a good rule of thumb.

You see the fork and spoon above the plate, those are your dessert utensils and sometimes the spoon is used for coffee or tea.

Some other etiquette dos and don’ts

Do not double dip. Once you have dipped in the sauce, do NOT put that bitten side back in the sauce to contaminate it and make everyone gag.

Etiquette, holding a fork

A properly held fork



Do not hold your fork or spoon like you are at the beach building a sand castle with a plastic shovel.




Do not slurp your soup, unless you are in China.

Do not chew with your month open or talk with food in your mouth.

Cutting food etiquette

Cutting your imaginary food. Hold it down with the fork so it can’t get away and slice with the knife.


You do have a knife so cut your food into bite-sized pieces, but not all at once. Cut, place the piece in your mouth, chew (with your mouth closed), swallow, sip some wine, talk, repeat.



Do not use your fingers to push food onto your fork.  That includes using your fingers as a stop so the food has nowhere else to go.  It will only take a second or two longer to get the food on the fork. It is healthier to eat slower anyway.

If food is served family style, use the serving spoon, not your fork or spoon (see double dipping).

Use toothpicks or floss in the ladies’ or men’s room.  While you are there fix your lipstick, if you use it. Of course you look mahvalous.




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