During the last few weeks, while cruising from store to store, I found the COOLEST stuff EVER! (Well maybe not coolest - EVER, but perhaps pretty neat!) The objects that I found were not only useful, but also cheap (score!)
What is it that I found, you ask?
Well I found plastic plates and utensils (I know, a total let down...) but not just your regular plastic plates and utensils... these look like fancy China and Silverware!
For those of us still using our hand me down college kitchen supplies that probably won't be replaced until the last one is broken, these are an awesome find! No longer will I be embarrassed to have a dinner party or a friend over for a meal. If these plates crack or the fork breaks, heck just throw them away and buy new (THATS HOW CHEAP THEY ARE!)
Now that I have flatware and "china", I thought I would explore proper table settings. If you remember, I wrote an article on Forks, their expansive history, and questioned if anyone really cared which fork you use for dinner or salad. As you might imagine, each type of flatware has its own history (we won't go there right now) and there are a myriad of spoons, knifes, plates, and bowls that each have had their specific function throughout history.
First lets finish the flatware:
In my (rather short) lifetime, I have only seen one type of spoon inuse at a table for dinner, that spoon would be the "soup spoon". Of course sometimes there is a dessert spoon present during the dessert course of a meal.
Soup Spoon- Formally (and I mean VERY FORMAL), there are two types of soup spoons. They are both the about the same size, but one is for soup with solid food (most people would probably call this a "Table Spoon") and the other is for creamy soup. Personally I would only worry about a "soup" spoon, which is usually around 6 inches long and is meant to eat, well... soup. The spoon is normally placed to the right of the dinner knife.
Dessert Spoon- A dessert spoon is approximately 7 inches long and is used during the dessert course of a meal (duh!) It is normally placed above the plate with the dessert fork (facing the opposite way)
Similar to the spoon, I have only ever seen two knifes in a table setting, even including dinners at fancy restaurants however when looking into different types of knifes there are plenty to choose from (Dinner, Luncheon, Fish, Steak, Fruit, Dessert (wait who uses a knife for dessert?) The two types of Knifes that you would really want to know about are:
Steak Knife- A steak knife is not normally sold as part of a flatware set, but usually sold in sets that come with one of those wooden storage blocks (I need to get one of those!). Usually they are around 9 inches in length and have a serrated edge to aid in cutting of thick or tough meats during meals. This knife would usually be set to the left (or inside) or the Dinner knife and closest to the plate. The serrated edge should face the plate. Fun Fact: long ago, it was customary that the serrated edge would face outward in times of war and inward during times of peace. (So, unless you are at war with your family and friends over your dinner table, lets just keep it inward for now.)
"Dinner" Knife- The dinner knife is normally the longest knife of the flatware set (usually around 9 .5 inches long!) This knife as you can imagine is used at dinner to cut food (weird huh?) The placement of this knife is closest to the plate's right side, and is also facing the plate (unless of course a steak knife is needed).
Now on to the table setting:
Usually the number of plates you use depends on the number of courses or "side" dishes (ie. fish, fruit, bread) you have in your meal (and then meal type of meal, breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert pates are all different as well, except I won't tell if you use the same plates for each!) In my observation the main plates used today are the salad plate, dinner plate, and dessert plate.
Salad Plate: A salad plate is usually placed on top of a dinner plate and is used during the first course of a meal (normally salad!), and then is removed once the main course arrives. This type of plate can come in different shapes and sizes but is usually found to be a bit smaller than the dinner plate.
Dinner Plate: I would describe a dinner plate as your regular "plate". In a table setting, it sits under the salad plate and is used after the first course has been taken away from the table. This plate also can come in different shapes and sizes but, again, it's most often is larger than the salad plate.
Dessert Plate: This plate is my favorite! (I bet you can't image why..) The dessert plate is usually not placed on the table until after the main dinner courses are finished and cleared. This plate would most likely resemble that of a salad plate, but can also come in all shapes and sizes.
Bowls- I have NEVER seen more than one bowl in a table setting, and honestly the only practical difference between the different kinds of bowls are what type of soup you put in them. My opinion... a bowl is a bowl. Only use it in your table setting if you are going to serve soup, otherwise keep it in the cabinet and save you or your dishwasher the extra work!
(We'll keep stemware for another post!)