Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 at 8:05 am in Thanksgiving.
Growing up, the dining room was always off limits 48 hours before Thanksgiving. That’s because my mother needed time to turn our table into something that looked as if it had jumped off the pages of “Better Homes & Garden.” She took table setting very seriously, right down to pulling out an illustrated table chart that showed exactly where every plate, bowl, glass and utensil belonged.
The first must-know in table setting is the basics (American-style): n Plates go 1 inch from the edge of the table. Flatware is lined up with the bottom of the plates: fork on the left; knife, with the blade turned toward the plate, and spoon go on the right. Bread-and-butter plates are set above the forks with the butter knife laid across it. If these are not used, the salad plates go here; otherwise they belong left of the forks. Flatware is arranged with the pieces used first on the outside. So, a salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork. The exception is the dessert silverware, which goes above the plate. The water glass sits at the tip of the knife, with the wine or beverage glass to the right of the water glass. Coffee cups and saucers are placed to the right of the spoon or brought out with dessert. Napkins sit in the center of each plate, are tucked in wine glasses or are placed to the left of the fork.
But knowing where everything goes is only part of what is involved in setting the table for Thanksgiving. Now it’s time to give it a little style…
Here are a few tips from some experts: Mary Carol Garrity, author of “Nell Hill’s Entertaining in Style” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $29.95), uses fall colors — rust, sage, amber — and incorporates elegant touches, such as menu cards with vintage drawings taken from old bookplates. William Yeoward, author of “Perfect Tables” (Cico Books, $29.95), uses antiques and vintage items to reflect “looking back to the past.” And Matthew Mead, author of “Entertaining Simple” (John Wiley & Sons, $24.95), emphasizes white ceramic plates and bowls, clear glasses and simple serving pieces because these “give a pleasing sense of visual order. When everything is the same color, the different shapes and silhouettes come to the fore.” (For more ideas, check out my Home & Garden article.)