Despite being one of those people who likes to have friends often at lunch or dinner I must admit that I am totally denied in the kitchen. Or rather, maybe I can do pretty well yes and no 3 or 4 types of dishes. This is why I try to compensate for my poor culinary skills by presenting a pleasant and well-studied mise en place according to the occasion. Recently, guests have asked me how it is done, so I thought to talk about it here on the blog explaining how to set the table with a few practical and simple tips to memorize and put into practice immediately.
The “putting in place” of the basic mise en place
The basic mise en place, the one that in practice everyone should know and set up in daily life, requires a minimum dish, a napkin, a fork, a knife and a glass. Dish placed in the center, the napkin and fork on the left, the knife on the right and near the tip of the glass. But, having said and learned this, in reality it would not be enough. According to the etiquette, in fact, the alignment of plates and cutlery is also important. The first between 3/5 cm from the edge of the table, and the second to 1.5 cm. The table linen (tablecloths and runners) must be absolutely immaculate, perfectly ironed and fall evenly on all sides of the table (ideal fall 30/40 cm). Finally, the napkin should never be made of paper, never on the plate where it is eaten and never on or under cutlery. But it is side by side with the forks and easily taken with your right hand to position it on the legs just seated. Below is a small visual infographic on how to set the informal table.
How to set the table for a complete covered formal mise en place
After learning the basics of a correct apparatus, let’s go into more detail and, going with order, let’s discover together what etiquette and good manners teach us about the formal mise en place. First of all, if we decide to set the table with the complete cover, drinks, bread, cutlery, glasses and plates should be immediately arranged at the table. Let’s see how.
Plates and placemats
If it is provided, the plate goes to the center of the placè, 2/3 cm from the edge of the table and must never be removed from the table until the end of the meal. The plates should be placed on top of the plate from the largest to the smallest. The saucer of bread, although not using much now, should be placed at the top, to the left of the glasses. At the time of dessert, the table should be cleared all leaving only dishes, glasses and cutlery.
The cutlery must always be positioned following the order of the dishes, respecting the criterion from the outside to the inside. The left forks, of which the first outside, for example, will be for the pasta and the second more internal for the meat of the second. Only exception is the oyster fork which should be placed right next to the knives. The knives go to the right, with the same criterion as forks, and with the part of the sharp blade facing the plates. The soup spoon instead goes to the right and will be the first from the outside. Finally, the dessert cutlery can be placed horizontally above the plates. Spoon with the handle to the right is the outermost, followed inward by the fork with the handle on the left and the knife with the handle on the right. When finished eating, the dirty cutlery should never be crossed but aligned one next to the other on the plate.
The glasses should be arranged at the top, on the right, in order of size from the largest to the smallest. The biggest one for red wine will be the most external, followed inward by the one for white wine and then the low one for water. In case there is also the flûte this should be placed behind the main glasses.
Assignment of places
The general rules that go well on most occasions include the hosts at the head of the table, one in front of the other, while guests should be accommodated respecting the alternation between man and woman. To the right of the hosts sit the most important guests. As for the in-laws instead the landlord will have his mother-in-law on his right and his mother on his left, while his wife will have his father-in-law on his right and his father on his left. The organization of the seats must always be thought of before and the placeholders (to be inserted between the saucer of the bread and the dessert cutlery) are a caution that I personally find indispensable even during informal lunches or dinners. Finally, each guest should have at his disposal between 70 and 80 cm of space.
What to put on the table
The centerpiece is that extra touch that completes our mise en place. Generally it is arranged as a decoration at the center of the table and in this regard we do not limit our imagination. The only absolute prohibition is the use of fake flowers and, for obvious reasons, too fragrant decorations such as aromatic candles or incense. The bottles of water and wine must be on the table before the guests sit down and the water would be better in a carafe and not in the classic plastic bottles. Bread must be presented in a basket, and salt, pepper, oil and vinegar can be brought to the table at the request of the guests. Finally further objects such as fruit saucer, cheese maker etc. they must be brought to the table only when necessary. Toothpick and ashtray must not be present until the time of explicit request of one or more diners.
The perfect dishes service for an impeccable mise en place
In conclusion, for a noticeable mise en place try to follow a single theme or style. Setting the table is a real art, according to your tastes and the atmosphere you want to create just remember to maintain a certain chromatic balance avoiding excessive deliveries or more styles all together. I personally like to change often so I confess to being a serial table-service accumulator. In this regard, for me the online shop of Lionshome is really essential. It has a wide range of crockery sets in which to get lost with the best products selected from hundreds of different shops. Finding the perfect dishes service, the one that makes our table unique, becomes a breeze. For example, today I was looking for a 18-piece white porcelain set and I was very torn between these three. Which one would you advise me to buy? Are you more from modern touch like the first, classic as the second or shabby chic like the third?