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
Basic mise en place, the one that practically everyone should know and set up in everyday life, requires at least a plate, a napkin, a fork, a knife and a glass. The plate placed in the center, the napkin and fork on the left, the knife on the right and the glass near its tip. But, having said and learned this, in reality it would not be enough.
According to 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 1.5 cm. Table linen (tablecloths and runners) must be absolutely immaculate, perfectly ironed and fall evenly on all sides of the table (ideal 30/40 cm fall). Finally, the napkin should never be made of paper, never on the plate where you eat and never above or under the cutlery. On the side of the forks and easily grasped with the right hand to position it on the legs as soon as seated.
Below is a small visual infographic on how to set the table informal.
How to set the table for a complete covered formal mise en place
After learning the basics of proper equipment, let’s go into more detail and, going in order, let’s find out together what etiquette and good manners teach us about formal mise en place. First of all, if we decide to set the table with a full cover, drinks, bread, cutlery, glasses and plates must all be placed at the table immediately. Let’s see how.
Plates and placemats
If provided for in the mise en place, the underplate 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 dishes are placed on top of the underplate from the largest to the smallest. The bread saucer, although not used much by now, should be positioned at the top, to the left of the glasses. At dessert time, the table should be cleared, leaving only the mats, glasses and dessert cutlery.
The cutlery must always be positioned following the order of the dishes, respecting the criterion from the outside to the inside.
- Forks. On the left, of which the first external, for example, will be for the pasta and the second innermost for the meat of the second. The only exception is the oyster fork which, on the other hand, should be placed on the right next to the knives.
- Knives. They go to the right with the same criterion as the forks and with the part of the cutting blade facing the plates.
- Soup spoon. He is positioned on the right and will be the first from the outside.
- Dessert cutlery. They are placed at the top, horizontally to the plates. The dessert spoon with the handle on the right is the outermost, followed inwards by the fork with the handle on the left and the small knife with the handle on the right.
Once you have finished eating your own course, dirty cutlery should never be crossed but lined up side by side on the plate.
Glasses should be placed at the top right of the mise en place, in order of size from the largest to the smallest. The largest of the water will be the innermost, followed towards the outside by that for red wine and then that for white wine. If there is also a flute, this should be placed behind the main glasses.
Assignment of places
General rules that are good on most occasions provide for the hosts at the head of the table, facing each other, while guests should be accommodated respecting the alternation between men and women. To the right of the hosts sit the most important guests.
As for the in-laws, the landlord will have the mother-in-law on his right and the mother on his left, while the wife will have the father-in-law on the right and the father on the left.
The organization of the seats must always be thought of first and the place cards (to be inserted in the mise en place between the bread plate and dessert cutlery) are a precaution that I personally find essential even during informal lunches or dinners. Finally, each guest should have between 70 and 80 cm of space at his disposal.
What to put on the table
Centerpiece is that extra touch that completes our mise en place. Generally it is placed as a decoration in 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, overly scented decorations such as aromatic candles or incense. 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 diners.
Finally, other objects such as the fruit plate, the cheese bowl etc. they must be brought to the table only when needed. Toothpicks and ashtrays must not be present until the explicit request of one or more diners.
The perfect dish service for impeccable equipment
In conclusion, for a noteworthy mise en place try to follow a single theme or style. Setting the table is a real art, based on our tastes and the atmosphere we want to create, let’s just remember to maintain a certain chromatic balance by avoiding excessive combinations or multiple styles all together. Personally, I often like to change so I confess that I am a serial accumulator of tableware.
In this regard, the Lionshome online shop is really indispensable for me. It has a wide range of tableware sets to get lost in with the best products selected from hundreds of different stores. Finding the perfect dinner service, the one capable of making our table unique, becomes child’s play. Today, for example, I was looking for an 18-piece white porcelain set and I was very torn between these three. Which one would you recommend me to buy? Are you more of a modern touch like the first, classic like the second or shabby chic like the third?