Slow life in the French country

The art of setting a table

Why set the table?
Why not just grab a plate and some mismatched cutlery to eat? It’s so much simpler. Only, does it make us want to sit down, enjoy the meal we are about to eat, and have a good time together? Not really.

Indeed, a good meal begins with the pleasure of the eyes. A well-laid table is a call to conviviality, to a moment of sharing while enjoying. Whether it is for a special occasion or for our daily family meals, setting a nice table is the preamble to a good meal.
It is not necessary to make complicated presentations nor to display great creativity. You just need to follow a few basic rules to have a beautiful table.
I like to use beautiful dishes, even for everyday meals. Without even beginning on the silverware, we can find very nice tableware, according to our tastes, which will allow us to set a pleasant table. The goal is simply to make people want to sit down. « Welcome! Settle down, we are going to have a good time! »

Of course we will not set the same table for a daily meal and for a gala meal. We adapt our table to the event, the guests, the season… To get your meal off to a good start, here are some basic rules that you can use every day to set a welcoming table:

1°) The tablecloth

Necessary for special occasions, it is not for everyday use. It’s up to you to decide on according to your taste. It also depends on the table on which you eat. Some fragile tables require protection. For special occasions and official dinners, we prefer a white tablecloth. For more intimate meals, you can choose a more fancily-designed tablecloth.
Note: A tablecloth is made of fabric, forget about oilcloth.

2°) The napkins

We match the napkins to the tablecloth. Choose a color that goes well with the tablecloth. If you have a patterned tablecloth, choose napkins in a matching solid color. Napkins are folded into rectangles or squares and, traditionally, placed on the left side of the plate for dinners and on the top of the plate for lunches.

3°) The dishes

Again, we choose dishes according to the type of event. It is good to have at least one set for daily meals and one set for entertaining.
– When you set a table, reserve a space of 60 cm per guest in the center of which you will place the plate. You can reduce this space to 30 cm around a round table. Plates are placed 2cm from the edge of the table.
– You can place the cutlery either “à la française” (French style) or “à l’anglaise” (English style), as desired. In the “French style,” place the tines of the forks against the table, and the curved side of the spoons upwards. In the “English style,” place the forks with the tines upwards and the curved side of the spoons against the table. Forks are placed to the left of the plate and knives to the right with the edge of the blade facing the plate. If you plan to change cutlery between courses, you should place it on either side of the plate in order of use before the beginning of the meal. Place the cutlery used first furthest out. The only cutlery not to be placed on the table at the beginning of the meal is the dessert cutlery.
– Place the glasses at the top of the plate on a diagonal going up to the right. They are arranged in order of size. The one closest to the plate is the water glass. Next is generally the red wine glass, then the white wine glass.

4°) The accessories

You needsSome accessories to complete the table for good progress of the meal. These include, at least:
– A water carafe
– Salt and pepper shakers
– A bread basket

5°) The decoration

The decoration finalizes your table. It completes the atmosphere of the meal. There is no precise rule for the decoration of a table. It will depend on the type of meal and the desired atmosphere. Be careful not to overload the table. The decoration is there to enhance the meal, not to steal the show. Beware of imposing decorations that could interfere with the service or that would prevent the guests from seeing each other. There are endless possibilities for decorating a table: flowers, candles, fruit baskets, seasonal vegetables… let your imagination run wild as long as you respect the harmony and the theme of your meal.


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