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The fork goes on the left side of the plate

June 26, 2011
By ANITA HANABURGH , For The Leader Herald

The left! The fork goes on the left. My granddaughter is setting the table. I don't know what it is about the setting of silverware in the table setting that my grandkids, sometimes my children and even my husband just can't get it correct. The fork goes on the left - the napkin goes next to it. The knife is on the right with the blade facing the plate. The spoon is next to that on the outside. It's the way it is, I explain. It is not my way, it's the correct way. "But, you keep changing it," they argue.

Change it? Me? I wish I could. The present American table setting was accepted during the Victorian period. Adhering to the strictness and rigidity of the Victorian household, the table setting rules as we know them today have remained constant for over 150 years.

Change it? Me? It's correct and it's logical, I tell them. The setting is based on logic. We use the silverware from the outside in. If there is more than one fork, we place the salad fork on the outside, then the dinner fork and the dessert fork next to the plate. The fork is always on the left. "Logic?" they argue, "why then is the fork on the left if I'm right handed?" Oh busboy, its an uphill battle. The Victorians were loyal to their English ancestors who ate using the knife in the right hand to cut the food while the fork in the left hand held the food. The cut food was then lifted with the left hand and eaten. The English do not switch the fork to the right hand to eat, like most Americans.

"What if you are left handed," my granddaughter asks.

"You're not," I reply.

The logic in table settings is fiercely right-handed loyal.

"Wow, are these forks real silver?" my too inquisitive grandchild asks. Not much anymore, I explain. They are primarily stainless steel or a mixed alloy. Sterling Silver is the shiny silver that most jewelry is made out of. There is a big difference between these two materials, as silver is much more valuable than steel.

Silver denotes that it has some silver in it, but no guarantees can be made about how much silver is in the piece. Silver-plated means that the object is made of some other metal (such as zinc or copper) and then a thin layer of silver is applied to the outer surface of the object. Sterling silver means that the object is made of a minimum of 92.5 percent real silver. Sterling silver has a hallmark stamped on it noting 925. If there is an SP stamped on it, it is Silver Plate.

Most stainless is a composite of different steels, the main ingredient in flatware is chromium and nickel. Flatware that is 18/10 is 18 percent chromium and 10 percent nickel. The higher the nickel content, the better and the more protection the flatware has from corrosion.

"Gram, T.M.I.!" she responds. "Are these silver?" she asks, as she looks at the forks she is placing on the table.

"No," I explain. "I still have some of my mom's silver but I don't use it much."

"Why not?" she asks.

"Its too much trouble to polish," I respond.

"Then can we make it into jewelry?"

The question is logical, the smile is impish.

I tell her to finish setting the silverware.

"But why do you call it silverware if it isn't silver?"

Habit, I explain, and it is usually colored silver. The real term is flatware, I explain.

"But it isn't flat," she holds up a fork.

"Just set the table," I tell her.

"Where do the glasses go?" she asks with a smirk.

"Get the others for dinner," I snap.

As I place the casserole in the middle of the table, I notice the forks are placed on the right sides of the plates. I begin to move the forks to the left, correct side. Arriving, my daughter asks "What are you doing?"

"Finally, setting the table correctly," I respond.

She asks, "Why do you keep changing it?"

Me? Change it? Well, it's based on logic, 150 years, flatware not silver, etc. Well, I would if I could. I'm very right-handed.

But I can't and I don't. I move all the forks to the left side. It's the correct way.


Restaurant Watch : What side are the forks set on?



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