How to Lay the Dinner Table
Back in the “good old days”, it was practically a woman’s civil duty to know the ins and outs of culinary etiquette both in theory and in practice. Laying the table, cooking, clearing up and keeping the children happy, are thankfully now chores shared mostly by all sexes in the modern day-to-day. However, now that 1950’s home economics is a thing of the past, and women are no longer required to spend their time learning how to knit and arrange flowers, it seems that many young people could do with a lesson or two in how to make a home and more specifically, how to set the perfect dinner table. And no, hosting isn’t just for girls, we want to see you bumbling, bearded, lumberjack types arranging posies, your über progressive pals will be sure to approve.
If you’re doing things properly then a centrepiece is a quick cheat to a gorgeous dinner table. Frankly, the best thing to have in the middle is a giant dish of something delicious with tangle of arms dipping in to get more like the animals we really are, but a little bit of pretence never hurt anyone. Summer is almost upon us, and it would be sacrilegious not to take advantage of the stunning array of seasonal flowers. Just don’t go too mad with the height, remember that the most beautiful thing about a dinner party is the ample conversation, and you don’t want to be dodging protruding branches all evening for the sake of maintaining eye contact.
We took a little trip down to Northern Flower to buy a bunch of blooms and to get a little advice. This shop is charming flower boutique tucked into a corner of Manchester’s edgy Northern Quarter, and we love it. Lucy is the owner, and not only did she whip up a stunning bunch of flowers like it was no effort at all, she was full of words of wisdom. We could tell you the names of what was in our flowers, but it’s all Latin to us… quite literally. Just tell the girls what colours or stems you like and they will do their stuff.
Lucy’s Top Tips
- Take the wrapping off, but leave the string tie on and make sure you cut the stems of the flowers enough so that the tie point sits just below the neck of the vase. You want the vase to form a collar for the flowers.
- Don’t take the tie off, if you do you will lose the skill of the arrangement of the florist he/she has perfected to your liking.
- Make sure you pull off any limp or dead leaves (your florist should do this for you but make sure you get them so they don’t rot in the water and cause a smell)
- Don’t just top up – clean it thoroughly with soap and water every two to three days to kill of any nasty bacteria in the water
- Old wives tale: a drop of lemon juice will keep the flowers lasting longer. Is it true? Who knows, but we love a good little bit of mystery.
So, the flowers are ready, the food is in the oven and all that is left to do is get the dining space looking smart. Start with table mats at each place, and a small side plate to its left. For a three-course meal, you will need a large knife and fork for the main which goes on the inside. On the outside, goes a smaller set, designed for the starter. Add a spoon at the top, with the round side pointed to the left and if you include a pudding fork (ideal for cake, tarts etc.) this goes above the spoon but pointing to the right. If you serve soup, place the spoon next to the knives, and a small butter knife can be placed on the side plate if you so wish.
You should provide three glasses at a formal affair; one for red wine, one for white and one for water. The red wine glass should be slightly larger and wider. The white thinner, although that is being seriously pernickety. As long as there is wine and any vaguely domed vessel in which to drink it from, your guests will be cheery. Provide a napkin folded or rolled up on the side plate and a napkin ring is a nice touch.
Finish the table off with your flowers, candles and a little light music, this comes to mind this week:
(Look at us being all hi-tech )
And there you have it, one beautiful dinner table in next to no time. It’s a good idea to take a picture to remember it by – a beautiful dinner table will wither like a rose as you and your guests get merrier, and it is NOT going to look as picturesque in the morning.
Have fun boys and girls.
See you next Thursday,