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Hosting a Divine Dinner Party 

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the good host(ess)'s 
uide to table settings 
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If you're like most twenty-somethings that I know, your typical "table setting" ritual consists of heaping your food on a plate, grabbing a knife, a fork and a spoon from the dishwasher, then plunking down on the sofa in front of the TV, where you very carefully balance your meal on your lap. This may have become such a deeply-ingrained habit that on those rare occasions when it seems more appropriate to eat a meal at a proper kitchen or dining table, you've got to wrack your brain, desperately trying to remember where the knife is supposed to go in relation to the dinner plate. When you realize that you really haven't a clue as to what the correct placement ought to be, you throw your hands up in defeat, and haphazardly toss all your cutlery on top of the plate (see picture, at right, for an illustration of the typical twenty-something's idea of a table setting). After all, you figure, you like to walk on the wild side, don't you? Why not throw convention to the winds? And as long as the necessary utensils are more-or-less in the right vicinity and readily available for use, who really cares exactly where you've put them?

As silly as it may seem, there will be occasions when you might actually want to make a good impression on people who notice these trivial details. Your mom, your honey's parents, your boss, your best friend's snobbish new girlfriend ... rest assured that there are still plenty of people out there who remain sticklers for proper etiquette, and who'll expect that when they sit down for a meal at your table, the knife, the spoon, the dinner fork, the salad fork, the wine glass, and all the rest are exactly where they expect them to be. 

If you've forgotten how to set a proper table -- or if you never knew how in the first place -- never fear. Just check out our illustrated guide to table settings, ranging from the casual to the super-duper fancy-schmancy.

setting the table for a casual meal


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