The Art of the Table: A Complete Guide to Table Setting, Table Manners, and Tableware

Coming together to share a meal is one of our most vital traditions. Whether dining with friends, family, or business associates, we know that an elegant setting and gracious manners bring a sense of harmony and order to the occasion. Yet when it comes to knowing precisely how to set a table for formal and informal dining, which fork is for dessert and which for the appetizer, how to serve different types of wine — even how to eat certain foods — many of us are not fully confident.

Suzanne von Drachenfels learned this firsthand in her career as an expert on table setting, tableware, and etiquette. Conducting seminars throughout the country, she would hear the same questions again and again: Should bread be buttered entirely or bite by bite? What is the purpose of holding a wine glass by the stem or the base? Is handmade crystal worth the price difference?

The Art of the Table answers all these questions and more. A treasure trove of timeless information, this complete guide is to the table what Joy of Cooking is to the kitchen. Von Drachenfels shows us how to select, lay, and use tableware to enhance any dining experience, and how to properly store and care for it — whether it’s your grandmother’s porcelain or everyday stainless steel. She provides guidance on mixing and matching tableware patterns; the basics of coffee, tea, and wine; menu planning; napkin folding; and the proper service techniques for all types of entertainment. So as not to let the lore of the table fall away, she delves deep into the history of specific tableware and the customs we keep, making today’s practices understandable.

For the novice host, this is an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide with more than one hundred helpful illustrations. For the host with more experience, it is a rich and exciting source of new ideas. Like its author, whose passion for the table is contagious, The Art of the Table is an authoritative, elegant, and sophisticated resource for all one’s dining needs.Do you know how to set the table? Worry about your dinner manners? Finally, with The Art of the Table, Suzanne von Drachenfels comes to the rescue with a truly comprehensive guide to the correct use of tableware and confidence-building information about proper dining etiquette. Von Drachenfels, a former Tabletop Consultant for dinnerware makers Fitz & Floyd, defines the vocabulary of tableware and explains the selection, use, and care of dinnerware, flatware, stemware, and table linens. She expertly details the basic service techniques for all types of entertainment, and even includes advice on menu planning. Learn how to read the labels of wine bottles or how to filet a fish at the table; learn where and when to sit down and the proper way to eat finger foods.

Spicing up the how-to text are fascinating tidbits of social and culinary history. Who knew, for instance, that the first napkin was a lump of dough or that ancient Egyptian feasts often concluded with a coffin laid out with an imitation skeleton to remind diners to appreciate the bounteous gifts of life? The author reveals the origins of everyday expressions–such as “eating humble pie”–and covers the history of table manners to shed light on the commonsense reasons behind today’s customs. Food service professionals–restaurateurs, service staff, and caterers–will find the book an indispensable guide to the correct way to set a table and present food, but anyone who has a need or yearning to know the nitty-gritty of table setting, table manners, and tableware will be sure to find answers to all of their questions and more in this exhaustive reference book. –Robin Donovan

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