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Laying the table with Arthur Price

How did it all begin?

Since the Middle Ages when forks were first used, we have been using cutlery to transport food into our mouths. In mediaeval Europe, people would carry their own personal sharp knife for everyday eating. Further down the line, the ends of knives became rounded to stop people using knifepoints to pick their teeth, a move encouraged by King Louis XIV of France with the ulterior motive of reducing violence.

For many years, only Italians used forks, twisting their spaghetti around their tines (prongs), but by the 18th century, using cutlery was established as the most polite way to eat – and here we are today, still using knives and forks.

Contemporary cutlery

With modern cutlery combinations of sporks, sporfs and spifes and knorks helping us to eat on the go, keeping up with the fast pace of modern life, it’s rare that we sit down for evening meals together as families, tending to eat fast light bites.

Sandwiches, wraps, burgers and pasties, we eat them all with our hands, so sometimes we don’t require cutlery to eat our meals.

Fine dining, hand in hand with admirable propriety, has paved the way for the contemporary table, with dining being seen as a more formal affair, but it is evident that we have lost that tradition to some degree; a large proportion of the population now eat dinner on the sofa and some homes don’t even have a dining room. When entertaining, however, it’s nice to put on a show and ensure that your table is well laid, making your guests feel comfortable and to make the occasion extra special.

Going all out? Here’s how to lay your table:

 - Traditionally, you’d remove the items as they were used, including glassware, depending on which wine went with which dish; if you’re not using them all then there’s no need to lay them all out.

 - Knives and spoons go to the right of each plate setting and forks go to the left.

 - Cutlery is arranged in the order in which it will be used, starting from the outside and working inwards.

 - Forks are placed with the prongs facing upwards and knife blades facing inwards. The dessert spoon and fork are put above the place setting: the fork’s handle should face to the left and the spoon should go above the fork with its handle to the right.

 - When you’re eating, although you work from the outside in when choosing cutlery, you work from the inside out when selecting a glass.

- When you have finished eating, Debrett’s say that we should always place our knife and fork (with the prongs facing upwards) together on the plate.

If you have any questions or want any tips for your next dining experience feel free to tweet us and we would be happy to share our suggestions. Send tweets to @arthurprice1902