All of the items facing a diner when he is seated at the table are the cover, an old fashioned term for the table setting for one person. (See references 1) Because it is the diner's first view of his section of the table, the host wants him feel welcome and to know whether the meal is casual or formal, elaborate or simple.
Settings vary from casual to formal.
A woven placemat, a pottery bowl, a spoon and a napkin suit an informal family meal of soup or stew. A large plate, an array of glittering flatware, a cluster of stemware, an elaborate napkin, an individual nosegay compose the appropriate cover for a formal meal.
The host's style determines the price and quality of the cover.
Settings range from paper plates, plastic forks and paper napkins to arrangements displaying thousands of dollars worth of china, stemware and flatware.The number of items, the quality of the decor, even the colors of the setting depend not only on the food served but the host's choice of style and interpretation of how to please the guests.
The cover sets the tone for a meal.
Even the most informal of meals can be made more enjoyable by the use of colorful napery, pleasing pottery or stoneware designs,and accessories that suit the menu. For the formal table, most hosts use their best china, silver and crystal in order to present a regal setting, intending to make the occasion feel special.
Along with design, the host must supply every possible need for the guest.
The cover must include all the utensils and dishes the guest will require from cocktail forks to dessert spoons. They should be placed in the logical order in which they will be used, from outside to inside.
A well-set table is a pleasure.
A well-planned, beautiful table is likely to enhance the diner's ease and enjoyment of the food while dining, leaving him to contribute to the convivial nature of eating a meal with others.
- Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary, International Edition, 1960
- Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Till Krech
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