Meals served at different occasions may be formal and informal. The styles of table setting are therefore also called as formal or informal. Also culture differences require various styles. Western style meals make use of various size and types of cutlery and dishes and there are conventions about how to arrange these. Our Indian style differs from the western style as our menu and eating style differs.
Before laying the table or Indian style sitting on the floor, room should be cleaned. One should find out how many people are going to be served, menu of the meal and whether the occasion is formal or informal, one should select the exact numbers, and type of serving dishes, dinner ware set, table mats, table cloth, flower decorations. Usually table mats and table runners are used for informal meals and table cloth for the formal setting. General rules for table setting:
- Western style
The buffet style:
- The china. Cutlery, glasses arranged for each individual is known as ‘cover’ or ‘place setting’. Table mats should be placed parallel and 3-5 cms inside the edge of the table.
- Use only required numbers of cutlery and crockery and avoid placing extra items on the table. Arrange the plates in the center of the place mat, usually forks with prongs turned upward are arranged on the left side of the plate, knives on the right side sharp edge facing the plate. A quarter plate followed by spoons if required is placed on the left side just above the top of the forks, and a butter knife on it. The water glass is placed on the right corner of the place mat, just above the spoons and knives. Desert spoons or forks are placed near the top edge of the plate. The napkin is placed on the plate or in the glass in attractive way. The knives need not be placed if not required. The cutlery is placed in a definite order in the sequence of the items served (informal setting).
- The lower edges of the plate, forks and spoon should be in alignment with each other and parallel to the edge of the place mat.
- When the table cloth is used on formal occasion, the table should be protected from excess heat of the pots by using a thin pad made up of quilted cloth, or even a folded sheet. The table cloth should be moderately starched, well pressed and smooth without showing too many creases of the fold. The table cloth should be of good size so that if falls well about 25 cm on all sides of the table.
- Salt and pepper containers can be placed individually or shared among diners.
- In formal serving of meals, no food bowls should be left on the table but each course is served by waiters. The food dishes are placed and removed carefully from the left side of the guest.
- In case of family meals or informal occasions food can be layed on the table and passed around from left to right by the diners. The food is served to the guests first and then to the host/or hostess.
- Cleaning away of the table should be done noiselessly. In formal meals the used crockery and cutlery is removed after every course. The table should be cleared of all the cutlery and dishes before the dessert is served. Only water glasses should be kept on the table till end of the meal.
Though buffet is a western style of serving, it has gained lot of popularity, because of the convenience in serving to a large group of people in a limited space, time and energy. Moreover, the guests can serve the items of their choice, needs and satisfaction, which may prevent wastage of food.
The menu and style of meal serving differs from state to state. Thali service is the traditional Indian way of serving meal. Use of banana leaves, patal etc for serving meals are also quite popular.
The food is usually eaten with the fingers and hence not much cutlery is laid on the table. The thali with the katories of dal, vegetables, pickles, curds, salad, papads etc., are placed before the guest. The hostesses take pride in serving meals to each person herself.
The food is served on the table or seating arrangement is made on the floor. Attractive colored low (about 7 to 10 cms. from floor) seating boards are arranged in row and boards in front of each seat for placement of plates. In the plate two or required number of small bowls are placed on the board at left side of the plate. Either colored powder (rangoli) or flowers are used to decorate around each plate or common decoration is also used and incense- agarbattis are burnt on special occasions. Food is served to the guests in a specific order. Similar type of arrangement is followed when the food is served at the table at formal occasions