Gilded Age Settings and Oysters

A Gilded Age, 6 course, formal place setting, set for oysters as the first course.

As “What Have We Here?” at 162 pages, is 4 times longer than “Reaching for the Right Fork,” I could not use every photograph I took for the book. It would be too long. I will therefore be occasionally adding some of the photos which were ultimately unused to my blog posts. Here is one above, showing a Gilded Age formal place setting, set for a first course of oysters. 

Oyster forks, or any cocktail forks, can be properly placed in 3 different ways:
  1. As the first of 3 forks to the left of a setting.
  2. At the far right of a place setting, laying flat on the table next to the soup spoon or first knife, whichever utensil to be used afterward.
  3. Or resting at an angle, with the small tines resting in the bowl of the soup spoon.
In the setting above, the oyster fork rests at an angle in the soup spoon, or the 3rd option. This positioning was to help those dining at crowded Gilded Age tables deal with an ever-growing list of specialty utensils at each place setting. The fork on the far left of one setting could be mistaken for the first fork expected for many foods for the diner on the right. 

At the same time, the decision had just recently been made by the arbiters of good taste during that time period in the U.S., to no longer allow four forks on the left, but to limit them to three. Those not up to snuff on the most recent etiquette rules, whether hosting a dinner or as a guest at one, could be confused. Laying it at an angle with the tines resting in one’s soup spoon bowl, alerted that guest that the fork belonged to him or her and not the place setting to the right.

This below is a page from the book, “What Have We Here?”: The Etiquette and Essentials of Lives Once Lived, from the Georgian Era through the Gilded Age and Beyond...



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