Book Review: How To Set A Table

How To Set A Table, by Potter

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Clarkson Potter Publishers.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

I liked this book a lot, although I must admit this is the sort of subject that I like and that many others may find a bit puzzling.  Who reads books about how to set a table?  Isn’t that something that everyone knows how to do?  I must admit that as someone who eats at a fair number of pot lucks and enjoys somewhat formal dinners [1], I am the sort of person this book is aimed at.  Are you fond of shopping at Crate and Barrel?  Do you like mixing and matching for casual meals while also working with more formal arrangements for more formal dinners?  Do you enjoy books that show you as well as tell you what good table setting looks like?  If so, you are in luck because this book offers all of that.  It’s not a challenging read, but this isn’t really a book that is designed to be read as much as it is designed to be a resource for someone who wants to be a classy host.

As a whole, this book is around 130 pages or so in length and is divided into several sections based on what sort of meal or setting is in mind.  The book begins with an introduction and a discussion of how one picks the right pieces and puts them all together.  Included in this is a discussion of various types of cutlery as well as different folds for napkins.  The rest of the book consists of a variety of different ways for plates and silverware and napkins/linen to be combined for various place settings like the dining table, breakfast bar, coffee table, picnic blanket, bistro table, console, and serving tray.  At some points the author conceives of the host making a quick breakfast when there is little time for anything fancy and at other times the author conceives of immensely complicated dining with multiple courses.  At still other times the author writes about pot lucks, tea, as well as open houses where guests come and go over an extended period of time.  Each of these situations comes with suggestions about what kind of table settings as well as food to provide, giving a touch of class to many possible situations.

There is likely a great deal that is discussed here that many readers will already be familiar with from their own prior experience or their own observation of dinner parties and other such events that they have been a part of hosted by others.  Perhaps the most useful aspect of this book is the way that it tries to give the reader confidence in their ability to host a variety of events, so that even where the reader might already know what to do, they may not know that they already know what they are doing.  Like Moliere’s famous gentleman who did not realize he had been speaking in prose all of his life, a great many people may be unaware that they have the competence to host elegant teas or casual breakfasts or other such events.  And so this book, and others like it, serve a valuable role in giving encouragement to people in knowing that some multi-purpose plates as well as sets of silverware and napkins and table settings of flowers and herbs can add a touch of class to any sort of meal and give one a well-earned reputation as an able and skilled host.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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