Letter to the editor: Artichokes and table setting faux pas

A letter to the editor and a highly questionable table setting

In the latest issue of LLNYC, we reported a distinctively Upper East Side phenomenon – a school for servants who are, somewhat understandably, unaware of the rigorous standards by which their employers live. Some servants to Manhattan’s elite didn’t even know the basics, such as “the difference between convection bake or broil,” how to operate a home automation system or how to keep a linen closet.

Worse still, we reported that some hired help had absolutely no idea how to set a table for a formal dinner. This knowledge gap naturally leads to embarrassing faux pas. But one helpful housekeeper to some distinguished residents of 740 Park Avenue – the legendary co-op building that is said to require apartment applicants to show $100 million in liquid net worth – set us straight on a faux pas of our own.

In an elegant handwritten letter on 740 Park stationary, the “concerned housekeeper” (whose anonymity we’ve chosen to preserve) made us aware that a piece of art featured above the article, which depicts a formal table setting, was riddled with errors.

Here is the questionable table setting illustration featured in the magazine:


She writes:

Dear Mr. Elliott,

As a long-time housekeeper in formal service here at 740 Park, it was unfortunate to see your article for “housekeeper’s” faux pas illustrated by a photo of a table setting that is itself filled with “faux pas!” To wit (and see attached):

1. A cup, saucer and teaspoon are never set before a formal meal, but only after the removal of the main dinner plates, at dessert time.
2. A large dinner knife is totally inappropriate on a bread plate. This requires a small butter-spreader.
3. A low stemless glass is never set behind taller stemware. It should be in front lest the guest knock over the tall stemware to reach the lower glass.
4. A soup plate in this position can only be for receiving artichoke leaves as a first-course artichoke is eaten, but that requires a second knife at the place setting (to cut the artichoke heart), and there is none shown. Instead there is a soup spoon for soup as the first course – but one can’t have two different first courses!

And finally, I see five different patterns of silverware at one formal place setting, which is inappropriate and improper for a “formal” table, and says something unflattering about the taste and finances of the host and hostess (i.e. can’t they afford a complete service in the same pattern?).


The “concerned housekeeper”

Check out the full letter below:

Click to enlarge
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