Dear Heidi: How do I know which fork to use? And why is one so tiny?!
The short answer is, use utensils from the outside in.
When faced with multiple utensils at your place setting and not a clue which to use when, then follow your host’s lead. This can work pretty well, if done discreetly. Staring at your host’s hands is not discreet!
It is always good to know the basics.
Forks will generally be on the left hand side of your plate; the knives and spoons on the right. Be aware, there are exceptions. The first fork—the one furthest to the left, is the one you will use first. In the US, is it most likely a salad fork. Start here, unless there is a very tiny, three-pronged fork, far on the right hand side—the exception.
This tiniest of forks is the oyster fork (not to be confused with a bit bigger seafood fork).
This specialty fork is not commonly used, but if you find yourself with this little fork looking up at you from the “wrong” side of the plate, do not panic—it’s going to help you enjoy a gorgeous oyster, if that’s your thing.
Table settings can become quite complicated, but once you know the social codes, you will become relaxed and dine with ease. And if you see that tiny fork, you’ll know oysters are on their way!