Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Gravy boats


Dear Ms. Lett,

I am shopping for a sterling gravy boat.  What are the best dimensions for the boat for practical use for home small (12 person, max) dinner parties?  Many do no come with an underplate.  Would it be correct to place them on a china saucer or bread and butter plate?  When serving the gravy or sauce, should one place the ladle on the underplate or in the lip of the boat?  I always thought the lip was for pouring thinner sauces, but I recently read it is actually a spot to place the ladle.

Thank you for your advice.

Dear Kisa:

I don't often receive questions about the accoutrements of fine dining so your question was most welcomed.  The ideal size for a gravy boat is 6.25" long, not including the handle and 4 inches wide.  The lip is the place to rest the ladle while serving.  Most boats don't have a liner - it would actually be awkward when passing to have to pass a gravy boat with ladle and a liner (not attached).  Pass the boat with the ladle resting inside of it.  It is cleaner and easier to manipulate for each diner to whom it is passed.
When you have a thin sauce, you would not use a ladle, just the pouring lip to serve.  Once a ladle is used, it should not come out of the boat - a great chance to make a mess on the tablecloth.  

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Cynthia W. Lett


Proper manners with friends,family,colleagues,neighbors and everyone else you know.


I have been an etiquette expert teaching and consulting on the subject worldwide since 1983. I started and serve as the Executive Director of the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals and am considered a leader in the field of etiquette and protocol training and execution. I edited "Etiquette for Dummies" and have recently written "Lett's Talk - Everyday Etiquette Dilemmas and What to Do about Them". My book, "That's So Annoying:An Etiquette Expert on the World's Most Irritating Habits And What To Do About Them" was published in 2009 and is available wherever books are sold. I taught the Business Protocol class to Master's level students at the George Washington University, Washington, DC for seven years I served as Chief of Protocol for MCI Telecommunications for three years.

International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals, ASTD, PCMA, National Speakers Association

I have been quoted over 700 times in the past 5 years worldwide. Publications include Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, NY Times, Washington Business Journal, USA Today, Associated Press, London Times, Newsweek Japan edition, Newsweek US edition and many many more.

I am a Certified Etiquette Professional (CEP) and Certified Protocol Professional (CPP) earned by examination through ISPEP. I have a Master's degree in hospitality law and undergrad degrees in Restaurant & Hotel Management and Public Relations/Interpersonal Communications from Purdue University.

Awards and Honors
Who's Who Worldwide,Who's Who of American Women, Distinguished Darden Professor (Purdue University).

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