When attending an informal dinner, if you observe that the place setting includes a dessert fork and spoon placed together, centered on top of the dinner plate, the good news is that you are definitely going to be served dessert, or "pudding" as it is lovingly referred to in England! The quandary for some is knowing which one to pick up. The simple answer is that you pick up both! Once dessert is served and you see the hostess has picked up her fork and spoon, then you follow suit by placing the fork in your left hand, tines side down, and placing the spoon in your right hand. The fork is used as a kind of "pusher" to place the dessert into the spoon, and then you eat from the spoon. Most guests choose to pick up either the fork or the spoon, instead of picking them both up together, one in each hand. So, now you know!
When you set an informal place setting with the fork and spoon above the dinner plate, remember that the fork is on the bottom, with the tines facing to the right. It is easy to remember that the fork is positioned to the right, so that the tines cannot poke your heart! The spoon is placed higher, above the fork, with the bowl of the spoon facing towards the left. A spoon full of sugar cannot hurt your heart!
I was delighted to learn a little nuance when doing a photo shoot for my book, The Pretty & Proper Living Room. I arranged a composition for "a romantic dinner for two" on a Pembroke table in my living room at Fox Hall. Just before the photographer began to shoot the scene, my dear friend, a consummate British gentleman, popped in to say hello. He glanced at my place setting and asked permission to suggest a slight adjustment. "Yes, of course! I relish your seasoned insight!" So, he gently moved the dessert fork and spoon, infinitesimally, to the right and to the left. "This enables your guest to pick up the spoon without the possibility of the fork pricking the right hand,” he explained. A tiny but refined detail!