I learned this neat tip from a fellow diner at yesterday's luncheon here at the HCEA conference in Austin. We were all staring in confusion at the profusion of glasses and plates, trying to figure out which was whose. The trick, she said, was to circle your thumbs and forefingers on both hands, putting the rest of your fingers straight up (this can be done discretely in your lap so you don't look like you're clueless).
Your left hand will look like the letter "b" for bread, your right "d" for drink, so the bread plate is on the left, beverage on the right. I know I should have learned these things at my mother's knee or some other joint (sorry, one of my Dad's favorite puns), but somehow I missed it. Phew, one more awkward social gaffe-avoidance technique--anyone have any other favorites they want to share?