In laying the table for dinner all the linen should be a spotless white throughout,
and underneath the linen tablecloth should be spread one of thick cotton-flannel
or baize, which gives the linen a heavier and finer appearance, also deadening
the sound of moving dishes.
Large and neatly folded napkins (ironed without starch), with pieces of bread
three or four inches long, placed between the folds, but not to completely
conceal it, are laid on each plate. An ornamental centre-piece, or a vase filled
with a few rare flowers, is put gone into disuse, and is rarely seen now
on well-appointed tables. A few choice flowers make a charming variety in the
appearance of even the most simply laid table, and a pleasing variety at table
is quite as essential to the enjoyment of the repast as is a good choice of dishes,
for the eye in fact should be gratified as much as the plate.
All dishes should be arranged in harmony with the decorations of the flowers,
such as covers, relishes, confectionery, and small sweets. Garnishing of dishes
has also a great deal to do with the appearance of a dinner table, each dish
garnished sufficiently to be in good taste without looking absurd.
Beside each plate should be laid as many knives, forks and spoons as will be
required for the several courses, unless the hostess prefers to have them brought
on with each change. A glass of water, and when wine is served glasses for it,
and individual salt-cellars may be placed at every plate. Water bottles are now
much in vogue with corresponding tumblers to cover them; these, accompanied
with dishes of broken ice, may be arranged in suitable places. When butter is
served a special knife is used, and that, with all other required service, may be
left to the judgment and taste of the hostess, in the proper placing of the various
aids to her guest's comfort.
The dessert plates should be set ready, each with a doily and a finger glass partly
filled with water, in which is dropped a slice of lemon; these with extra knives, forks
and spoons, should be on the side-board ready to be placed beside the guest
between the courses when required.
If preferred, the "dinner" may all be served from the side-table, thus relieving the
host from the task of carving. A plate is set before each guest, and the dish carved
is presented by the waiter on the left-hand side of each guest. At the end of each
course the plates give way for those of the next. If not served from the side-table, the
dishes are served and placed upon the waiter's salver, to be laid by that attendant
before the guest.
Soup and fish being the first course, plates of soup are usually placed on the table
before the dinner is announced; if the hostess wishes the soup served at the table,
the soup, and the warm soup-plates are placed before the seat of the hostess. Soup
and fish being disposed of, then come the joints or roasts, entrees (made dishes),
poultry, etc., also relishes.
After dishes have been passed that are required no more, such as vegetables, hot
sauces, etc. the dishes containing them may be set upon the side-board, ready to
be taken away.
Jellies and sauces, when not to be eaten as a dessert, should be helped on the
dinner-plate, not on a small side dish as was the former usage.
If a dish be on the table, some parts of which are preferred to others, according to taste
of the individuals, all should have the opportunity of choice. The host will simply ask
each one if he has any preference for a particular part; if he replies in the negative,
you, are not to repeat the question, nor insist that he must have a preference. Do
not attempt to enlogize your dishes, or apologize that you cannot
recommend them--this is extreme bad taste; as also is the vaunting of the excellence
of your wines, etc., etc.
Do not insist upon your guests partaking of particular dishes. Do not ask persons
more than once, and never force a supply upon their plates. It is ill-bred, though
common, to press any one to eat; and, moreover, it is a great annoyance to many.
In winter, plates should always be warmed, but not made hot. Two kinds of animal
food, or two kinds of dessert, should not be eaten off of one plate, and there should
never be more than two kinds of vegetables with one course. Asparagus, green
corn, cauliflower and raw tomatoes comprise one course in place of a salad. All
meats should be baked, or boiled, never fried or broiled. Baked ham may be used in
every course after fish, sliced thin and handed after the regular course is disposed of.
The hostess should retain her plate knife and fork, until her guests have finished.
The crumb-brush is not used until the preparation for bringing in the dessert; then all
the glasses are removed, except the the flowers, the water-tumblers, and the glass of
wine which the guest wishes to retain with his dessert. The dessert plate containing the
finger bowl, also a dessert knife and fork, should then be set before each guest, who at
once removes the finger-bowl and its doily, and the knife and fork to the table, leaving
the plate ready to be used for any dessert chosen.
Finely sifted sugar should always be placed upon the table to be used with puddings,
pies, fruit, etc., and if cream is required, let it stand by the dish it is to be served with.
To lay a dessert for a small entertainment and a few guests outside of the family, it
may consist simply of two dishes of fresh fruit in season, two of dried fruits and two
each of cakes and nuts.
Coffee and tea are served lastly, poured into tiny cups and served clear, passed
around on a tray to each guest, then the sugar and cream passed that each person
may be allowed to season his black coffee or cafe noir to suit himself.
A family dinner, even with a few friends, can be made quite attractive and
satisfactory without much display or expense; consisting first of good soup, then
fish garnished with suitable additions, followed by a roast; then vegetables and
some made dishes, a salad, crackers, cheese and olives, then dessert. This
sensible meal, well cooked and neatly served, is pleasing to almost any one, and is
within the means of any housekeeper in ordinary circumstances.
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