GENERAL DIRECTIONS FOR LAYING THE TABLE. SPREADING TABLE-CLOTH. ARRANGEMENT OF COVERS
THE center of the dining -table should be directly under the central light, unless this position would not permit the waitress to pass between the table and the sideboard. For dinner, lay the silence cloth upon the table. This cloth may be double-faced cotton flannel, knitted table padding, or an asbestos pad ; the latter may be obtained in various sizes. The first two launder well ; the last is easily handled and may be protected from soiling by the use of linen covers, which can be bought to fit the pads. The table-cloth appears to best advantage when ironed with few folds, which must be straight. A tablecloth should be unfolded on the table, not opened and thrown over it, as the latter method tends to crumple the cloth. The center fold of the cloth must form a true line through the center of the table, having the four corners at equal distances from the floor. The cloth never should hang less than nine inches on all sides below the edge of the table.
Place the centerpiece directly in the center of the table, aking care that the thread of the linen runs in the same direction as the thread of the cloth. Place in center of this a fern dish, growing plant, dish of fruit, or cut flowers. This is the conventional arrangement to be varied by individual taste. The decoration varies in elaborateness with the meal served, but whatever the arrangement, it should be either so low or so high that an unobstructed view may be had across the table.
Lay the covers, allowing twenty-four to thirty inches from plate to plate. A "cover" consists of the plates, glasses, silver, and napkin to be used by each person- The covers on opposite sides of the table should be directly opposite each other, not out of line. Mark the position of the covers by laying the service or place plates, which should be not less than ten inches in diameter. In laying a bare table, the covers are marked by the plate doilies. A service plate is laid for each person, one inch from the edge of the table ; this plate remains upon the table until it is necessary to replace it with a hot plate.
Next, lay the silver, which should always be placed in the order in which it is to be used, beginning at the outside and using toward the plate. Silver for the dessert course is never put on with the silver required for the other courses, except for the dinner which is served without a maid, when everything should be done to avoid the necessity of leaving the table. Neither is the table set with more than three forks. If more are required, they are placed with their respective courses. Either bring the salad or dessert silver in on the plate, or place it from a napkin or tray at the right, from the right, after the plate is placed. Some persons object to the first- named method, on account of the possible noise. The knife or knives are to be placed at the right of the plate, half an inch from the edge of the table, with the cutting edge toward the plate. Place spoons, with the bowls facing up, at the right of the knife ; and forks, with the tines turned upward, at the left of the plate. The spoon for fruit or the small fork for oysters or hors-d'oeuvres is placed at the extreme right or on the plate containing this course. This statement does not include the serving of oysters or clams on the shell ; then the fork is always found at the right.
Place the napkin, preferably flat and squarely folded, at the left of the forks. The hem and selvage of the napkin should be parallel with the forks and the edge of the table, this position bringing the embroidered letter, if there be one, in the right place. Napkins are sometimes given additional folds to save space.
Place the water glass at the point of the knife; the bread-and-butter plate above the service plate, a little to the left ; and the butter spreader across the upper, right-hand side of the bread-and-butter plate, with the blade turned toward the center of the plate. At first-class hotels the butter spreader is often found at the right with the other knives, but this is not consistent with home table service. Place all the silver, china, and glass required for one cover as close together as possible, without having the pieces touch or appear crowded. The whole table and the cover itself has a much neater appearance if the cover is compact, not loosely spread. Salt and pepper sets are to be placed between each two covers. If an open salt cellar is used, place the salt- spoon across the top or on the cloth beside it.
When the table is being laid for a supper or a spread where no knife is required, place the fork at the right, as it is to be used in the right hand and there is sufficient space for it there. A teaspoon, if called for, would be at the right of the fork.
The table laid, the chairs are placed. They should not be too near the table, neither entirely away from it, but where they can be used with slight exertion.
The sideboard was used formerly to hold all extras required during the serving of a meal. The serving- table has taken its place, while the sideboard is used for decorative purposes only, usually holding choice pieces of silver. The size of the serving-table determines how much or how little shall be arranged upon it, and what shall be in the pantry in readiness for use. A screen is desirable in the dining-room to shield a person at the table from the draughts of a swing door, as well as to shut off the view of the pantry interior. If the tight door is used, fasten it back during the serving of a meal and place the screen, which is then even more necessary. Greater care must be taken in the latter case that no sound of voice or preparation shall be heard from the pantry.