LAYING THE TABLE FOR A FORMAL DINNER AND SERVING IN DETAIL
THE FORMAL DINNER
A HOSTESS, before attempting either a formal dinner or luncheon, should be sure to have enough and efficient help. If the cook is to be depended upon for the cooking, extra help should be engaged for dish-washing, picking up and generally "lending a hand", provided there is no laundress or other member of the household staff to assist. If the cook is not equal to the extra occasion, employ some person to come in and prepare the dinner, using the cook as her assistant.
In families where a chambermaid is employed, she is expected to act as second waitress when necessary ; or, this not being possible, an accommodating waitress should be engaged to assist. A helper, also, in the pantry to stack soiled dishes, keep shelves clear for action, serve soup and pour coffee, keep iced water in readiness, open wine bottles, supply crushed ice for cordials, etc., makes the service more prompt and satisfactory. If a dinner is suggested without added help, there is often grumbling and dissatisfaction on account of the extra amount of work involved. On the other hand, if a mistress sees that help is engaged to lighten this work, the maids look forward with pleasure to the party-giving.
For the formal dinner, a handsome, perfectly laundered, damask cloth should be spread on the table after placing the soft table pad. The laying of the table is practically the same as for the formal luncheon, — a centerpiece and table decoration, with the addition of candlesticks placed symmetrically about the centerpiece. The service plates, flat silver, and napkins are laid as for luncheon, only, of course, the dinner napkin, ranging in size from twenty-four inches to twenty-eight inches, is used.
Butter is not usually served. Occasionally some hostess who wishes butter serves it regardless of custom. Occasionally, too, the bread-and-butter plate is seen on the table, not for the serving of butter, but as a convenience in caring for bread, olives, celery, radishes, etc.
The arrangement of glasses begins with the goblet at the point of the knives ; the wine-glasses are placed in a convenient group at the right of the gob- let, the glass to be used first, at the extreme right. It is not customary to serve more than three wines, and oftener two or even one is served.
The cover now appears as for the formal luncheon : service plate, forks and napkin at left of plate, knives, soup spoon, and oyster fork, if needed, at right of plate ; water and wine-glasses as indicated ; individual nut dishes directly in front of the plate ; salts and peppers between each two covers ; and bonbon dishes placed between candles, the bonbon spoon on the cloth beside dish. The laying of the table is finished, with the exception of place-cards, which the hostess arranges. Two minutes before announcing dinner, fill water glasses two thirds full and light candles.
As at a luncheon, the first course may or may not be placed before announcing dinner. It consists of a "beginning" such as a canape, oysters or clams on the shell, or fruit, and in such case is already in place when guests come to the dining-room. When cocktails are served in the drawing-room, a caviare, or some other sandwich, or a canape is passed. In the latter case, the dinner should not open with a canape.
A dinner menu consists of the following customary courses, but the number may be increased or diminished at the will of the entertainer.
If only one entree is served during a dinner, it comes before the roast ; if two, the meat or heavier entree precedes the roast, and the vegetable or lighter entree follows it.
If both roast and game are served, a frozen punch should be served as a separate course, after the roast, and the salad should be served with the game, instead of forming a course by itself. Dessert would follow. With one meat course only, sorbets and frozen punches are not served except at large dinners, and banquets, and at hotels.
Coffee is almost always served in the drawing- room. This tends to make the serving of crackers and cheese a custom less general than formerly. At the formal dinner, even on the rare occasions when coffee is served at the table, cheese is seldom passed with the coffee, although it is perfectly good form to do so. Those who are fond of cheese and do not care to eliminate it, use it as an accompaniment to the salad. This seems to be, however, a matter of individual preference.
MENU FOR A FORMAL DINNER
The service required for the preceding menu is here described in detail.
Dinner is announced in the drawing-room by serving the cocktails and sandwiches, the sandwiches being arranged on a doily-covered plate.
The first course is arranged on a small plate placed on the service plate, and is already on the table, — large strawberries, hulls on, with a small mound of powdered sugar in center, all on galax leaves (without their stems) fitted into one another to form a mat. A strawberry fork is placed, though the use of it is optional. A finger-bowl could be placed with this course or not. If placed, it should be removed when the course is finished.
When the gentlemen remain at table, one maid serves coffee to the ladies in drawing-room, the second maid remains in dining-room, passes cigars and cigarettes, with lighted candle or matches on one tray, then coffee, then cordials, or brandy and soda. Cordials are prepared while guests are drinking coffee. The maid should collect coffee cups as soon as the guests have finished with them, but yet not show undue haste.
An hour after dinner the maid pours charged water into apollinaris glasses arranged on a tray, which she passes to guests in drawing-room.