The following arrangement of Bills of Fare for every day in the year has been made with especial reference to convenience, economy, and adaptation to the wants of ladies who are so fortunate as to be obliged to look after their own kitchens - not for those who employ professional cooks. The recipes referred to are all contained in this book, and may be quickly found by reference to the alphabetical index. The bills of fare are not, of course, arbitrary, but are intended to suggest such a variety as will meet the wants of the whole family. The arrangement was made for a year beginning with Thursday. When the current year begins earlier, the last day or days of December may be used to precede those here given for January, and the dates changed on the margin with a soft pen-oil, so that they may be readily erased and changed again for subsequent years. A daily reference to these pages will, we feel sure, save the housewife much puzzling over the question, "What shall we have for dinner ?"
For the sake of brevity, coffee, tea, chocolate, lemonade in hot weather, and milk in cold weather, have not been mentioned in the bills of fare. They are of course appropriate to any meal, and are to be used according to taste. Soup as a regular dinner course, is always in order, following oysters raw when the latter are in season. Soups vary in name far more than in quality. Much of the slop served as soup a la this, that and the other, would not, except for the name, be recognized as something to be taken into the human stomach. This, however, may be a matter of small importance when a bountiful dinner of good things is to follow, but in cases where healthy stomachs are demanding supplies, a really good soup, with or without name, is heartily relished, and is very wholesome as preparing the way for more solid food. In any family where soup is relished a sufficient supply may be made daily, or as often as desired, with but little trouble and trifling addition to the regular expenses.
Fresh fish, as a separate course, comes next in order. Large fish of some sort are usually considered most elegant, either baked or boiled, for dinner, and they are really very nice when they can be procured freshly killed and dripping with their native waters.
Bread is always an accompaniment of every course at dinner, bread and butter being more properly a part of dessert, Cheese is to most persons a pleasant tit-bit at dessert, and pickles, of one or another variety, appropriate to the dishes served, are seen on the table at nearly every meal.
On Sunday, in most families, the dinner is delayed until two 6r three o'clock and the supper omitted entirely, and in winter when the days are short, especially in the more northern states, two meals a day is the rule for every day. In large cities, too, where business hours are fewer, and the men of the household lunch down town on account of the distance residences are from business, the dinner is delayed until later in the day, and the bill of fare varied accordingly.
Fruits, in their natural state, are too much neglected at the tables of people in moderate circumstances. Pies, puddings and other compounds, made partly of fruit, are generally less wholesome and really less palata-table than the fruit itself in a natural state or with some simple dressing. In most localities berries in their season are not costly. Strawberries, fresh, ripe and luscious, for breakfast, dinner and supper, can not be substituted by any thing more agreeable and refreshing, and as the season for this fruit is always short it is scarcely possible to weary of them. Scarcely less delicious are the raspberries, blackberries and huckleberries which follow soon. Then come ripe watermelons, cantelopes, nutmeg and musk melons and grapes, peaches and pears. Those who raise their own melons will need no instruction on the subject of serving and eating them. After the fruit is well grown, a good shot-gun and a keen eye on the '"patch" is all that is necessary to secure a ripe crop. But to the dainty housekeeper who must buy her melon after a week or two of shipping, reshipping, transporting .and handling, until it has cost nearly its weight in gold, the best instructions are: Get your melon as fresh as possible; let it remain on ice several hours or all night; if it cuts crisp, and has ripe seeds and tastes well flavored, cut the ends off and set up on a dish; divide both halves through the middle and serve in long slices or cut in rings; pass a waiter to receive the rinds. But if the meat of the melon appears wilted or withered, or is not perfectly ripe, pass it to the four-footed beasts, where it should have gone in the first place. Those who can afford the more costly tropical fruit, such as bananas and pine apples, should slice them as thin as possible, place in the prettiest and shallowest glass fruit-stands, and cover well with sugar for some time before serving.
Suggestions for the tasteful decoration of the table will be found under "The Dining Room."