Cards on plates, bearing the names of the company, so as to seat them with reference to congeniality, are very important. For host or hostess to marshal them after they are in the dining room is not nearly so easy as for them to marshal themselves by the cards, and the host and hostess are sure, in the confusion of the moment, to get people placed exactly as they did not intend to have them.
Cut pieces of bread about four inches long, two wide, and two thick, and always place a piece beside each plate in setting the table.
Finger bowls are to be passed after pastry on plates with doileys between the plates and the bowls. The plates are to be used for fruits and nuts, if there are any. If none are handed, the finger bowl will not be taken from the plate. The finger bowl should be filled about one-third, contain a slice of lemon, and in very warm weather, a bit of ice.
It is well to have a dish, at one side, independent of any that may be on the table, with grapes cut into small bunches, and oranges and large fruits halved. If fruit decorating the table is to be used, let it be removed and prepared before it is passed.
Avoid cane seats in a dining-room. Where fine fabrics and laces are kept on them so long a time continously (longer than anywhere else) they play havoc.
One plate should be at each seat. The raw oysters or clams, on a separate plate, are placed on the first plate. So with the soup. The first plate is exchanged for the plate with the fish. Always have a stock of plates in reserve sufficient for all the courses and properly warmed. The most decorated plates are best enjoyed about the time of salad or cheese and at dessert.
It saves the waiter's time to start with at least two forks, and two knives by each plate. It is not bad to have three. One knife should be of silver, for the fish. Silver knives are, of course, essential for fruit.
Napkins are never supposed to appear a second time without washing. Hence napkin rings are domestic secrets, and not for company.
Never let two kinds of animal food or two kinds of pastry be eaten from the same plate; make a fresh course of each.
, Always change knives and forks, or spoons with plates. As before stated, it is well to start with two or three relays of implements by the plates.
Don't have over two vegetables with a course. Let them be offered together on the same waiter. At a large dinner, you can have two varieties in the same course, i. e,, two soups, two fish, two meats, etc., letting the waiter offer the guest a plate of each at the same time, the guest choosing between them.
Everybody is always out of bread; prevent it if you can.
One good waiter is worth much more than two poor ones.
Two hours is long enough to serve any dinner that Christians ought to eat, three hours and a half is too long.
The host goes in first with the lady whom he seats at his right. The hostess goes in last with the gentleman whom she places at her right.
The worst torture that survives the inquisition is a bad formal dinner. A worse torture than any known to the inquisition is any formal dinner (the better the dinner,the worse the torture) inefficiently served.
Fish at dinner must never be fried or broiled. An exception may be made in favor of a delicacy, such as smelts or trout.
Fresh pork and veal are seldom seen at the tables of those who know how to dine or to digest. But a ham, baked with sugar, is an very honor-able companion after fish, all the way down to game. It is only an accessary, though, never the basis of a decent dinner. It shou.d be handed around sliced, after the regular course is served.
In place of salad some specially nice vegetable, such as asparagus, green corn, or a well-cooked cauliflower may tastefully be served as a separate course. In fact there is much to be said in favor of alway.; serving separately a vegetable which does not, like potatoes, stewed tomatoes, beans, peas, etc., seem the natural accessory of some meat.
Chesterfield's idea that a dinner party should not include fewer than the graces or more than the muses,has the approval of later generations. Especially commendable is the rule where waiters are scant. A superlatively good waiter in a well-ordered house can manipulate eight people- if he has an assistant in the pantry to prepare everything for him. If you ask one person more, you'll spoil the fun of nine, unless you get another waiter.
Last and not least, dining rooms are always too hot.