To a person accustomed to a good table, the manner in which the table is set, and the mode in which food is prepared and set on, has a great influence, not only on the eye, but the appetite. A housekeeper ought, therefore, to attend carefully to these particulars.
The table-cloth should always be white, and well washed and ironed. When taken from the table, it should be folded in the ironed creases, and some heavy article laid on it. A heavy bit of plank, smoothed and kept for the purpose, is useful. By this method, the table-cloth looks tidy much longer than when it is less carefully laid aside.
When table-napkins are used, care should be taken to keep the same one to each person; and in laying them aside, they should be folded so as to hide the soiled places, and laid under pressure. It is best to use napkin-rings.
The table-cloth should always be put on square, and right side upward. The articles of table furniture should be placed with order and symmetry.
The bread for breakfast and tea should be cut in even, regular slices, not over a fourth of an inch thick, and all crumbs removed from the bread-plate. They should be piled in a regular form, and if the slices are large they should be divided.
The butter should be cooled in cold water, if not already hard, and then cut into a smooth and regular form, and a butter-knife be laid by the plate, to be used for no other purpose but to help the butter.
A small plate should be placed at each plate for butter, and a small salt-cup set by each breakfast or dinner-plate. This saves butter and salt.
In preparing dishes for the dinner-table, all water should be carefully drained from the vegetables, and the edges of the platters and dishes should be made perfectly clean and neat.
All soiled spots should be removed from the outside of pitchers, gravy-boats, and every article used on the table; the handles of the knives and forks must be clean, and the knives bright and sharp.
In winter, the plates and all the dishes used, both for meat and vegetables, should be set to the fire to warm, when the table is being set, as cold plates and dishes cool the vegetables, gravy, and meats, which by many is deemed a great injury.
Cucumbers, when prepared for table, should be laid in cold water for an hour or two to cool, and then be peeled and cut into fresh cold water. Then they should be drained, and brought to the table, and seasoned the last thing.
The water should be drained thoroughly from all greens and salads.
There are certain articles which are usually set on together, because it is the fashion, or because they are suited to each other.
Thus, with strong-flavored meats, like mutton, goose, and duck, it is customary to serve the strong-flavored vegetables, such as onions and turnips. Thus, turnips are put in mutton broth, and served with mutton, and onions are used to stuff geese and ducks. But onions are usually banished from the table and from cooking on account of the disagreeable flavor they impart to the atmosphere and breath.
Boiled Mice is served with poultry as a vegetable.
Jelly is served with mutton, venison, and roasted meats, and is used in the gravies for hashes.
Pickles are served especially with fish, and Soy is a fashionable sauce for fish, which is mixed on the plate with drawn butter.
There are modes of garnishing dishes, and preparing them for table, which give an air of taste and refinement that pleases the eye. Thus, in preparing a dish of fricasseed fowls, or stewed fowls, or cold fowls warmed over, small cups of boiled rice can be laid inverted around the edge of the platter, to eat with the meat.
Greens and Asparagus should be well drained, and laid on buttered toast, and then slices of boiled eggs be laid on the top and around.
Hashes and preparations of pigs' and calves' head and feet should be laid on toast, and garnished with round slices of lemon.
Curled Parsley, or Common Parsley, is a pretty garnish, to be fastened to the shank of a ham, to conceal the bone, and laid around the dish holding it. It looks well laid around any dish of cold slices of tongue, ham, or meat of any kind.
In setting a tea-table, small-sized plates are set around, with a knife, napkin, and butter-plate laid by each in a regular manner, while the articles of food are to be set, also, in regular order. On the waiter are placed tea-cups and saucers, sugar-bowl, slop-bowl, cream-cup, and two or three articles for tea, coffee, and hot water, as the case may be. On the dinner-table, by each plate, is a knife, fork, napkin, and tumbler; and a small butter-plate and salt-cup should also be placed by each plate.