This section is from the book "Mrs. Allen's Cook Book", by Mrs. Ida C. Bailey Allen. See also: The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat.
In case the mother cooks and serves the meal, as much food as possible should be placed on the table without overcrowding and without mixing the various courses. For instance, suppose that breakfast consists of fruit, uncooked cereal and cream, ham, potatoes, muffins and coffee. The fruit should be served individually, or else be put on the table as a centerpiece, and the bowls of cereal may be set just above each plate. Before the family is called to breakfast the butter should be served, and the coffee cups be put in the handiest position for use. If the table is not crowded, the breakfast plates may stand at the left of the father's place; the serving knife and fork for the ham, and a tablespoon for the potatoes should be placed at the right. If a polished table is used, asbestos mats, covered with linen slips, or woven grass mats, should be placed wherever hot dishes are to be put.
After the cereal and fruit have been eaten, the dishes may be cleared onto a large tray and carried into the kitchen. On the same tray the pot of coffee, the potatoes, ham and muffins may be brought back to the dining room. A tray rest, such as used in all hotel dining rooms, will be found a great convenience in case an empty serving table is not at hand. According to this plan a mother would need to make but one trip to the kitchen during breakfast.
Dinner is usually a hearty meal, but it can be served in the same general way. Suppose that the menu consists of soup, pot-roast, spaghetti, onions, celery, apple dumplings with lemon sauce and coffee. In this case the water should be poured, the butter served, and the bread placed on the table, as well as the crackers for the soup. The soup plates may stand before the mother, if the soup is to be served at the table, or may be filled and brought in just before the meal is announced. The dinner plates should stand at the father's left, or may be placed individually ready for the soup plates. The serving utensils for the meat and vegetables should be placed at the father's right.
After the completion of the soup course, the soiled dishes should be removed, as described, and the main portion of the dinner brought in. After this is eaten, the soiled dishes should be removed, the glasses filled and the dessert served. The coffee service may be arranged on a tray, which may be set directly on the table. On first thought it may seem too much of a task to serve a meal in courses, but it must be borne in mind that the dishes have to go to the kitchen anyway, and it is much easier to clear them away a section at a time, scraping and stacking them when the tray is being unloaded, than to attempt to untangle the heap of dishes that are piled helter-skelter on a table that is not cleared during the entire meal.
In case it is desirable to serve with more formality, and there is no maid, no woman should assume the task alone. The place of the mother is at the table, not only because of the effect she has on the children, but because of the selfishness that she is likely to inculcate in case she insists on waiting on them. It is an easy matter to train the older children to wait on the table, provided a few simple directions are heeded.