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 meal is to be served by a waitress, it is customary to have on the table the following articles, when the meal is announced: At each plate the silver should be laid for the various courses up to the dessert, the forks on the left, the knives, spoons and oyster forks, if used, on the right in the order of use from the outside toward the plate. If used, the bread and butter plates with the spreaders, laid horizontally across, should be at the tips of the forks, and each should contain a roll, or one or two thin slices of bread and a pat of butter. Bread and butter plates are not used at a formal dinner or very formal breakfast or luncheon. The water glasses (or goblets for a dinner) should stand at the tips of the knives, the nut dishes and individual salts and peppers, if used, above the plates, the napkins (folded over once) at the left with the place cards upon them, and the service plates should be set between the forks and knives, like them an inch from the edge of the table. The glasses should be filled three-fourths full, and the first course should be in position on the service plate when the meal is announced. If a set of salts and peppers is provided for each two guests, they should be placed within easy reach of both. The relishes, such as celery and olives, are usually passed by the maid with the appropriate courses. It is no longer permissible to place them upon the table around the centerpiece.
The meal is served largely from the pantry, only the meat, the dessert, if desired, and the coffee, if the hostess wishes, being served at the table. In serving, the waitress passes all foods to the left, places all foods to the right, and, when removing a course which is to be immediately replaced by the following, she takes up the empty plate with the left hand and sets down the next course with the right hand. When the main course is served, the simplest method, after the carving utensils have been brought in and the meat placed, is to put before each guest a warmed plate replacing the service-plate. One extra plate should be at hand, and, as soon as the host has apportioned the service on the plate before him, the waitress should remove it, replacing it with the empty plate, place the filled plate before the first guest to be served, bringing back the empty plate to the host. The procedure is as before till all are served.
The first person to be served when the second course is placed is the lady at the right of the host. On serving the succeeding course the next lady should have the preference, and so on. In this way no lady is served last all the time. If desired, the ladies may all be served first, and then the men, but this method causes confusion, and is not often used.
Vegetables, gravy and other accessories should be passed on a small, doily-covered tray, or the dishes may be held in the hand if a napkin, or serving mitt, is provided. Between courses the waitress should replenish the water glasses, butter balls and anything else necessary. If extra silver is needed, it should be laid at the right of each guest but never passed on a dish containing a portion of food. Before serving dessert the table should be entirely cleared of everything except water glasses, decorations and favors, should be crumbed by means of a fringed napkin and plate, the water glasses filled, and the dessert served either from the pantry or by the hostess, according to the method described; however, if desired, a pile of plates may be set at the hostess's left, the waitress placing an empty plate in front of the hostess, replacing it when filled with another plate from the pile, and serving the guests in rotation.
The coffee may follow the dessert, or be poured by the hostess in the drawing-room. Finger-bowls should be served last on doily-covered plates which are not used for any other purpose. They are placed either at the right of, or directly in front of, the guests.