"To feed were best at home; From thence, the sauce to meat is ceremony, Meeting were bare without it." - Shakspere.
A dinner party may be considered as holding the highest rank among entertainments. In no other social function is etiquette so strictly observed. There are prescribed rules for the form of the invitation, the manner of assigning each guest his place at the table, the manner of serving the dinner, etc.; and when these rules are followed there need be no embarrassments.
It should always be remembered that the social part of the entertainment is on a higher plane than the gastronomic one, though the latter must by no means be slighted. A sentiment expressed by the wit who said, "A fig for your bill of fare, give me a bill of your company," is generally felt, and a hostess should bring together only such people as she believes will be mutually agreeable.
The idea, given by Goldsmith in his "Retaliation," of looking upon one's friends as so many pleasant dishes, is offered as a suggestion. He says :
If our landlord supplies us with beef and with fish, Let each guest bring himself, and he brings the best dish: Our Dean shall be venison, just fresh from the plains; Our Burke shall be tongue, with a garnish of brains; Our Will shall be wild fowl of excellent flavour, And Dick with his pepper shall heighten the savour; Our Cumberland's sweetbread its place shall obtain, And Douglas is pudding, substantial and plain; Our Garrick 's a salad, for in him we see Oil, vinegar, sugar, and saltness agree: . . . At a dinner so various - at such a repast, Who 'd not be a glutton, and stick to the last !