The custom of giving is looked upon with so much favor by the fashionably inclined, that a word regarding small gifts and bonbonnieres will perhaps be appreciated in these pages.
We are never too old to admire pretty things and if there are those who desire to give favors at a luncheon, this may help suggest a few home-made ones which are always more highly appreciated than expensive, bought articles.
Little six and eight-sided, round or square bonbon boxes, covered with satin on which are painted or embroidered leaves, vines or bits of scenery, are very handsome as gifts and suggest a bit of love stitched up in the making. The boxes should be padded, satin lined, and the recipient's monogram on the outside of the cover.
At Easter time, bonbon boxes in the shape of easter eggs with artistic satin bows on top, are not without appropriateness. The favors at a George Washington luncheon are pretty, made of papier-mache in the form of hatchets pasted over with silver paper. On top, a bunch of red cherries (wax), held in place by a bow of red, white and blue ribbon, suggests to the eye uniqueness and is an effective souvenir as well.
Baskets of various styles are pretty as plum-holders and useful as well as decorative. Some of these baskets are afterwards used to hold needles, thread and thimble; others jewelry and still others become permanent fruit baskets in the boudoir. These baskets can have one handle, or two, or three, the latter covered with gilt is prettiest of all. On the side can be placed rich bows of ribbon, colored butterflies, silvered beetles, four-leaf clovers, or anything fancy suggests and means permit.
Silk muffs, fans, bracelets, cut-glass, jewelry, etc., are often given by a member of the graduating class to the others whom one wishes to honor with a luncheon. Imitation guitars, banjos, drums, skiffs, rowboats, etc., all have their little day as fashionable favors. Brides frequently in giving a dinner for the bridesmaids, provide favors ranging all the way from two dollars in value to two hundred. So we might go on, but suffice it to say we have suggested a sufficient number to enable one to work out a favor scheme satisfactory to themselves.
This function naturally partakes more of a social character than the formal, ceremonious, dinner. But the same exactness and precision should be observed, and the same rules for making the occasion one of taste and enjoyment as its more pretentious neighbor. If more than one course, lay extra forks by each plate. The soup tureen, with the soup dishes, may be brought to the table, and set before the mistress of the house, who can serve it to the family. If a servant is at hand, she should pass the soup to each one. She must hand it from the left side. After the soup, hot plates are brought in for the next course.
At the home table the gentleman of the house does the carving. The meat is passed as was the soup, and the vegetables, save those served in vinegar, which are placed in side-dishes. The small vegetable dishes are not used save in the instances mentioned, as too many suggests boarding-house style.
The home dinner should be made as attractive and agreeable as possible, for it is the season when the family all meet, with a sense of privacy and loosening of restraint. The refined character of the occasion is stamped as plainly as on the larger display, and all the details should be carried out - the silver should be as polished, the linen as white and spotless, and the food as well prepared as though it were designed for strangers.
The manners of the home circle should be carefully guarded. It is so easy to find fault, to omit a polite attention, or to grumble, when strangers are not present. On all and every occasion the same order and neatness should prevail, and though the number of dishes may be fewer, and their concoction plainer, still the appointments of the table can be so perfect, the welcome accorded so warm, that those minor matters will be entirely ignored or overlooked.
Good manners in the home should be strenuously insisted on. The child who sees his father come to the table in his shirt sleeves, or his mother in a soiled wrapper, will scarcely be ready to observe nice details of dress when applied to his own case.
A modern luncheon is a very convenient meal, permitting of an irregular number, and a great variety of displays. It can be made expensive or not, as occasion demands. Many luncheons, like many dinners, are apt to be over sumptuous. The ideal luncheon is quite a simple affair.
Roasts and joints are never served but entrees and cold dishes instead. Table-cloths are still frequently used, but the newer idea is the use of highly-polished tables. These, when decorated with doilies and flowers, give a peculiarly antique effect, far surpassing in charm even the richest damask. At the embroidery shops many centerpieces and doilies for these occasions are being shown. A pretty set, recently made by a friend, intended for "the salad" course, consists of a round mat for the bowl, with smaller ones for the plates. The patterns are mostly wreaths of brier roses and vines.
A pleasant innovation in summer, and one especially adapted to spacious homes, is to serve the luncheon on the piazzas or in shaded spots around the yard. This agreeable change brings about a sociability that delights the reserved and pleases even the most fastidious.
The menu can be simple or elaborate. Guests seat themselves where they please unless cards designate where each is to sit. The hostess in all cases occupies the head of the table. The following are two of the many menus that can be easily and neatly served.
First course, Halved grape fruit.
Second course, Bouillon.
Third course, Chops with peas
Fourth course, Salad.
Fifth course, Ice. Bonbons.
First course, Cantaloupe.
Second course, Clams on half-shell.
Third course, Oyster patties.
Fourth course, Creamed chicken.
Fifth course, Ice Cream. Fruit.
I dropped into a friend's a few days ago just at lunch time, and found her alone - no maid and no husband. She apologized for the lack of luncheon but said she would be glad to have me take a cup of coffee with her. Then she brought out a plate of crispy, salt soda wafers and a little roll of delicate Neufchatel cheese, which she spread upon the crackers with just a dash of paprika. Could anything be nicer? The lunch was delicious, appetizing and nutritious.