This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
Scarcely ever two party affairs are exactly alike and set patterns seldom fit the case, but the individual comes in and exercises his own skill and knowledge within certain bounds of propriety and good taste. Some rules have been laid down in a former page, by which a man may take a pencil and paper and approximate very closely the amount of provisions which will be necessary to prepare for any given number of people, and how much it will cost him can be determined by finding the prices prevailing in his markets. Then questions are raised of what is right and proper, as, for example, "should a soup be served at a wedding breakfast?" (which is really an elaborate luncheon and not the breakfast ordinarily understood) or "what dishes should be served at such and such a high-class entertainment?" and so forth, and as a guide in such matters likewise the following rules 3re offered:
1. To determine whether this thing or that is proper, examine the many menus of all sorts of fashionable entertainments; which are to be found abundant in these pages and are printed for the very purpose of reference.
2. To know what to give and what to charge for a high-priced spread, look over the large bills of fare with prices attached of the high-class restaurants, likewise to be found in these pages, select from among their dishes and take the prices for a guide what to charge, remembering possibly, if the occassion requires concessions, that those restaurant dishes are generally enough for two persons, if not more. It is claimed for the Hotel Richelieu of Chicago that each dish served for an individual order is sufficient for three or four. In some establishments they never divide any ordinary sized fish - nothing except salmon or halibut to cut into steaks - the rule is to buy fish of a suitable size, two or three pounds each, and serve nothing but a whole one to each customer. At high-priced suppers generally the same rule obtains, each one of the guests has a one-pound or two-pound trout or pompano or bass get before him to take what he pleases from, and when that is removed a whole broiled teal or large portion of any other larger fowl, and so on through.
Cheaper dinners and suppers in courses have divided portions in large dishes passed along the table.
3. When deciding what viands to order select the least common for the locality. Grouse in Kansas has been so common that the farmers' hands refused to be fed upon it, demanding other meat; people in the Rocky Mountain towns reject antelope and think little of black-tail deer because they have a surfeit of them, and still these all are prime delicacies in New York. Something far-fetched, unusual, novel should be introduced when possible, but with judgment not to exclude standard favorites which will be expected as well.
4. To know what special sorts of food to provide for entertainments given by various nationalities or people from distant sections, look over the menus of similar feasts given in other places by competent parties, generally by caterers of the same nationality, which likewise may be found in these pages, and refer besides to remarks on such national cookery also discussed in other pages under the proper letter.
5. To excel as a caterer, keep well posted on what is going on by reading fashion correspondents' letters in the papers, and the hotel and catering journals. Most of the " new wrinkles " may be trivial in the extreme, yet one never knows which of them will "catch on" and turn out to be a fashionable craze. Society entertainments were supported during one season at least almost entirely on "cheese straws," and another season or two on "salted almonds." The whole catering world is a company of inventors constantly seeking for some new thing, and he who cannot invent for himself may learn from those who can, if he cares to watch.
6. Look over the 'dictionary of dishes and learn in how many various ways the same edibles may be served, and find suggestions and new wrinkles applicable to every conceivable occasion.