This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
The last described being the plainest and easiest, the portions on the plates all prepared outside and no whole dishes having to be shown, is the sort of supper which hotel-keepers can best afford to give in a complimentary way to their guests, as they are so often obliged to do, and is for many reasons the least troublesome and least expensive. Here is another way of doing nearly the same thing, which perhaps may be claimed to be the best of all (but only for genteel people who can be depended on to behave well) as it gives a chance for display and leaves the most lasting impression upon the visitors. It is to bring a table or two or three, of the ordinary small size, ready set with some tall ornamental dishes or pyramids into the dining room when the dancing ceases and serve the supper to the people, all seated as in the other instance, from these tables instead of from the outside. In this service there is a little less of the "keep your-seat" sort of restraint than by the other way. The tables hold something to be looked at and it follows that the people walk around them to see what there is, and, later on the gentlemen have a chance to assist the service in a way which they generally are very glad to do by helping the ladies to some coveted dainty from the tables or replenishing a plate before the waiter's attention can be secured.
Nevertheless, it is a napkin supper like the last, and these serviettes are to be passed around (only to those who are found seated), and then plates with portions of three or four dishes sent to them from the tables as fast as they can be filled and distributed.
It is an object to make the table or tables hold all that is required for the supper.
They may be set while the dance is going on, in the kitchen or carving room or any handy olace and when the time comes carried in by a sufficient number of hands through the doors into the dining room without disarranging anything. In the center may be a tali piece of the pastry cook's best work; a number of dishes of salad all decorated should be placed at intervals along with all other such dishes as have been suggested already for the supper with small set tables, the grand advantage of this style being that one elaborately ornamented dish of a kind is sufficient for all the company to see, while the other way calls for one such for every separate table. After the meats have been served the dishes may be removed and the moulded ices or plain ice cream and wine jellies, charlotte russe, orange baskets, meringues, or whatever could not be crowded on the tables at the first setting may be brought in their places and served from the table as they were. It is quite essential m setting these show tables to allow room enough for piles of small plates, glass cake plates, glass jelly saucers, punch cups forks, spoons, and a few knives besides the crockery on a side table for the waiters' use, in order that the guests may have facilities for helping themselves and each other when the service-is slow.
All ornamental cakes for such a supper should have a small section already cut out and a knife placed ready, to show that they are for use and not for ornament only, and then the quantities needed for the supper may be calculated according to rules already given so closely that these decorated affairs will have to be cut up in order to make enough - however, when there are not so many people present as provision was made for these larger pieces, like decorated hams, iced cakes and galantines cased in jelly, are the dishes best worth reserving.
A TURBAN OF FILLETS OF FISH.