This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
Referring to the foregoing as a sample, I will offer a little information now to the committees who come proposing "a nice pleasant social hop, you know, and a little plain refreshments - we don't want much, but want it decently served, rather elegant, you know, but nothing costly - we have been thinking we ought to have a couple of salads, two or three kinds of cold meats or sandwiches or both, and a little cake and ice cream to finish off with - that won't be much trouble, will it? Now, what will it cost us? How low can it be done?"
"Well, sirs, I am sorry to say a little plain pleasure should cost so much, but that little supper will cost you two dollars a head, four dollars a couple".
"Oh, nonsense," says committee impatiently, " the tickets to the ball including supper and everything are only five dollars a couple, and you would leave only one dollar for all the remaining expenses?"
" Well, as you have not specified what the particular meats and salads and creams are to be, we will retrench a little and put it down at a dollar and a half a head, but there is no inducement in it at that price." ' " That is altogether too high yet," says committee, "what, for a little cold meat, salad, ice cream and cake a dollar and a half apiece I We can go to your best hotel and have the best dinner they can get up any day for a dollar, and here you want for a plain - "
" Wait, gentlemen, let me tell you how that is, you can have the supper for a dollar a head if you have it as plain and scanty as your words would describe it. It was your putting in the little words elegant and decently served that raised it to two dollars, for those expressions imply decoration, skilled labor, extra-paid over-time, trained waiters and plenty of them, good table ware and plenty of it, and choice viands instead of cheap ones. There is no meaning in 'a little ice cream and cake,' for there must be enough in quantity or none, but plain cake and plain ice cream you can have cheap enough; if you run to varieties of molded ices, jellies and macaroons it takes up much time of skilled hands with several assistants, and thus the expense grows the same as with the meats".