This section is from the book "Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery", by Mary E. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery; A Textbook Of Domestic Science For Use In Schools.
Food tastes better for being nicely served. A tired or delicate person may be unable to eat food placed on smeary dishes set irregularly on a crumpled, spotted cloth, when she would eat heartily of the same food neatly arranged. Every meal can be made appetizing even though it consists of a single dish eaten from a kitchen table. A well-cooked dish may be spoiled by bad serving, as when chops are put in cold plates, salads on warm ones; when an omelet is allowed to stand until it falls, or a sauce is not passed till the food it belongs with is cold or has been partly eaten.
The suggestions given below assume conditions desirable, but not all of them necessary, for good serving. If your home lacks some of these, do your best with what you have, remembering that the most important thing, next to having wholesome food, is to have the meal a pleasant, cheerful occasion for all the family.
Have meals served regularly. Do not habitually let members of the family take a bit of food or a cup of tea whenever they happen to come in. This is not only bad for health, but destructive of home life. If the family cannot all meet at breakfast and at the noon meal, be the more particular to have the third meal nicely set out and to have all sit down to it together.
Take sufficient time for meals. Business men, working-people, school-children, and college students break down in health from eating hastily.
The dining-room should be so furnished that it can easily be kept clean. The floor should be polished or stained and a rug, not a tacked-down carpet, should be used. Wooden, cane-seated, or leather-cushioned chairs are suitable. Round tables are pretty. If a square-cornered one is used, it should not be less than four feet broad. Quaint or beautiful china and glassware adorn a dining-room, but dishes for use must be kept out of the dust.
If the dining-room is used as a living-room also, see that it is put in order before each meal and that the table is cleared and properly covered afterward. If used only as a dining-room, the table may, to save trouble, remain partially set.
Fresh air whets the appetite. Always open the windows for a few minutes before each meal. In southern California people often eat on a porch. This may be done anywhere in mild weather, if there is a porch convenient to the kitchen. It should be screened to keep out flies.