This section of the book is from the "Household Companion: The Home Book Of Etiquette" book.
The dinner may begin with oysters on the half shell, five or six for each person. If not the season for oysters, small clams are frequently served in the same way. These should be very cold, and the clams are better if surrounded by cracked ice. A piece of lemon should be in the centre of each plate, and pepper and salt be passed with this course.
Soup follows. Either one or two may be served--a white and a clear, or a white and a brown soup; but never serve two kinds one after the other.
Follow the soup with fish. At the best tables you will find a silver fish-knife as well as fork; if not, eat with a fork in the right hand and a small piece of bread in the left.
When there are two kinds of fish, the larger one--say the turbot—is placed before the host; the lady taking that which is less calculated to fatigue in the helping. When fish sauce is handed, put it on the side of your plate. There are certain sauces appropriate to each kind of fish—as lobster sauce with turbot, shrimp or caper with salmon, oyster with cod, and so on.
The entrees follow, being ordinarily served in covered silver side-dishes. They consist of sweetbreads, pates, cutlets, and made-dishes generally. It is not customary to do more than taste one or two of these. Too much attention to them is apt to unfit one for enjoying the rest of the dinner. In eating of these dishes the fork alone, where possible, should be used.
The meats and vegetables follow. Some vegetables, such as asparagus, sweet corn, or maccaroni, can be offered by themselves; but hostesses should beware of making the meal tiresome by a needless number of courses.
It is not allowable, however, to serve more than two vegetables with one course, nor to offer anything except potatoes or potato salad with the fish.
The roast meats are placed about the table in this way: The largest and most important, say haunch of venison, before the host; one before the lady of the house, and such dishes as tongue or ham before particular guests, who occupy seats at points where carving-knives and forks are placed in readiness.
Carving is an important accomplishment, and one that every gentleman should seek to acquire. A man should be able to carve a joint or a bird easily and dexterously, but facility can only be acquired by practice, which it is important to have. It is customary, however, to have the joint carved off the table, put back as before carving, and served.
It is hardly necessary to say that knife and fork are used in the eating of meat, poultry, or game; and it seems equally unnecessary to say that the purpose of the knife is simply to cut the food. Under no circumstances must it be used to convey it to the mouth. Vegetables are eaten with a fork. A spoon is rarely necessary, and a knife comes into use only in such cases as cutting off the heads of asparagus and the like.
If considered desirable, a course of vegetables may follow that of meat, asparagus, cauliflower, artichokes, baked tomatoes, or some similar dish being served.
Game follows. Salad may be served either with the game or as a separate course. In the latter case serve with it cheese and bread and butter. The bread can be cut very thin and carefully buttered, or the butter and bread can be served separately. If preferred, the cheese can be served as a separate course.
Follow the cheese and salad with the sweet dishes and ices, then serve the fruit, and lastly the bonbons. Coffee may be served in the drawing-room, when the courses have not occupied too much time, or at the table, according to the preference of the hostess.
Black coffee, which should be made very strong and clear, must be served in very small cups, with tiny coffee spoons.