Sunday, December 7, 2008

Entertaining Tips Reflective of a Bygone Era

The 20th century, more than any other, has been one of staggering transformation.

Our population has mushroomed by almost 200 million since 1900.

Passenger travel zoomed from the horse to the supersonic. Computers accomplish in hours what took turn-of-the-century factory crew days. And the foods we've eaten and how we entertain have taken an equally remarkable journey.

This post is a journey through yesterday in entertaining. Although customs and conventions have changed in response to a changing world you may note that as Cole Porter said: “Everything Old is New Again.”

(Following Tips Are Circa 1922)

For the formal dinner or luncheon, damask in white or pastel shades, or an Italian or Spanish filet cloth is suitable. This cloth should cover the table.

For less formal occasions, whether breakfast, luncheon or dinner, runners or doilies and a matching centerpiece are charming.

The newest silver is in harmony with the other house decorations; period patterns for Georgian interiors, Early American patterns for the cottage. Good taste rules out elaborately shaped pieces, except when these are heirlooms of real worth.

For china also it is advisable to choose from an open stock pattern the number and kinds of pieces suited to your needs. You may prefer different patterns for various courses, or wish to supplement china with colored glassware. In any event, the colors should harmonize with the dining room decorations.

Suit the decorations to the type of entertainment and the character of the house. While choosing your decorations, always remember that simplicity is the keynote of good taste.

The general rules for table setting are the same for formal and informal occasions. The china and silver depend on the menu.

The maid usually wears a simple black frock with dainty collar, cuffs and a small apron of linen, lawn, or organdie. Many hostesses, however, prefer costumes, which harmonize with the color scheme of the dining room.

If the first course is cold, as hors d'oeuvres the maid should place it on the table before announcing the meal; canap├ęs may be served in the living room. Much of the food may be apportioned and placed in serving dishes before the meal is announced, and kept hot in a large steamer with shelves, or in pans of hot water set in the oven.

When the guests are assembled the maid steps to the door of the living room, and catching the attention of the hostess, say, “Madame, dinner is served.” The host, with the lady guest of honor, precedes the other guests to the dining room the hostess and the most important gentleman come last.

Some hostesses prefer the Russian style of service in which all foods are served from the pantry; the roast is carved there, and no foods are placed on the table until guests are seated, with the exception of nuts and candy.

A less formal style of service, however, is correct. Soup, for instance, may be served from the pantry, but if the hostess has a rare old tureen, she may prefer to serve it herself at the table, ladling it into flat soup plates and used at dinner.

At the end of the course, the maid removes the soup plates, places the roast in front of the host, the hot plates at his right, and takes her place at his left so she will be in position to pass the plates when he has served the meat. Traditionally, the hostess is served first, but a newer form is to accord this favor to the lady guest of honor. The service thereafter continues around the table. After the meat course the maid passes vegetables, taking care that the handles of the serving spoon and fork pint toward the guest. She has a folded napkin between her hand and the hot dish, and holds the dish at a height convenient for guests to help themselves.

Everything is passed and served from the left, except beverages and extra silver, which are placed at the right. Dishes are removed from either left or right.

When the main course is finished, the maid removes all serving dishes and utensils, then the plates, which must not be piled; and last, the unused china and silver. Beverage glasses are left in place and refilled, if necessary.

Before dessert is served, crumbs should be brushed from the table into a place by means of a clean soft napkin. The dessert silver is then placed, and the dessert and finger bowl service follow. Dessert may be served from the kitchen or at tableside by the hostess. Coffee may be poured at the table, but a pleasant custom is to serve it in the living room.


The following video, Animal Crackers, courtesy of You Tube.


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