Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Table Service

In this article from Good Housekeeping ©1897 you'll find some still standards with regard to service but you'll also find a "new" style of setting the chairs, as well as some other tidbits. Enjoy!

"To feed, were best at home;
From thence, the sauce to meat is ceremony:
Meeting were bare without it."

A WELL-TRAINED waiter is a necessary factor in the success of any formal dinner, however small, since it is due to him that the serving is done with promptness and precision, and with no attendant clattering of plates or jingling of spoons; but it is a wise mistress who makes assurance doubly sure by a little definite preliminary instruction to the waiter, thus insuring deft service and the avoidance of all confusion or of any embarrassing waits between the courses.
The temperature of the dining room should be about sixty-seven degrees when dinner is announced. Later on, if the room becomes too warm (as is likely to be the case with a number of persons present and the burning of many lights), the waiter should lower a window or two, and see that the room is kept at the proper degree for the comfort of the guests.
A new wrinkle in dining room arrangement is to place the chairs at an angle with the table—all turned the same way—thus allowing each person to stand between his chair and the table in such a way that the left hand may draw the chair into place. This mode is particularly favored by the feminine element
of a dinner party, since long skirts are more easily and safely managed when the chairs are so placed.
Cold or waiting plates—one for each person—are laid at first upon every well-spread table. Upon these are placed smaller ones containing raw oysters or other appetizers. These are brought in first before dinner is announced. If oysters are served the plates are first covered with crumbled ice and then on each plate are arranged five raw oysters and a quarter of a large lemon, or the half of a small one. The oyster fork is laid with its points resting upon the waiting plate and its handle lying across the knives at the right. This fork is removed with the oyster plates.
When soup is to follow the oysters, the soup plates should be placed where they will become warm before the time to send them to table. When the oysters have been eaten, remove the plates, leaving the under ones to receive those containing soup, and, by the way, a soup plate should never be more than half filled. The pile of soup plates is then set before the hostess, the tureen of soup, with its cover removed to a side table, placed in front of them, and the hostess then ladles the soup into each plate, while the waiter, having first folded a little napkin over his thumb, places the plate upon a tray, carries it at once to the right of the person designated and sets it down upon the plate already at the place.
The rules governing the passing of foods by a waiter, are quite simple. When there is no choice to be made by the person served, the waiter carries everything to his right side, and when the waiter is to remove anything from before a person at table, he should lift it while standing at that person's right side. But when a person is to help himself from a dish, the waiter should carry the dish to his left side and should hold it very near to, or upon the table, while the person serves himself with a fork or spoon, or both, which should be placed upon the side of the food next to him.
While the soup is being taken the waiter arranges the roast upon its platter (which should be of ample size and there should be a gravy spoon placed upon it), brings in the vegetables and gravy boat and places them upon a side table. Then he removes the soup plates, going to the right of each person, taking up the waiting plate with the soup plate upon it, and carrying both away together.
Hot plates for the meat are now brought in. For the hosts convenience, these plates should be placed at his left side, unless he occupies a carver's chair, in which case thev may be set directly in front of him. The host ascertains the preference of his guests for rare or well done cuts, and as soon as the first plate is helped the waiter, thumb napkin in place, lifts the plate and carries it to the person mentioned by the host.
Then, while more meat is being carved by the host, the waiter places upon his tray one vegetable dish and the gravy boat, and carries them to the left of the person who has been served to meat. After the person has helped himself from these dishes the waiter sets the tray upon the side table and carries another cut of meat where the host directs, following it, as before, with the vegetable and gravy. When all present have been thus helped, another vegetable is passed round, also upon a tray, and this is followed by a third, if there are so many, also served in the same manner.
Olives and like relishes are now passed, usually from one person to another at a table arranged for the service of one waiter. Often celery and grated cheese aie also offered to the guests, though celery is not usually passed until after the dessert. The cheese, with a spoon upon it, is first passed, each person helping himself to a spoonful of the cheese which he places in the tiny plate at the left of his place. Next comes the celery to be eaten with the cheese, into which the ends of its staiks are dipped. When celery, for decorative effect, is kept upon the table during the entire dinner hour a pretty effect is obtained by heaping it up on a canoe-shaped glass dish, having the bottom of the dish first covered with crumbled ice with sparkling lumps of the ice scattered through and weighting under the crisp white stalks.
When the meat course is finished the waiter places the carving knife, fork and gravy spoon securely upon the platter and carries it away. Then the plates (with the knives and forks laid securely across them), are deftly removed, one in each hand, and the salad next brought in. The mistress usually serves the salad and French dressing for the same should be prepared at the table.
After the salad course, the tray cloths are removed, all eatables (except fruit and nuts), are taken away and the table brushed free of crumbs. Finger bowls placed on little doilies upon dessert plates are now brought to the table. If these plates are to be used for the dessert, the bowls and doilies must be drawn away to the left; but if a pudding is served, the finger bowl and plate must be set at the left side of the guest by the waiter and the pudding set down from the right side.
Finger bowls should not be quite half filled and the water should not be perfumed; though, if desired, a slice of lemon or a sweet geranium leaf may be afloat on the top
Coffee is served last, in small cups brought in on a tray and passed about to the guests. The sugar and cream are placed near the hostess and passed to whoever needs them.
Sometimes liquors are offered in place of coffee. The tiny glasses are carried round the table upon a pretty tray, and there is just a sip in each of them, merely enough to leave an agreeable flavor in the mouth.
More than three wines are seldom served at a dinner, and the preference is often given to but one. When more than one is used, as a rule, sherry is served with the fish, claret with the meat, and champagne with the dessert. Wineglasses should never
be more than two thirds full. In serving it, the waiter stands at the right hand of each person and mentions the name of the wine in a low voice. The person addressed responds by a nod of acceptance, or by motioning the bottle quietly aside with the right hand if he wishes to refuse it; but the most approved course is to allow a little of the wine to be poured into the glasses even if one does not drink it—and surely no one needs to be reminded that it is in the worst possible taste to discuss the propriety of drinking wine at a table where wine is served. When only one wine is provided the preference is usually given to claret, and the glasses are filled by the waiter as soon as they are emptied.
All wines should be brought to a proper temperature before drinking, and claret especially (being, but chilly stuff when first brought from a cool cellar), requires gentle warmth to develop the bouquet. Only the coarsest wines will stand being suddenly heated, and to place a delicate wine before a hot fire is destructive of its refinement. Perhaps the best plan for claret is to bring the bottle up some two or three days beforehand, and to keep it for that length of time at a temperature of between sixty and seventy degrees. And in decanting all sediment must be excluded, even at what may seem an extravagant proportion of the wine.

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