This article comes from Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book ©1871. What I like about this is that she's suggesting how those of a moderate income can entertain.
FOR DINNER AND EVENING PARTIES.
The following directions for a dinner-party are designed for a young and inexperienced housekeeper, in moderate circumstances, who receives visiters at her table from the most wealthy circles.
They are not intended for what would be called u stylish dinner-party, but what in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, in the most respectable society, would be called a plain, substantial dinner, and as complete and extensive as any young housekeeper, with the ordinary supply of domestics, ought to attempt anywhere. Anything much more elaborate than this, usually demands the services of a professed cook. The details will be given with great minuteness, that a novice may know exactly what to do in every particular.
It is generally the case, that, at dinner-parties for gentlemen, no ladies are present but those who are members of the family. The gentleman of the house invites his friends the day previous, and then gives notice to his wife who are to come, and consults with her as to the articles to be provided, which of course he aids in purchasing.
The housekeeper then makes a list of all the articles to be used, either for table furniture or cooking, and then examines her cupboard, store-closet, and cellar, to see if everything is at hand and in order. All the glass and silver to be used is put in readiness, and the castors, salts, and everything of the kind arranged properly. In order to be more definite, the exact dishes to be provided will be supposed to be these:
Soup. Fish. A boiled ham. A boiled turkey, with Oyster sauce. Three roasted ducks, and a dish of scolloped oysters. Potatoes, Parsnips, Turnips, and Celery, For dessert, Pudding, Pastry, Fruit, and Coffee.
This will make a dinner for about ten or twelve persons. The pastry should be baked the day before, and the soup boiled down.
In the morning of the day for the dinner-party, every article should be on hand from market, and the cook have extra help, so as to get breakfast and the dishes out of the way early.
Then, the first thing, let her stuff and truss the turkey and ducks, and set them away to use when the time comes. Be sure that they are trussed so that the legs and wings will be tight to the body, and not come sprawling on to the table.
Suppose the dinner hour be three o'clock, as this is the earliest hour at which such a dinner could be comfortably prepared.
At nine o'clock, let the ham be washed, and put to boil. Then let the vegetables be prepared, ready for cooking. Next prepare the pudding. The pastry ought to be baked the day before. If not, it should be done very early in the morning, and be out of the way.
The pudding should be one of those put in the list of rich puddings, which does not require long baking or boiling. The receipt will be the guide as to time for cooking it. Next, prepare the oysters. One large cannister (or three pints) will be needed for the dish of scolloped oysters, and a small cannister (or a pint) will be needed for the sauce for the turkey. This last is simply drawn butter, with the oysters put in it, and simmered a few minutes. Be sure and follow the receipt for drawn butter exactly, as cooks are very apt to spoil this kind of sauce.
Put the turkey to boil at one, if it is tender, as it ought to be, and sooner, if it is not. Put the ducks to roast at two. Ducks are best cooked rare, but the turkey must be boiled through entirely, so that all parts look the same color when carved.
The gravy for the ducks, and the drawn butter, must be prepared half an hour before taking up dinner. The fish must be put to boil in a fish kettle. The U;re depends on the size.
The soup should be boiled down the day before. Let it be, for example, the receipt named Macaroni Soup, In this case, any convenient time before dinner-time, put the macaroni to boil in a sauce-pan by itself, and when cooked enough, set it aside. Then, just before dinner is to be served, pour the cold soup into the kettle, add the seasoning and macaroni, and give it such a heat as just boils it for a minute or two, and then it is ready to serve.
The vegetables should be put to boil at such times as will have them cookea just right at the dinner hour, and this the housekeeper must calculate, according to their size and age.
Unless there is an experienced cook, who can be trusted with everything, the lady of the house must superintend herself in the kitchen, until it is time for her to dress ; and as the company will not arrive till the hour appointed, she Can, by arranging her dress, all but the finish, remain until it is nearly time to send up the dinner.
Setting the Table.
The table should be set early in the forenoon, by the waiter, under the direction of the lady of the house, and in the manner exhibited in Fig. 7.
The table rug must first be laid exactly square with the room, and the tables also set exactly parallel with the sides of the room. If the tables are handsome ones, put on two white table-cloths, one above the other. If the tables are not hanasome, cover them with a colored table-cloth, and put two white ones over.
Then set the castors in the exact centre of the table. Some prefer to have them on a side-table, and the waiter carry them around, put the table looks better to have them put in the centre. If they are put on the sidetable, the celery stand may be placed in the centre of the table.
Next place the plates and knives as 'n Fig *, with a napkin and tumbler at the right of each plate, as in the drawing. If it is cold weather, set the plates to warm and leave them till wanted. Set the salt stands at the four corners, with two large spoons crossed by each, as in the drawing.
Then place table-mats in the places where the dishes are to be set. The host is to be seated at one end, and the hostess at the other, and at their plates put two knives and two forks. Put a carving knife and fork, and carver stand, at each place where a dish is to be carved. Put the jelly and pickles at diagonal corners, as marked on the drawing. If wine is to be used, put two wine-glasses by each tumbler. Just before dinner is to be served, a bit of bread, cut thick, is to be laid with a fork on each napkin.
Then prepare the side-table thus:
As the party, including host and hostess, will be twelve, there must be one dozen mud plates, and one dozen silver spoons. Then there must be two dozen large knives, and three dozen large plates, besides those on the table. This is to allow one plate for fish, and two for two changes of meat for each guest. Some would provide more. Then, there must be three dozen dessert plates, and two dozen dessert knives and forks. One dozen saucers, and one dozen dessert spoons. One or two extra of each kind, and three or four extra napkins, should be added for emergencies. (At a side stand, or closet, should be placed, at dinner-time, a wash dish of hot water, and two or three wiping towels.)
On the side-table, also, is to De placed all articles to be used in helping the dessert; and unless there is a convenient closet for the purpose, the dessert itself must be set there, and covered with napkins.
All the dishes and plates to be used, except those for desserts and soups, must, in cold weather, be set to warm by the waiter. If coffee is to be served at the dinner-table, the furniture for this must be put on the eide-table, or in an adjacent room, or closet Taking up the Dinner.
Such a dinner as this cannot usually be prepared and served easily, without two to cook and serve in the kitchen, and two waiters in the dining-room. One waiter will answer, if he is experienced and expert in such matters.
When the hour for dinner arrives, let the cook first take up the soup and fish. The soup and soup plates are to be set by the hostess, and the spoons laid neai. Potatoes and drawn butter, or fish sauce, are to-be sent up with fish.
The fish is to be set before the host, and the fish knife and sauce placed by it, and then the waiter is to inform the lady of the house that dinner is ready. She rises, and informs her husband, or the guests, that din ner is ready, and then the gentleman for whom the party is made, or some other one of the invited guests, conducts the lady to the table, and takes his seat at the first plate at her right hand. She then helps the soup, beginning at the right, and passing it around in order, without inquiring whether each one wishes it. If any one prefers fish, he passes the soup to the next. Meantime the host either helps the fish to all who wish it, or leaves it covered till the soup is removed, and the plates changed. The plates for fish are set on, around the table, and the soup plates are set on to them, while soup is served.
While soup and fish are served above, the cook below proceeds thus :—The ham can be taken up some time before dinner, prepared for the table, and set aside, covered, as it is not injured by standing. Of course this is done at any convenient time. The turkey and ducks may first be taken up, prepared for table, and then covered, and set where they will be kept warm. Then the gravies and drawn butter are to be put in the gravy boats. The vegetables must be taken up the last thing, and the potatoes last of all, as the excellence of all depends on their being served hot, especially potatoes. Some would prepare a dish of mashed potatoes, but this increases the complexity of the business, which should, as much as possible, be avoided.
After soup and fish, and the plates are removed by the waiters above, and clean plates put around, wine or conversation will fill up the time, while the meats are brought on, which are to be placed on the table, covered, and in the order marked in the drawing, Fig. 7.
When all are prepared, the host gives a sign to the waiters, and the covers are all to be removed, and so adroitly that no steam be spilt on the table-cloth 01 guests. To do this, the covers must be first inverted, holding them directly over the dishes they cover, and this the hostess must teach the waiter to do beforehand, if need be. He is to be taught, also, to offer each article to guests on their left side, to observe when guests have done eating, and then to change their plate, knife, and fork, and never to speak except to answer questions, or to offer the articles he serves.
The host carves the dish before him. The hostess helps the dish opposite to her, and the gentlemen guests carve the dishes opposite to them. As soon as ready to help, the lady asks the gentleman at her right to what he will be helped, and never makes excuses for, or
Eraises any particular dish. The host commences at is right hand, and does the same, till all are helped. Every person begins to eat as soon as helped. The waiters are to observe if bread, water, or anything is wanting to any guest, and offer a supply. The hostess should, if possible, be at ease, so as to converse, and if she has occasion to direct the waiters (which, by previous instructions, should be avoided), she should do it as quietly and easily as possible. After all the guests are helped, the host helps the hostess, and then himself.
If wine is used, it is served by the host immediately after soup and fish, and any other times during the dinner he chooses. If the lady of the house is asked to drink wine, it is deemed uncourteous to refuse. She is expected to have a little poured into her glass, and raise it to her lips, looking at and slightly bowing to the guest who makes the request, and as soon as he has fill ed his glass. Whenever any other makes the same request, a very little wine is to be poured into her glass, as the ceremony is incomplete without this.
After any guest has finished eating, the waiter is to change his plate, knife, and fork, and the host or hostess asks to what he will be helped.
Soon after all the guests are done eating meats, the hostess directs the waiter, and every article is removed from the table, and the upper table-cloth taken off. Then the dessert knives, forks, and plates are set around, and the dessert is placed on the table. The pudding is to be set on a mat, before the hostess, and the dish of cheese before the host, and the pastry arranged in some regular order on the table, with knives and forks to help. These are divided and distributed by the host and hostess, assisted by the guests.
When these are finished, everything is removed again, and the other table-cloth taken off, leaving the bare table, or the colored cloth. Then the fruit is set on. After fruit, the coffee is brought to the table, or the company retire to the drawing-room, and take their coffee there.
Such a dinner-party as the above, may be got up and carried through comfortably by a housekeeper, if she is provided with an experienced cook and welltrained waiter. But without these, it is absolute cruelty for a husband to urge, or even to allow his wife to go through all the toil, anxiety, and effort needful for such an affair.
In all cases, it would be more consistent with the laws of health, and thus with the laws of God, to have a dinner including far less variety, and it is hoped that as true Christianity and true refinement advance, that the reform in regard to eating will advance, like the temperance reform in regard to drinking.
When men become so refined and cultivated, that they can supply wit and good sense, instead of the love flows induced by the excitement of wine, diluted by the stupidity resulting from excess in eating, a house, keeper will find the giving of a dinner-party a very different matter from what it ordinarily is found to be. As dining parties are often conducted, the number, and variety, and character of the dishes offered, tempt to an excess, which overloads the stomach, and thus stupifies the brain; so that all the wit and brilliancy that is obtained, is the simple product of vinous fermentation.