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Dessert Dishes

The tazza, or dish with stem is now the favourite shape for dessert-dishes. The fruit can be arranged and shown to better advantage on these tall high dishes than on the short flat ones. All the dishes are now usually placed down the centre of the table, dried and fresh fruit alternately, the former being arranged on small round or oval glass plates, and the latter on the dishes with stems. The fruit should always be gathered on the same day that it is required for table, and should be tastefully arranged on the dishes, with leaves between and round it. By purchasing fruits that are in season, a dessert can be supplied at a very moderate cost. These, with a few fancy biscuits, crystallized fruit, bon-bons, etc., are sufficient for an ordinary dessert. When fresh fruit cannot be obtained, dried and foreign fruits, compotes, baked pears, stewed Normandy pippins, etc. etc., must supply its place, with the addition of preserves, bon-bons, cakes, biscuits, etc. At fashionable tables, forced fruit is served growing in pots, these pots being hidden in more ornamental ones, and arranged with the other dishes. A few vases of fresh flowers, tastefully arranged, add very much to the appearance of the dessert; and, when these are not obtainable, a few paper ones, mixed with green leaves, answer very well as a substitute. In decorating a table, whether for luncheon, dessert, or supper, a vase or two of flowers should never be forgotten, as they add so much to the elegance of the tout ensemble. In summer and autumn, ladies residing in the country can always manage to have a few freshly-gathered flowers on their tables, and should never be without this inexpensive luxury. On the continent, vases or epergnes filled with flowers are invariably placed down the centre of the dinner-table at regular distances. Ices for dessert are usually moulded: when this is not the case, they are handed round in glasses with wafers to accompany them. Preserved ginger is frequently handed round after ices, to prepare the palate for the delicious dessert wines. A basin or glass of finely-pounded lump sugar must never be omitted at a dessert, as also a glass jug of fresh cold water (iced, if possible), and two goblets by its side. Grape-scissors, a melon-knife and fork, and nutcrackers, should always be put on table, if there are dishes of fruit requiring them. Zests are sometimes served at the close of the dessert; such as anchovy toasts or biscuits. The French often serve plain or grated cheese with a dessert of fresh or dried fruit. At some tables, finger-glasses are placed at the right of each person, nearly half filled with cold spring water, and in winter with tepid water. These precede the dessert. At other tables, a glass or vase is simply handed round, filled with perfumed water, into which each guest dips the corner of his napkin, and, when needful, refreshes his lips and the tips of his fingers.

After the dishes are placed, and every one is provided with plates, glasses, spoons, etc., the wine should be put at each end of the table, cooled or otherwise, according to the season. If the party be small, the wine may be placed only at the top of the table, near the host.


The Book of Household Management (1861).


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