At the every-day or family dinner there will naturally be less elaboration in the decoration of the table, and fewer courses, than when the dinner is an occasion of entertainment, but so far as the appointments reach they should be observed with the same precision and care. The dinner has always something of a ceremonious character, being the time when the family all meet with the leisure to enjoy one another's society after the labors of the day are done. It is well, therefore, to attend to the few material details which aid in making the occasion an agreeable one. Refinements are more clearly shown at table than elsewhere, and the influences of decorum at dinner are more subtle than are always recognized. Let the linen be as spotless and white, the silver and glass as polished, and the dishes, however few, be as carefully prepared as though guests were present. The simplest dinner so ordered will give pleasure and satisfaction. When attention to details is practised every day, company will cause no agitation in the household. The refinements of the table are within the means of the humblest. A word may also be said for manners at the home table. The habit of fault-finding, commenting upon the dishes and wines, correcting the mistakes of servants while at the table, making apologies, etc., is reprehensible, inefficacious and vulgar, and not only interrupts conversation, but spoils the pleasure of the dinner hour. It is always difficult, and often impossible, to improve a dish after it is served; therefore, it is better to accept it without remark. If the housekeeper, who is always the first to observe faults in the service, can conceal her discomfiture, it is but right for the others to be considerate. Faults often pass unnoticed if attention is not called to them. Dr. Johnson, it is said, always complained of his dinners, but never omitted to say grace. Upon one such occasion his wife interrupted him, saying, "Nay, hold, Mr. Johnson! Do not make a farce of thanking God for a dinner which in a few minutes you will pronounce uneatable."
The home table, with its every-day appointments, causing one to blush in the event of a friend's unexpected arrival, is not to be excused in this day of advanced women in the nineteenth century, when higher education has at least taught them to regard their domestic duties in the light of a science and an art.
There are many simple dishes that can be quickly prepared which will give the dinner a little more complimentary character, and supply the little extra that may be needed when more are present than were originally provided for. A beefsteak can be virtually enlarged by serving with it a mushroom sauce, for the mushrooms, having the same elements of nutrition as the meat, permit the latter to be served in smaller portions. A simple entree, such as a dish of macaroni, a scallop dish, a mince, with good sauce (which is easily made where the stock pot is ever ready), a cheese omelet, a vegetable salad, etc., etc., are suggested as a few of the dishes, which are called by the French plats d'amitie, and should enable any woman to enjoy the pleasure of entertaining unexpected guests in a hospitable manner.