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Serving a Formal Dinner

In cities the usual hour for a dinner party is seven o'clock; in country places it is frequently earlier in the day. When the last guest has arrived, dinner is announced. The host leads the way with the lady whom he wishes to honor and the hostess comes last with the gentleman whom she wishes to honor. The giving of a dinner is the most important of all the duties of a hostess. She must not betray ignorance or show nervousness, for she alone is responsible for its entire success. The serving maid should be trained to keep cool and avoid accidents. The number invited and the outlay expended should depend upon circumstances and one's means. The favorite form of serving a formal dinner is called a la Russe. The articles of food are carved by the servants at a side table or in the kitchen and brought to the guests. This has one advantage; it allows the host and hostess more time for social enjoyment with their guests. But it calls for well trained servants to perform this duty satisfactorily. It requires about one servant to every six guests; therefore, when dinner is served in this fashion, where the help is inadequate, it is well to engage outside assistance. For a home like, informal, dinner, where the host does the carving, one servant can wait upon twelve persons and do it well if properly trained. On a table or sideboard should be placed the plates for the various courses, smaller spoons, finger-bowls, coffee cups and saucers. As the plates from each course are removed, they should be taken to the kitchen. The waiter should approach the guests from the left except in serving water, coffee, or anything of a like nature. The color and flavor of the various courses should be as different from each other as possible, offering all the foods in their respective seasons and of the finest quality.

Courses for a Formal Dinner

The above makes a pleasant menu, but it can be made simpler or more elaborate as one chooses. Before serving the dessert all the dishes should be removed, save the drinking: glasses, and all crumbs should be lifted from the cloth by means of the crumb knife and tray. A dessert plate and dessert spoon and knife provided they are needed, should then be placed in front of each guest. Coffee (made after the manner of after dinner coffee) should be passed last, demi-tasse, and served clear. Sugar and cream should follow, in order that those who prefer either or both, may help themselves as they please.


Civic League Cook Book (1913).


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