What to set before guests at the table, or, indeed, before one's own family, is sometimes a perplexing matter for housekeepers to decide, and a few bills of fare are given as an aid. The number of dishes can readily be increased or diminished. Any of the company dinners can be prepared at home almost as easily as an ordinary dinner, success depending not upon a great number of dishes, but upon a few well cooked and well served, and a hostess apparently free from care.
A great part of any company dinner can be prepared the day before. The vegetables can be prepared and put in cold water, the game or meat be larded, the meat or fish cooked for croquettes and salads, the salad dressing made ready, and jellies, creams and cold puddings be made. If a clear soup (and that is always best) is to be served, it also should be made. In the morning the bread and cake can be baked, and the fish and other dishes prepared. Early in the afternoon freeze the creams and sherbets.
Make a list of the principal dishes. With each dish have a list of the vegetables, sauces or other things to be served, and the time for serving. This will insure the dishes being ready at the proper moment. Have the plates and other dishes counted and ready to warm and, by the way, arrange to have these and the silver washed where the noise cannot reach the guests.
Twelve seems to be a good number of people for a dinner party. But very little increase in the quantity of material will be required if the number should be as large as sixteen or eighteen. Fox six or eight the quantity of soup, oysters, creams, sherbets and coffee, can be diminished one-third, but that of meats and fish should not be much smaller. It is supposed that the coffee will be served in small cups. Although it is usually drunk clear, cream and sugar should be offered with it.
People differ as to the kinds of breakfast required. Many believe in the French custom of having only chocolate or coffee, rolls, and perhaps eggs in some form. Again, others believe in and require a substantial breakfast. There is no limit to the variety of dishes that can be prepared for breakfast and tea if the cook has taste and judgment in using the remains of meats, fish and vegetables left from dinner. Either oatmeal or hominy should always be served at breakfast. When it is possible, have fruit for the first course.