Saturday, June 6, 2020

Laying a Correct Gilded Age Table

Next are laid plates large enough to hold the oyster or soup plate which is to contain the first course, and on it, or sometimes beside it, is arranged the napkin... with the dinner roll inserted. 

How to Lay the Table Correctly for Formal Dinner

No matter how many the guests, the proper arrangement for the table for the formal dinner is unchanged. The bare table is always covered with a thickness of cotton flannel —of the sort that comes double width for about 80 cents a yard—before the cloth is laid. This is partly to protect the polished surface of the table from contact with hot dishes, but chiefly to deaden the clatter of china and sliver. The damask cloth, which is always in the best taste for dinner, 
should have been ironed with a distinct crease down the middle, as a guide in the mathematical arrangement of the places. 

Next are laid plates large enough to hold the oyster or soup plate which is to contain the first course, and on it, or sometimes beside it, is arranged the napkin. This should have been ironed so as to fold over in three rather than four thicknesses, and it should be folded first so that the upper edge is broken at the midline and brought down the crease on either side of the mid-crease. The two protruding ends of the linen are now folded back on themselves so as to leave nearly a right-angled triangle of the napkin. This arrangement is finally turned over so that the foiled ends are underneath, and the dinner roll inserted. 

The two glasses, one for plain water and a more slender one for mineral water, are placed side by side in front of the plate. Care should always be taken that every glass on the table is the same distance from the accompanying plate. The individual salt and pepper shakers are not placed on a line with our two temperance glasses, but a little to the right of the plate. When there are no individual shakers, the salt may be placed midway between every two places, but still on a line with the goblets. It is customary nowadays to lay the table with silverware with every course up to the dessert. The dessert spoon or fork is brought in on the finger bowl and the coffee spoon with the coffee. Table spoons, soup spoons and the carving utensils for the host are likewise brought on with the course for which they are intended. 

The forks, all but the oyster fork, are, of course, arranged on the left side of the plate, and the knives, soup spoon and oyster fork on the right. The oyster fork is placed farthest from the plate, the soup spoon next, then knives for butter and roast respectively—this presupposes a dinner of six courses—and continuing down the line, the fork nearest the plate is for the roast, the next one for the fish, and the third for the salad. This arrangement holds for the meal in which the host does his own carving. But where one wishes the plate be served from the butler's pantry, the carving utensils and the dinner plates are naturally in that place. 

As the plates are removed they should be sent to the kitchen immediately and fresh plates instantly substituted. Even where the roast is carved on the table, it is customary to serve the soup from the pantry. If there are no oysters to precede it, places may be served just an instant before dinner is announced. No one needs to be reminded of the old formula, “Pass to the left; remove from the right.” When the entrees and salads are passed as a final word the servant holds the dish on a folded napkin on the flat of his hand, with a large tablespoon and a fork lying across the dish. Some discretion must be used in passing to see that the dish is held low enough for the guest to help himself easily.—Buffalo Evening Times, 1909

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

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