AN attractively laid table is an appetizer in itself. Invalids are tempted with delicacies, but it should not be necessary to be ill to be tempted. It is said that temptation should not be put in ones way, but almost every rule has exceptions, and this is one.
There does not seem to be a very wide choice of table decorations. Flowers, electric table standards, candles, fruit and illuminated glass bowls of fruit seem to be the only things which are suitable. But, after all, what looks nicer than fresh flowers carefully arranged with sufficient foliage, preferably of their own, to make them appear as if they are actually growing ? Strongly-scented flowers should be avoided for the dining-room. Tall flowers should have tall vases or they will look awkward and be liable to topple out. Flowers should never be at the uncomfortable height which obscures the view. Roses and short flowers look extremely well in shallow bowls. Cut-glass or silver vases are the most usual for table decoration. The colours of the flowers should cither harmonize or contrast with the colour-scheme of the room.
Breakfast and Lunch
TABLE linen offers more variety. For breakfast, many people break away from using the plain white damask cloths and introduce more cheerful tones. White cloths with coloured borders to match the china, or plain-coloured damasks, are much used; and linen cloths, either white or ecru, embroidered in various colours, are also very effective. For luncheon and dinner, table-mats of lace or linen, or a tablo-cloth may be used. To do justice to the former the table must be well polished, and all finger-marks rubbed off when the table is being laid. For dinner, a white or ecru cloth of linen and lace looks extraordinarily well with good cut-glass and silver. Serviettes should match the table-cloth. For afternoon tea, linen and lace cloths are correct.
The actual laying of the tabic is important, but is often given little thought. Many people are too easily satisfied, and think that if everything necessary for a meal is in evidence that is all that matters. This method of doing things is certainly not one to be encouraged. It takes little extra time and trouble, if any, to do things nicely. And is really well worth while. Dinner jP INNER being the most important meal, and the one requiring the most preparation, is worthy of first place. Special attention must be paid to the table-linen, which must always be clean and free from ugly creases. The cloth should be put on carefully and perfectly straight, with the same amount overhanging at each side and end. The flowers, or whatever table decorations are being used, must be put in the positions they are wanted and the other things placed elsewhere. Serviettes may be folded in various shapes, the mitre being one of the most popular. This shape is only suitable for plain serviettes, and the bread-roll may be placed inside. Lace-edged napkins are usually folded in a fan shape and put in the tumblers.
It is advisable and helpful to collect all the things for the table on a tray and to make sure that nothing is forgotten before this is taken into the dining-room. Silver and glass should be well polished with a clean cloth, immediately before, and the knives also. Nothing looks worse than finger-mark3 on silver or glass. Knives should never be handled by the blades, or forks by the prongs.
Articles necessary for the table depend on what is going to be served and of how many courses the meal is to consist.
Knives and Forks
THE knives and forks should be arranged so as to allow room for the plates between knife and fork. The knives are placed on the right-hand side, and the forks on the left. They should be placed in the order in which they are to be used. If a full-course dinner is to be served there would be on the right-hand starting from the extreme right, soupspoon, fish-knife, two table-knives and cheese-knife. On the other side, going from left to right, there would be the fish-fork and two table-forks. The cheese-plate is placed on the- left-hand side of the forks. The handles of the knives and forks and the edges of the plates should be about half an inch from the edge of the table. Glasses are grouped in order just below the top of the outermost knife.
If hors dceuvres is included, the knives and forks are generally put on the plates on which it is to be served. The dessertspoons and forks are placed horizontally between the prongs of the forks and the tops of the knives, not forgetting to leave room for the plate. The spoon, which is placed above the fork, should have the handle pointing towards the right, and that of the fork to the left. Spoons for ice-creams are put just above the dessert-spoons. Dessert-knives and forks are handed round by the maid when the dessert -plates are brought in.
Water and Wine
CONDBIENTS are always necessary, and as a rule occupy corresponding corners. Water-jugs should have a place on the table, though wines should be served from the sideboard, which should have a covering spread over it, preferably to match the table-linen. Table-spoons, biscuits, cheese, butter – which should be patted into rolls or balls – bread or bread-rolls, dessert-plates, knives and forks, and finger-bowls and knives, forks and spoons necessary for serving may be placed here.
If the carving is to be done at the table, the master of the house should be provided with a carving-knife and fork and steel. Vegetables are generally, handed round by the maid, but if this is not done the mistress should serve them, and she should be supplied with the necessary table-spoons. A carvers cloth will prevent the tablecloth from being marked, but this must be removed when the meat course is finished. With several people and only one maid to wait at table, it is permissible to put cold sweets and fruit-dishes on the sideboard to save delay. Coffee is usually served in the lounge.
BREAKFAST being the first meal of the – day, it should be made as entertaining as possible. Bright colours may be introduced by the china and table-linen. Other than the positions of the knives and forks, and the small plate which corresponds with the cheese-plate, the arrangement of the table is entirely different from dinner. Condiments are placed in the corners, or, if a cruet is used, it should occupy a more central position. The cups and saucers must be placed neatly at the end of the table where the mistress sits, and a tray, which should have on it the tea, coffee, hot and cold milk, sugar and slop-basin, should be put immediately above the top of the knives, remembering the imaginary plate.
Serving at Breakfast
The master should serve the bacon and eggs, fish, or whatever the dish may be, and should therefore have the necessary servers at hand. If there is a choice of a hot or cold dish, plates, both hot and cold, must be put beside their respective dishes. If there is not room on the table, dishes such as ham and cold pie, bread and spare plates may be put on the sideboard, which must have a cloth.
Toast, butter, and preserves should find a place on the table. Jam-spoons and butter-knives must be put by the dishes they are intended for, and not just thrown carelessly on the table. One large and small knife and a large fork are all that are needed for each person at breakfast unless fish is an alternative dish, in which case the fish-knives and forks are placed as at dinner. Porridge-spoons take the position of the soup-spoon at other meals. Dessert-knives and forks should be placed horizontally above the spaco for the plate. Serviettes are not folded for breakfast, but just rolled and put in a ring.
Luncheon is the least ceremonious of meals. Small joint3, cutlets, savoury dishes, or cold meats and salads, are usual in small households, but in large houses where several servants are kept the meal is often more elaborate. But, whatever the meal, it is still necessary to make the table attractive. At luncheon it is the general rule for everything to be sorved at the table, and the maid does not stay in the room.
Tea is either served in the drawing-room or lounge. The tea-tray should be placed on a small table, covered with a cloth, and the cups arranged either on the tray or table. A cake-stand should hold sandwiches and cakes. If a tea-trolley be used the cake may be put on the under-shelf. Tea-knives and forks and a serviette should be handed with a plate to all the guests. Small tables are most useful for people to place tea-cups on as it is awkward to balance everything.