This section is from the book "Cook Book", by The Ladies of the Church of the Good Shepherd.
It is a more difficult and complicated thing to serve well a plain "home dinner" that the most elaborate entertainment. There are more details to be remembered, and the attention of the servant is more constantly distracted by the oft-recurring wants of a family party. One's only hope of success lies in the consent of all to abide by certain fixed rules of serving, which, if observed, will surely result in the general satisfaction. It is not necessary to premise that the table be neatly set. A table-cloth should be spotless, whatever its quality, and the napkins changed whenever their freshness is lost. Economy in this department might better be transferred to some other. The "fernery" in the centre of the table has become almost universal, but lacking this a dish of fruit replaces it acceptably.
A dinner plate, a thickly cut piece of bread, a glass freshly flllod with ice water, but without ice, napkin, knives, forks and tablespoon, should be at each place.
When the soup tureen is set bafore the lady of the house, it is extremely inelegant to pile the plates up in front of her. They should be left on the side table, from which the servant takes one and places before her. When one is filled he substitutes another, which the lady proceeds to supply, while he carries the first one to its destination, setting it upon the dinner plate already there, and so, on until all are served. The soiled soup plates should be removed one by one, leaving the under plate, which may now be used for the "hors d'oeuvres," if such be on the table. If not, it is still in accordance with conventional rules that such a plate should remain until exchanged for a hot one, for fish or roast. Before the meat is brought in it is customary to put the vegetables on the table.
The fish and roast are each in turn placed before the carver, and the servant exchanges the cold plate heretofore in front of him for a hot one which he supplies. As this is removed, another hot one is instantly substituted, and the sauce or gravy is added by the servant from the side table. It is extremely "provincial" to set plates all around a table before the serving or carving is done. In clearing the table at a family dinner, the soiled plates are, of course, first removed, then the meat, as the carver is generally glad to be relieved from the proximity of a steaming joint, and lastly, the vegetables.
The service of the remaining courses offer no difficulties other than those spoken of as incidental to a formal dinner.
There are many tasteful little touches that may be added to the home table to render it more dainty. Such, for instance, is the use of round fringed doilies, Just the size of the plate, whereon the bread or biscuits are laid. In the berry season nothing so enhances the lusciousness of their appearance as to be laid among their own fresh leaves, lining the dish. Radishes may dc peeled so as to resemble orchids, and bits of cracked ice add to their crispness as well as to their vividness of color.