This section is from the book "Cook Book", by The Ladies of the Church of the Good Shepherd.
To serve a la Russe, which is at once the simplest and most elegant manner when guests are present, it is only necessary to pass the dishes of each course in rotation, beginning alternately at the right and left of the host, and going in opposite directions. Borne think it more courteous to serve all the ladles first, but it is not now considered a breach of strict ettiquette to serve in regular order.
The old French custom required that the dishes, elaborately garnished, and the meats, sometimes stabbed with silver skewers, like crossed swords, should be placed upon the table before the host and hostess alternately, for a moment, to give the guests an opportunity of admiring them previous to their being carved, but this formality has gone out of fashion, even among the French themselves.
Oysters are usually at each place when the company assembles, having been kept very cold, on ice and salt, up to the moment of serving. A quarter of a lemon and very thin slices of brown bread, buttered, are the usual concomitants.
No person should ever be left without a plate before him, except at the time of the clearing of the table preparatory to the introduction of the sweet course. This is one of the primary rules of serving.
Under each oyster plate it is customary to have a dinner plate, upon which afterward the one containing the soup is placed. A dinner can hardly be served with elegance by less than two persons, although attention to the prescribed rules greatly simplifies the matter.
The soup should be served from a side table—behind a screen—a ladleful to each plate. These are then carried one by one to their destination.
It is probably superfluous to mention that all plates should be previously well-warmed upon which anything hot is to be eaten, but it is a most important detail to observed.
Fashion decrees that a thin, clear soup should be served at a dinner of many courses, that one may be more able to appreciate the delicacies that follow. If it be thought desirable to relax the stringency of this rule, and serve a more hearty soup, the dinner itself should be composed of fewer courses or the dishes be lighter in character. It Is usual to pass red pepper with the soup course.