Serving the Meal

How to Cook
Styles of Serving

There are several styles of serving:

English (ordinary family service)
The foods are served at the table, the host serving fish, meat, and vegetables; the hostess serving soup, salad, and dessert; and other members of the family serving fruit and the vegetables that are served in individual dishes. The served dishes may be passed to each guest by the maid, or when no maid serves, they may be passed from one person to another. This method is used for family and informal service, and also when serving is done without a maid.

Russian (serving from the side)
This may be observed in one of two ways:

Foods are separated into portions on individual plates and placed before the guests.

Foods are separated into portions on the serving dishes and passed to the left of each guest so that he may help himself, or the portions may be served by the maid. The necessary serving spoon or fork should be provided with the serving dishes. The Russian style of serving is the most formal and requires the service of at least one maid.

Sometimes it is desirable to use one style of serving for one course and another style for another course, as the Russian style for the soup course, and the English style for the meat course. Or the foods of one course may be in such form that it is convenient to follow both styles of serving, as meat served in English style and "side dishes" served in Russian style. Such style of serving is termed the compromise.

Methods of Serving with a Maid

Established Rules for Serving
While each hostess follows her own inclination in the details of serving, there are certain rules that are always observed:

Cold foods are served on cold dishes; hot foods on hot dishes.

Dishes offered to a guest are passed to the left of the guest; other dishes are placed to the right of a guest, except when a plate is placed at the same time a soiled or served plate is removed, it is then placed at the left. Plates are removed from the right when possible.

When the Russian style of serving is observed, the following plan of removing and placing plates at the close of a course is followed:

The maid carries the clean or served plate of the following course in her right hand and goes to the left of the guest. She removes the soiled plate of the course just concluded with her left hand and then places the empty or served plate before the guest with her right hand. She then goes to the kitchen or pantry with the soiled plate, returns with a clean or served plate, and proceeds as before.

In following the English style in serving plates, the maid first places the dish to be served (the platter of meat, for example) in front of the host. Then an empty plate is placed before the host. The maid then gets another clean plate, returns to the left of the host, takes up the served plate in her left hand, and places the empty plate before him. She then places the served plate before one of the guests from the right side. Again she goes to the left of the host, places a plate before him, and proceeds as before.

At the end of a course, remove the dishes of each cover, then such dishes as the platters and tureens, and finally the crumbs. All dishes belonging to a particular course should be removed at the end of that course. Soiled dishes are always unsightly; hence care should be taken to remove them in the neatest way. Plates should not be piled on top of one another. When the dinner plate, the bread-and-butter plate, and the side dishes are to be removed, the smaller dishes (bread-and-butter plates and side dishes) should be removed on the serving tray. The larger plates may be removed one at a time, and an empty or service plate may be put in the place of each. If no empty or service plate is to be placed for the next course, two soiled plates may be removed at the same time, one in each hand.

Use of the Buffet and Serving Table
Many dining rooms have both a buffet and serving table. When such is the case the serving table is used for holding the dishes and foods that are used in serving the meal, such as dessert plates, creamer and sugar, plate of bread, etc.; the buffet is used for holding dishes that are used occasionally, such as the coffee service, chafing dish, etc.

Accidents at the table may be quickly remedied, if extra silver and a soft i.e. unfolded napkin are placed on the serving table before the meal is announced.

Use of the Serving Tray
The serving tray should be used for carrying all silver. It should also be used for small dishes, such as preserves, olives, sauces, and for the creamer and sugar, and the cups and saucers. In passing large dishes, such as plates, platters, and tureens, use a folded napkin underneath the dishes instead of a tray.

Removing the Crumbs from the Table
For a table with a cloth, the crumb tray and scraper, or better, a plate and folded napkin are used to remove the crumbs. A brush is not desirable for "crumbing" the table. For a table without a cloth, the folded napkin and plate are used. The table may be crumbed before and after the salad course or before the dessert course.

Use of Finger Bowls
Finger bowls are used after the fruit course of breakfast, and at the end of a luncheon or dinner. They should be placed on plates, with a doily between the plate and finger bowl.

For breakfast, the finger bowls and plates may be brought in first. The finger bowl and doily should be removed to the left so that the same plates may be used for the fruit course.

For formal luncheon or dinner, finger bowls on doilies and plates are brought in, one at a time, when removing the main dish of the dessert. The finger bowls and doilies are then set aside and the plate used for bonbons and nuts, which are passed on a tray. Or, if desired, the finger bowls may be brought after the bonbons. In this case the finger bowl and plate are exchanged for the plate of the dessert course. An informal way is to pass finger bowls on plates and doilies before the dessert course. Then the finger bowl and doily are set aside as at breakfast and the dessert served on the same plate.

Order of Seating and Serving Guests
The host and hostess usually sit opposite each other, i.e. at the head and foot of the table. If there is a waitress to do the serving, the head of the table should be farthest from the entrance of the dining room. If there is no maid, the hostess's chair should be nearest the kitchen door or pantry. A woman guest of honor sits at the right of the host; a gentleman guest, at the right of the hostess.

The order of serving guests varies in different homes and for different occasions. Sometimes the women at the table are served before the men. This is usually done, however, for home service or when only a few persons are at the table. At a large dinner table or a banquet, guests are usually served in the order in which they sit. In many homes, the guests are served first, while in others the hostess is always the first to be served. At a family meal, when no guests are present, the hostess should always be served first.

Method of Serving Without a Maid
When there is no maid, a woman has a threefold duty to perform when serving a meal. She must act as cook, as waitress, and as hostess. Much skill, ingenuity, and practice are required to do this successfully. The underlying principle of its accomplishment is forethought. A hostess must plan, even to the minutest detail, the performance of each duty.

Preparation Before Announcing the Meal
In planning the menu, a wise selection should be made. Simple foods should be selected and but few courses should be served. A young hostess should remember that a simple meal easily served is more enjoyable and more fitting than an elaborate dinner where the hostess must frequently leave the table. Foods should be selected that can be prepared before the meal is served, and that will not be harmed by standing. A soufflé which must be served immediately when taken from the oven is not a wise choice for such a meal.

For almost all meals some of the dishes and foods must be left in the warming oven or in the refrigerator, but as many dishes and foods as possible should be taken to the dining room before the meal is announced. The suggestion has been made that dishes be kept warm by placing them in a pan of hot water on the serving table. This would mean, however, that a tea towel be at hand to dry the dishes before using. Special hot-water dishes for the purpose can now be obtained in city shops.

A serving table or a wheel tray is of great service to a woman acting as hostess and waitress. It should be placed near the hostess so that she can reach it without rising from her chair. In the absence of a wheel tray, a large serving tray is a great convenience in setting and clearing the table; it saves many steps.

Serving at the Table
The English style of serving should be followed. The hostess may thus have the aid of the host and the other members of the family in serving. Moreover, serving in this manner gives an air of hospitality.

As hostess, a woman must not leave her place at the table many times or for many minutes. If the details of the meal have not been well planned, she will have to make many trips to the kitchen. This is one of the indications that the presence of guests is a burden to the hostess. She should never leave or enter the dining room empty-handed, for a saving of energy is more sensible than faithful adherence to form. The soiled dishes, as they are removed from the table, may be placed upon the serving table. By the use of the latter, the dining table can be kept free from an overcrowded appearance and the hostess saved many steps. The lower shelf of the serving table is the most desirable place for the soiled dishes.

For a family meal, the table may be crumbed as follows: Let the hostess use the crumb tray while seated at her place, and then let her pass it on so that each member of the family may in turn remove the crumbs from his own cover. It is perfectly proper to omit crumbing when guests are present and where there is no maid.

The host and the other members of the family can do much to add to the pleasure of a meal by introducing an interesting topic of conversation that will occupy the attention of the guests during the absence of the hostess. If the hostess is sole entertainer, she would do well to start an absorbing subject of conversation just before leaving the dining room.


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