Setting the Table

How to Cook
Basic Principles
Practically all rules for laying the table and all methods of serving have been formulated to bring about neatness, convenience, and order. The standard of living, the occasion, the size of the dining room, the number of guests, and the attendants, all have to be taken into consideration in dining room service. Therefore the method of serving must be governed by conditions. It is possible here to give only general suggestions.

The Table

Table Linen
Table padding, or a silence cloth, should first be placed on the table, then the table-cloth should be laid straight and smooth.

Table Laid for an Informal Luncheon
Note the position of the silver, napkins, bread-and-butter plates, and tumblers. Also note that a low bowl of flowers is used as a centerpiece.

Napkins should be folded simply and laid at the left of the plate. A dinner napkin is folded four times, a luncheon napkin is folded twice to form a square, or three times to form either a triangle or an oblong.

If desired, the table-cloth may be omitted for breakfast or luncheon. Doilies with pads underneath them, lunch or breakfast cloths, or table runners may be used instead of the table-cloth. The two latter coverings are especially practical, since they are more quickly laundered than table-cloths. Their initial cost is also usually less than that of a table-cloth.

Doilies may be placed on the serving tray. They are also often used on plates containing crackers, bread, and cakes. Baked potatoes, corn, and hot breads may be served in a folded napkin.

China And Glassware
The term "cover" means the space, with its china, silver, and glassware, allowed for each guest. At least twenty-two inches of space should be allowed for a cover.

The quantity of china on the table depends upon the occasion and the style of serving. In any form of service, the first course, if cold, may be placed on the table before the guests are seated. If the first course is a hot food, it is always placed on the table after the guests are seated. For informal occasions, and sometimes for formal occasions, the bread-and-butter plate is used. It is placed beyond the tines of the fork. Glasses are placed beyond the tip of the knife. A sugar bowl and cream pitcher, salts, peppers, etc., may also be placed on the table. A salt and a pepper shaker should be placed so as to be accessible to each two covers. Dishes containing olives or nuts are sometimes placed on the table before the guests are seated.

For breakfast, the coffeepot, hot-water pitcher, milk and cream pitchers, spoon tray, and cups and saucers may be placed so as to form a semicircle about the hostess's place. The coffeepot should be placed at the right, and the cups and saucers at the left. If tiles or stands for the coffeepot and hot-water pitcher are used, they should also be a part of the table service. A large tray may be used to hold all of the coffee service.

If the serving is to be done without a maid, it is advisable to place all the china, glass, and silver to be used for the meal either on the table or on the serving table.

Convenience and order have determined the customary way of placing the silver at each cover. At the right of the plates place the knives, the spoons, and the forks that are to be used without knives (as for oysters, fish, or salad). At the left, place all the forks that are to be used with knives. Many prefer, however, to place all the forks, except the oyster fork, at the left of the plate. Enough silver for all courses, except the dessert course, is usually placed on the table; it is permissible, however, to place the silver for all courses. If the silver for any course is not placed on the table before the meal is announced, it may be brought in on a tray and placed at each cover just before serving the course; or it may be laid on each serving dish of the course.

While a general rule for laying silver is to place each piece at each cover in the order of its use, the knives are usually all grouped together at the right of the plate and the spoons laid together at the right of the knives. It is advisable, however, to place the spoons and knives in the order of their use, i.e. place the spoon that is to be used first farthest to the right and the knife that is to be used first, farthest to the right of the group of knives. Since only forks are placed at the left of the plate, they should be laid in the order of their use, that first to be used being placed farthest to the left.

All silver should be placed from one half to one inch from the edge of the table; the sharp edges of the blades of the knives should be turned towards the plates; the spoons and forks should be placed with their bowls and tines turned up. The butter spreaders may be laid across the bread-and-butter plates. Generally when soup and raw oysters are served, the oyster fork is laid across the soup spoon. If the silver that is to be used in serving a dish of food is placed on the table, it should be laid beside not in the dish of food.

Table Accessories
A low bowl of flowers or fruit, tastefully arranged, makes a pleasing centerpiece. A centerpiece, however, should be a real source of pleasure; it should not obstruct the view of guests opposite.

Place cards afford a graceful means of seating guests. When used, they should be placed on the napkin. Menu cards, sometimes used for occasional dinners, are also placed on the napkin.


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  Cooking Notes 2006