I don’t really believe that there was much that was good about the Good Old Days. I can’t imagine, for example, ever being comfortable with the Mistress-Servant mentality – especially if my perspective was from the servant end of the relationship. On the other hand, the Mistress end had its down-side too. Imagine having to direct the grand show that was a dinner party. As with any grand event, it would be essential to train and rehearse the staff – drill them, even, in their roles – so that one was not embarrassed in front of one’s guests.
I give you a glimpse into the intricacies of the planning required, from Practical Cooking and Dinner Giving, (New York, 1876) by Mary Newton Foote Henderson
... I will close these suggestions by copying from an English book a practical drill exercise for serving at table. The dishes are served from the side-table.
Let us suppose a table laid for eight persons, dressed in its best: as attendants, only two persons – a butler and a footman, or one of those, with a page or neat waiting-maid; and let us suppose someone stationed outside the door in the butler’s pantry to do nothing but fetch up, or hand, or carry off dishes one by one:
While guests are being seated, person from outside brings up soup;
Footman receives soup at door;
Butler serves it out;
Both change plates.
Footman takes out soup, and receives fish at door; while butler hands wine;
Butler serves out fish;
Footman hands it (plate in one hand, and sauce in the other);
Both change plates.
Footman brings in entrée, while butler hands wine;
Butler hands entrée;
Footman hands vegetables;
Both change plates,
The carving of the joint seems the only difficulty. However, it will not take long for an expert carver to cut eight pieces.
A simple recipe is in order for the day, methinks, from an inherently simpler meal.
Fried Apples for Breakfast.
Sour apples should be selected: Pippins, Northern Spies, etc. First fry some thin slices of pork, then the slices (without peeling them) of apples in the same hot fat.
Quotation for the Day.
From innate coquetry alone the French women appreciate the powers of their dainty table. Cooking is an art they cultivate.
Practical Cooking and Dinner Giving, (New York, 1876) by Mary Newton Foote Henderson