Within my lifetime, one of the things folk worried about was which cutlery to use with which dish at a formal dinner, with its intimidating arrangement of tableware at each place (general rule: work from the outside in.) Before my lifetime, a great anxiety for the mistress, the cook, the footman, and the butler in “higher ranking” households was to get the big picture of the dinner arrangement correct. Luckily, books such as An Encyclopædia of Domestic Economy, by Thomas Webster (1852) came to the rescue.
Order of the Courses.
4908. Dinners in good style consist of either two or three courses: the first fish and soup; the second of meats variously prepared, and of which the side and corner dishes are called entrées; the third of game when in season, with flank and corner dishes, called entremêts by the French, consisting of jellies, creams, pastry, and other confectionery: vegetables dressed à la François are also sometimes introduced as entremêts.
4909. In a dinner of two courses fish and soup are often brought in with the entrées at the flanks and corners, and are removed by dishes of meat or poultry. In the most fashionable dinners there are generally two removes of the principal dishes in each course; each must consist of the same number of dishes; for instance, if in the first course there are six entrées, in the second there must be six entremêts.
4910. In the first course the principal dishes are usually of English cookery, the entrées of French. A centre dish, such as cold game pie, or other savoury pie, may, without impropriety, remain on the table till the removal of the second course; when it is to be left during the course, it is called in the bill of fare a dormant.
Symmetry in the order of the dishes must be preserved. Thus puff pastry on one side should have a corresponding dish on the other of short pastry. In all cases opposite corner should have corresponding dishes.
4911. In second courses the flank or side dishes may have vegetables prepared in the French style, and be removed by fondus souffle, &c; or in smaller dinners, when flank dishes are omitted, two of the corners may consist of vegetable entremêts, the other two of sweet dishes.
4912. The bill of fare of each course should be neatly drawn up on a porcelain slate, and placed at the head of the table for the convenience of the presiding lady.
4913. The butler should also be provided with a bill of fare, as on him devolves the charge of removing and placing properly each dish.
And from the same book, our recipe for the day:
When pigeons are plentiful and cheap, you may afford a couple to make the gravy for the pie. When emptied and washed, divide these two pigeons, and mash them, bones and all, in a mortar; put some parsley, trimmings of mushrooms, and truffles if you have any, with green onions and some salt, into butter, to stew gently; when tender, put in the mashed pigeons, and when they have well sweated, moisten with some veal broth, so as to possess, after the gravy is completed, rather more than a pint, which strain and skim off the fat. Put into a pie-dish, sheeted with paste, a veal cutlet, and over it six pigeons, both well-seasoned; distribute some egg balls (see "Forcemeats "), and fill up the dish with part of the prepared gravy; then apply a paste cover of a good thickness. Bake it, and as the gravy exhales fill up with the remainder.— N.B. This pie requires to be well seasoned and eaten hot. If you make a pigeon pie to be eaten cold, you may cover the bottom, sides, and top with slices of bacon, as, when cold, the fat may be removed. If you prefer beef-steak to veal at the bottom, it may be substituted.