So far this week in the year of 1823 we have enjoyed breakfast and lunch and have learned how to decant wine, thanks to our guide, the author of The footman's directory, and butler's remembrancer.
If you are still not fully convinced of the knowledge, skills, and attitude required of a good footman in a fine early nineteenth century household I feel certain that today’s lesson will change your opinion. This is a lengthy piece, as befits a complex and important household topic.
Welcome to dinner:-
If one part of a servant's business calls for greater attention than another, it is waiting at table; it is a branch likewise, wherein he can show more of his ability than in any thing else he may have to do, as many make great pretensions to cleverness in conducting a dinner, who yet never knew the first principles of properly waiting at table. This causes great unpleasantness in a house, both to the family and the rest of the servants. It is no easy thing to be able to wait at dinner well, and have every thing done in proper and systematical order. I am sorry to say, that there are but few servants who can manage a dinner party of twelve or fourteen, without confusion in some part of it or other, particularly in small families, where they have not company very often; confusion likewise often occurs through the room being too small, or not having a sufficiency of things for the party without having to wash up some while at dinner, or, as it too often happens, through the person who is at the head of the family, not knowing his business well. The greatest attention is necessary, in properly arranging the things for use, and appointing each one his place, and what he is to do while waiting, for, the greater the number to wait, the greater will be the confusion, if their offices are not properly arranged before the company goes into the room. One clever servant that understands his business, will get through more than two awkward ones, who are ignorant of it ; but still the best servant may have more assigned to him than he can accomplish, to the satisfaction either of his employer or himself A family generally thinks that a footman may wait well enough on six persons; but this is too many to be comfortable with, if there are many things to change.
Always inquire of the cook what there is for dinner, as by doing this you will be prepared to know what things you want, and have them in the room ready : it is very awkward to leave the room in the middle of dinner, for things which ought to have been in before it was set on the table; besides which, they often get broken, by catching them up in a hurry. When you have learned what there is for dinner, ask if there is any particular way of sending things up, without which you may make sad confusion, likewise have a bill of fare, that you may not be at a loss to know how to put the things on the table, for some families will have the sauce and vegetables put on the table with the meat, &c. while others will not; the manner of putting on the dishes, likewise depends greatly on the will and pleasure of those who order the dinner, but then it is quite necessary that you should know the particular ways of the family (if they have any), and adopt them accordingly.
In putting on the cloth, let the table be dusted, and the green one put on first, then take the linen one, observing to have it the right side outermost; this you may easily tell by the hemming and the fold of it : be likewise particular in having the bottom of the cloth face the bottom of the table, as in most families they have some design woven in their table-linen, such as their crests, or coat of arms. If the pattern be baskets of flowers, the bottom of the basket must be towards the person who sits at the bottom, as the design should always look up the table. The middle of the cloth ought likewise to go exactly down the middle of the table. If there be mats to put under the dishes, let them be put even in their proper places. If there are napkins for dinner, you may fold them up various ways, but let them be done neatly, so that you can put the bread in for the person conveniently; if the crest, or any other particular design, is worked in the napkins, fold them so that it shall be seen. When you have laid your napkins round the table, then lay the knives and forks at proper distances from each other; let the knife be put to the right hand, and the fork to the left of the person, but do not let the handles of either reach beyond the edge of the table ; let the carving knives and forks be set at top and bottom of the table, on the outside of the other, and the same way in length: when this is done, put the plate on the table. If the salt-cellars be silver, let a table-spoon be put on each side of them, as they are in general oblong: let the nearest to the carving-knife be put with the handle towards it, and the other the contrary way; let the gravy-spoons be put beside the carving-knife, and laid the same way : if fish and soup, the fish-knife at top, and soup-ladle at the bottom; let the handle of the fish-knife be put near the end of the carving-knife, cross-ways, and the soup-ladle the same, as they will be more handy this way. Put a table-spoon for each person, beside the knife, with the handle within one inch of the edge of the table.
Next put on the water bottles and glasses. Let a wine-glass be put to the right hand of each person. If there be glass coolers for the wine-glasses, let them be filled about two thirds with spring water, and the wine-glass turned up in it; let those be put about three inches and a half, or four inches, from the edge of the table to the right hand of the person, with the foot of the wine-glass toward the edge of the table. If the wine decanters be put on the table, if there be four decanters of wine and two water-bottles, let the wine be placed near the four corners of the table, but not too near. This you will be able to judge, as it depends a great deal on the size of the table, but you must so arrange them, that they will not be in the way of the dishes, in taking off and putting on, nor yet too near the edge of the table, for fear of having them knocked off. Let the two water-bottles be put in the centre of the flanks of the table, that is, between the two who sit at the side of the table. Let a small rummer-glass or two be put with each of the water-bottles; those you must so arrange as not to be in the way of the flank dishes, or to be inconvenient to the company who sit at the side. If the family dine by candlelight, the candles
are in general put in the centre of the table, or if there should be two branches, the salad, or epergne, will be put in the middle, and one of the branches between this and the top and bottom dish; but it is very seldom that an epergne is put on a table for so small a party as six, particularly where there is but one servant to wait; therefore consider what number of different joints and dishes there may be, and likewise whether it is likely that any other person will drop in just at dinner-time, as in some families this is often the case, and proportion your plates, &c. accordingly. If there be many changes, you should have six large plates for each person, with pudding and cheese plates, and as many knives and forks; but a little experience will teach you the best as to these things, for some persons will use half as many more as others will; but observe to have a few more than you want, rather than not enough. Have three wine-glasses for each, and at least two rummers; always have one or two more in case they should be wanted, or any accident should occur; do not, however, take a great many more things than are wanted, for fear of breaking them or scratching the plate, which is easily done in moving it about, if great care is not taken.
In setting out your side-board and side-table, you must study convenience, neatness, and grandeur, as you cannot think that ladies and gentlemen have splendid and costly things without wishing them to be seen or set out to the best advantage. I have seen some side boards and tables set out in such a way as to look all in confusion, when, if they had been properly arranged, they would have looked beautiful. Some persons will put on their things with such taste and neatness, that it will strike the eye of every person who enters the room with a pleasing sensation of elegance. The glasses which are to go on with the wine and dessert, and all the glasses which are used at dinner, must be kept on the side-board. In some families there are blue hock glasses and small liqueur glasses used for dinner; when these are not wanted on the table, you may ornament your side-board with a few of them, as they will have a pretty effect among the rest: if there is bottled ale, cider, &c. you must have the proper glasses for it. Two rummer-glasses each will be enough if there is no bottled ale, cider, porter, &c. If you have not plenty of glasses for use, ask your employers for more; if they will not let you have a sufficiency, this is not your fault, but never attempt to make three or four persons drink out of one glass, as that is a filthy trick.
Now, with the glasses and the small waiters, cruet-stand, sugar-basin, and the cut glass water-jug, which is to go on with the dessert, and a few silver spoons, you will be able to set out your side-board to advantage; but never put any silver forks, or steel knives and forks on, as they will scratch it; let these be put upon the side-table. If you have a lamp or candle for the side-board, put it in the centre close to the back, then it will not be in your way in taking the things off. If you have different sorts of glasses for use, let the best and handsomest be for the dessert, and put them at the back part of the side-board, and those for the use of dinner in front, so that you may have them at hand. In setting out your side-board, you ought always to contrive your things so that you can have them as you want them without reaching over any thing else; it is two to one but you may break or knock some down, if you have to reach them in a hurry. Let the beer-glasses, rummers, and all glasses of this kind, be put on one side, and the wine and small liqueur glasses on the other. As to the form or design in putting on the things, this will in some measure depend on the shape of the side-board ; but with the generality of those which I have seen, it looks the best to have the glasses to form a half circle or crescent. As the lamp or candle will be in the centre of the side-board at the back, begin there, and place them to within three or four inches of the front ; but if the side-board is very large, you will have no cause to take the whole sweep of it, for if it does not look full enough, you can put the finger-glasses along the ends of it. If there is any difference in the size of the wine-glasses, let one of each sort be put to each person for the dessert. In forming the half circle or crescent, let the highest glasses be arranged the furthest off, and the smaller ones in an inner circle; let them be put two and two, that is, one large and one small, that you may have them quite handy to put on the table when wanted. In the space between the glasses put the cut glass water-jug, the cruet-stand, sugar-glass for dessert, the decanter-stands with the wine which is for the dessert, with the small hand- waiters ; let the water-jug, sugar-basin, and cruet-stand, be put down the centre, and the decanters and stands on each side of them; let the waiters be put near the edge, in front of the board, as they will be often wanted ; if there is any space left, ornament it with a few spoons, as silver sets off glass, and makes the side-board look well. Let the wine-glasses be to the left hand, and the beer-glasses, Sec. to the right of the side-board, when you face it; you will find this the most convenient plan, as you hold the glass in your left hand when you pour out the beer, &c. ; but always contrive to set your beer, spring-water, toast and water, or any thing of this kind, in a tray or cellaret, or else have a knife-cloth to put underneath the side-board to put them on, that you may not dirty the room; put them as near the glasses as you possibly can, and likewise your plate-basket for the dirty plates, with boxes and trays to put the dirty knives, forks, and spoons in; let those be put in the most convenient place: have a separate tray for each, or one which has partitions in it, as the spoons ought to be put by themselves, and the others the same; this will prevent the plate being scratched, for, if the knives, forks, and spoons, be all put into the same tray, they will be sure to be so. You must have a small tray with a clean knife-cloth in it, to remove the carving knives and forks from the dishes before you take them off the table.
On this the cold plates, cheese-plates, and dessert-plates, are put; also the salad, vegetables, and meat; the steel knives and forks and the silver forks. Let these be so arranged as to be handy, and also to look ornamental, as well as the rest of the things, observing the same rule here as on the side-board, to have that which is wanted first the nearest towards you. Let the d'Oy leys be put into the dessert-plates, with a proper dessert-knife, fork, and spoon to each. If the finger-glasses go on when the doth is removed, let one be put on each plate; then let the two knives be on the right side, and the spoon, and fork on the left of the person whom you set it before. If both steel and silver dessert-knives are used, place one of each on the plate. Let the water be put in the finger-glasses ready. If the side-table is too small to hold all the things, and you have room on the side-board, let the dessert-plates be put on each end of it. Have the steel knives and silver forks so placed and arranged, that you can be able to take them without noise and confusion when you change the plates. You will always find a sufficient quantity of things to set out your side-board and side-table with, therefore study convenience and elegance in putting them on, and do not be afraid of a little trouble when there is company to wait on, as, when the side-board and side-tables are set out with ingenuity and taste, it has a very pleasing effect in going into a room where order and design prevail. Whether you have few or many at any time to dinner, make it a matter of thought how you can manage and arrange your things to the comfort of those you serve and your own convenience, not forgetting the appearance, as I am sure, my young friends, that you may unite the three together.
It is too often the case, where there are plenty of things both for use and ornament, that the side-board and table have been in the greatest confusion through the idleness and carelessness of the servant.
The place where the side- table should be put depends on the form and size of the room: if it be long and narrow, the side-board in general is at one end and the side-table at the other ; in all cases, the best situation is near the door. Always contrive your dining-table that you may be able to go round it when waiting, without running backward and forward, as this often causes confusion and accidents; and put the plate-basket and knife-trays near each other, but not so as to stumble over them while you are waiting. Do not bring the cheese into the room till wanted, as the smell of it may be disagreeable to some of the company.
Having got most of your things ready, I shall now consider the dinner ordered, as it in general takes the cook half an hour to dish it up, which gives you time to get the rest of your things into the room, and others done which would not be proper to have been done before; such as the bread cut and put round with the plate and dish warmers, lighting the lamps and candles, and having proper lights in the passages, that you may see how to go on, and not knock the tray against the wall in carrying it up, which often causes the gravy to be spilt, or the things to be broken. In many houses there are little steps and narrow passages to go along to carry the dinner, which are very badly lighted up, thus causing many accidents. It is highly necessary to have a good light in conveying the things backwards and forwards to the dining-room ; but some families, who are on the save-all plan, will grudge sixpenny-worth of oil, or a candle, and lose a poundsworth in breaking of china, &c. If you, however, are allowed to light up properly and do it not, it is your own fault if any accident occurs through the want of light. Get your beer, soda-water, ginger-beer, porter, spring-water, &c. ready. If the weather is warm, you must put the ginger-beer in a cool place in the room, and it ought to be kept in a cool cellar just before it is wanted, as the warm room will make it fly about, and perhaps on the company.
As soon as you have put all your things ready, take your tray to the kitchen to put your dishes on; let your tray-stands be in a proper place, and if you can be any assistance to the cook in helping her to dish up, and you have all your own things ready, do it. Let your plates be quite hot, and always dust them before you put them to warm. If there should be no fire in the dining-room, you must warm them in the kitchen; but be very careful in carrying them up stairs, that you do not let them fall out of the plate-warmer. See that the door of the plate-warmer is fastened, and keep it towards you, with one hand under the bottom, and the other on the top. Never risk the handle alone, as I have known many accidents occur through it ; do not put too many plates one on another, as they will often break this way: neither overload your tray with the dishes, but rather go twice than run a risk of upsetting them.
Let the soup, or any other dish which is likely to slop over, be carried up by hand. In carrying up and putting on, you must be as quick as possible, not to let the dinner get cold before the company sit down.
If you have four corner dishes with top and bottom, let the top and bottom dishes be put at regular distances from the ends of the table, leaving quite sufficient room for the plates ; if the table is not too small, let them be in the centre, and the corner dishes on a line up the side, and at equal distances from the edge of the table. Let the dishes on each side answer each other as to distance from the edges and top and bottom dishes. If you should have flank dishes, those in general project a little wider, as they come just in the centre of the table on each side the epergne, candles, or salad-bowl. By casting your eye up and down the table, you will soon discover whether the dishes are set in a proper line and at equal distances from each other; if they are not, those who sit at the top and bottom will perceive it in an instant.
As the first course is put on the table before the company come into the room, you will be able to arrange it properly, which will be a guide to you in the after courses; as there will be the impression on the cloth where the dishes have been removed from. It is very seldom that there are more than the top and bottom and two side dishes for six persons to dine off; but whether they are few or many, they must be set at proper distances from each other and from the edges of the table.
Notice the different ways in which different persons carve particular joints. Let the heads of fish be put to the left hand of the carver, and the heads of hares, rabbits, and roasting pigs: in an aitch-bone of beef let the silver skewer which is in general put into it be towards the left hand; a quarter of lamb, let the thin part be put from the carver toward the centre of the table, with the neck end toward the left hand; with shoulder and leg of mutton let the shanks be put towards the left hand, and a haunch of venison the same; hams are in general served up in the same way; but there are three or four ways of carving them; put them however with the shank part towards the left hand, unless otherwise ordered. Turkies, geese, ducks, fowls, pheasants, woodcocks, snipes, partridges, and all sorts of game, are put with the heads towards the right hand, as they are best to carve this way. Some, however, will have the turkey, goose, and duck with the head toward the left hand, on account of getting at the stuffing. In the sirloin of beef let the thick bony end be to the left hand; the saddle or chine of mutton, let the rump end be toward the left hand. In many dishes there is a place for the gravy to run into; let this end of the dish be always toward the right hand of the carver ; as he serves the gravy with the right hand. If at any time you do not know which way a dish should be put on, ask the cook rather than make a mistake and have to turri the dish round after the company is set down, for this looks very awkward.
When the dinner is on the table let the plates be put round, one for each person; let the soup-plates be all put at the bottom of the table, a little to the left hand of the person who helps it, and close to the tureen ; this will be more convenient than putting the soup-plates right in front, both to you and the person who serves. Let the bread be put round before the company comes in, as you will have no time to do it afterwards. Where there is but one to wait, he has enough to do to hand the plates to the company. You cannot carry the bread in one hand and the soup in the other to do it properly, and a number of accidents occur through attempting to do more than one person can do well. When you have put the plates round and the dishes are on the table, see if you have the sauce-boats with the gravy and sauces in them, the vegetables, salad, and cold meat, if any, and if every thing is in its proper place. When all is quite ready, go up as quick as possible to announce dinner; but do not just go to the room door and there bawl out, " Dinner is ready, Sir," or, "Ma'am; " but if the room is large, go a little way towards your master and mistress, and say, "The dinner is served. Sir;" speak in an audible manner, but do not bawl aloud.
When you see that your master or mistress has noticed the announcement of dinner, go and open the dining-room door; you must stand behind and hold it till the company have gone in, then shut it; if the door will stand open without, you must stand in the hall just on the outside. As soon as the company are seated, if there is soup, take the cover off; if there be only fish at the top and a joint at the bottom, remove the cover from off the fish and the sauce-boat which belongs to it.
While waiting at dinner never be picking your nose, or scratching your head or any other part of your body, neither blow your nose in the room; if you have a cold and cannot help doing it, do it on the outside of the door; but do not sound your nose like a trumpet, that all the house may hear when you blow it; still it is better to blow your nose when it requires, than to be picking it and snuffling up the mucus, &c. which is a filthy trick. Do not yawn or gape, or even sneeze, if you can avoid it; and as to hawking and spitting, the name of such a thing is enough to forbid it without a command. When you are standing behind a person, to be ready to change the plates, &c. do not put your hands on the back of the chair, as it is very improper, though I have seen some not only do so, but even beat a kind of tune upon it with their fingers. Instead of this, stand upright with your hands hanging down or before you, but not folded. Let your demeanour be such as becomes the situation which you are in. Be well dressed, and have light shoes that make no noise, your face and hands well washed, your finger nails cut short and kept quite clean underneath; have a nail-brush for that purpose, as it is a disgusting thing to see black dirt under the nails. Let the lapels of your coat be buttoned, as they will only be flying in your way. You should have no buttons underneath the sleeve of the coat, as they are apt to strike against the glasses, or pull things down.
If there be only yourself to wait, take your standing at the bottom of the table with your back toward the side-board, about half a yard behind the person who sits at the bottom, and a little to the left hand. By doing this, you will be able to command a full view of the whole table; whereas, if you stand right behind the person who sits at the bottom of the table, you cannot well see when the plates want changing. When you hold a plate for the carver to put any thing on, let it be in your left hand, holding it even with the rim of the plate on a level with the rim of the dish or tureen, or, if any thing, a little lower, and close to the dish: this will make it convenient for the carver to put on what he is carving without soiling the table-cloth. If the dish have no place for the gravy to run into, take hold of the plate with your right hand and hold the dish a little up with your left, so that the gravy may run to the other end, that the person who carves may serve it witli his right hand : never put your right hand under your left to hold up the dish, as, if you do,
you may have the gravy spilt over the sleeve of your right hand, or on the cloth. When you take hold of a plate, do not put your thumb half way into it, this is very disagreeable and improper; there is a rim to all plates, let your thumb be placed on it, and the fore finger a little turned toward the thumb with the next to it drawn in, so that the end of it will come to the hollow or thick part of the thumb with the other two fingers drawn to the thick part of the hand, then press your thumb and your two fingers together, and you will be able to keep the plate even and without risk of its falling or turning aside; or if you cannot manage to do this way so well, let your thumb be on the rim of the plate, with your fore finger a little turned in, with the others a little contracted and bearing against the swell of the plate close to the rim, pressing, as before, your thumb and fingers together.
When you hand a plate to the person whom it is for, take it in your left hand and put it down before him on the left side, unless at some particular times you will find it pecessary to set it down with your right, and on the right side. When you have held the plate to the carver, perhaps you will have to take it to one who sits at the side, for something that is next to him; in that case take it in your left hand to the left side of the lady or gentleman, and never attempt to go on the right, as this is very improper.
In handing the vegetables and the sauce-boats about, always take them to the left side of the person with your left hand; put a large spoon in the vegetable dish when you hand it; if there are two sorts of vegetables in one dish, have two spoons; take the dish in your left hand; let your thumb be only just on the rim, but you will find it necessary to have firm hold of it with your fingers underneath; if it is too heavy for one hand, put the other under the dish, when you hold it for the company to take it out; or if you can just lodge one end of it on the edge of the table, this you can hold with one hand, and it will be more convenient to the person you take it to. You will in genei-al find that you must hand the vegetable dish endways; let the spoon be put accordingly; let the sauce-boats be handed the same, with the proper sauce-spoons in them. You can hand two small vegetable-dishes or two sauce-boats at a time, or bread with either; but when you are handing round the plates, you cannot well do so. Take the covers from off the dishes with the right hand, if on the right side, and the left if on the left side; be quick in turning the cover up, so that the steam or water may not drop and dirty the cloth, which it will if you do not pay attention, particularly if the inside should be a little dusty, which sometimes is the case; this, with the edges of the dishes, you will do well to look to, for sometimes the cook is in such a bustle as to forget it.
When beer, water, &c. are called for, take hold of the glass with the left hand; but do not put the foot of the glass between two of your fingers, and your thumb on the edge at the top where the company are to drink from, as it is not cleanly so to do, but take hold of the foot of it with your fore finger and thumb, and keep it upright by pressing your finger against it underneath. If you are serving porter, and it is liked with a froth on it, by pouring it from the pot in a small fine stream, a little distance from the glass, you can froth it up as much as you like; but do not pour it over the sides of the glass, for, if you do, it will drop on the ladies' and gentlemen's clothes while drinking; if you should slop the outside of the glass, take another; never offer one to any person while the wet is dropping off it. When you have filled the glass about three parts full, put it on a waiter and carry it in your left hand, to the left side of the person who has called for it; put it near the edge of the waiter, and then put your thumb on the foot to keep it steady; but in a little while, with practice, you will carry it best without putting your thumb on it. Always, in carrying any thing on a waiter, walk quick, and take short steps; you will soon be enabled to serve quickly. As it sometimes happens that the chairs are set so close together that you will find a difficulty in holding the glass for the person to take it, observe to have the glass and waiter as before directed, and let your left foot be advanced toward the chair or table, so near that you can lean forward on your left, rather sideways: by doing so you will be able to hold it so that the person can take it with ease and pleasure: do not throw out your right leg when you are leaning forward, but keep both your feet pretty near together. When the person has taken the glass, fall back on your right foot while he is drinking; when done, lean forward on the left again to take the glass; this you can do without moving either of your feet, if you get sufficiently near to the back of the chair. Take the glass, when done with, back to the side-board, and place it so that you will know it again, that the same person may have it a second time if wanted; but if another sort of liquor should be asked for by the same person, you must not use the same glass, but get a clean one; for instance, you would not use a glass which has had toast and water, for wine and water, or presume to make three or four persons drink out of one glass; never do so, but always keep the glasses separate. If at any time you should not have enough beer, or toast and water, in the room, when called for, never do such a filthy thing as to empty it from the bottoms of the glasses which have been left; you should always arrange with your fellow-servants on such occasions as those, to get whatever you want for you, without your having the inconvenience of leaving the room. Never take a glass of beer, or any thing else, to the company, without putting it on a waiter; and when you take any thing from off the table, such as the glasses or spoons or small cruets, have the waiter in your left hand, and take them off with the right; and if the company should at any time want a knife, fork, or spoon, and not a plate, always put them on the waiter or plate, to hand them to the person; but do not put the glass on the waiter when you want to pour the beer or toast and water in, for fear of slopping the waiter; and if you should at any time slop it accidentally, wipe it quite dry; keep a cloth for this purpose, and a clean one in case any glass should want to be wiped or rubbed.
If there be ginger-beer, soda-water, or spruce beer for the company, when you are to serve it, put the glass on the right hand side of the person who wants it, on a small waiter; turn your back towards the table while you draw the cork, and ease it a little at a time, to prevent it from flying about the room, or on the company. If the neck of the bottles is small, have a small corkscrew, for a large one will break the cork in pieces, and mix it with the liquor, which will be very disagreeable; let the corkscrew be put in the centre of the cork, and turned quite through, this will prevent its breaking. Always serve ginger-beer, soda-water, or any thing of this kind, while it is in a state of fermentation, or else it is not good. If there should be more than one person at a time who want it, and one bottle holds enough, let the glasses be all quite ready for each person, that you may let them all have it in a state of effervescence; you therefore must be quick in doing it; but do not put your thumb or finger in the neck of the bottle while you carry it to the others when jou have served one, but have a cork in your hand to put in if wanted, which it will be, unless you are very quick, or else it will get flat; but keep the ginger or spruce beer in a cool place, if in summer, till wanted; they never ought to be made too long, for, if they are, it will be almost impossible to prevent them flying about when you draw the cork: it is the best for two persons to serve such things, as one can draw the cork and pour it out, while the other holds the tray with the glasses on, and then hands it to the company, which will be the most convenient to all parties.
Now, Joseph, as we left the company seated at their dinner, when we turned aside to have this conference, we will take another turn to them, as I have no doubt but they will be glad to see us, as we only uncovered the soup and fish. If there is any remove for the fish or soup, ring the bell, that it may be in readiness; the company seldom have any vegetables with their fish, but they sometimes have sliced cucumber; if so, do not forget to hand it round with a silver fork and spoon in the dish; if there should be any left, put it on the side-table, to go on with the cheese. Before you remove the fish and soup from off the table, take the small tray with a clean knife-cloth in it, hold it in your left hand, and take, the fish-knife and soup-ladle off with the right ; be careful in doing it ; hold the tray as near as you can, that you may not dirty the cloth. As soon as the removes are put on the table, uncover all the dishes unless otherwise ordered; if they are not silver covers, you may put one into another and take them all out of the room at once ; make as little noise as possible, and be sure not to set them down in the room, to fall over them. When you have handed the meat, be as quick as possible in handing the vegetables and the sauce-boats round, as it too often happens that the sauces are forgotten and the company will not inquire for them for fear they should ask for any thing which is not in the room.
Keep your eyes open to see what is wanted, and your ears also. Do not wait to be asked for every thing by the company, as you may see when they want bread, vegetables, and sauce, and likewise what may be wanted on particular occasions; such as mustard to duck and goose, fish-sauce to the fish, mint-sauce to the lamb, bread-sauce to fowls, &c. &c. Keep your eyes on the table also to see when the plates want changing. Be deaf to all the conversations of the company, and attentive only to their wants. Never be seen listening to what the company are talking about, and neglecting your own business, which too often is done by servants. When you hand a glass of beer, toast and water, or any thing else of this kind, it is the proper way to wait till the person has drank it, then take the glass away; but you must deviate from this rule sometimes; for instance, if there be plates that want changing, or others to be served with any thing, you can easily remove the glass off the table when you have done serving the others: this the family must put up with, where there is only one to do all. When you change the plates, put them softly into the plate- basket, that you may not break them; and the knives and forks into the separate trays allotted for them, making as little noise as possible. When you take a full plate to any person, and there is an empty one before him, let the full plate be in the left hand, and take the plate from before the person with the right hand; by doing so, you will be able to do it without confusion, as you will find it rather awkward to do, until you have practised it.
Always put the clean knife and fork into the clean plate; when you put it before the person, do not take the plate in one hand, and the knife and fork in the other. You may generally know when a person has done with his plate by his putting the knife and fork alongside of each other across it. If there should be two sorts of vegetables in two different dishes, you may take one in each hand, or the bread, or sauce-boat; but not to have the plate in one hand, which you are going to put before a person, and a vegetable-dish in the other; for how can you take the empty one from before the person if both your hands are full?
In putting on the dishes and taking them off, I shall observe to you a few things, as many accidents have occurred through inattention and want of care. The first course is put on in general before company come into the room, but the others of course must be put on afterwards. When you take off the dishes, do it with both your hands, standing on the left side of the carver ; let your right hand be about half way up the side of the dish, toward the carver ; and the left, one third of the way up the side which faces the centre of the table; let your thumbs be fixed firm on the rim of the dish, and your fingers underneath; lift the dishes high enough to clear the glasses, Sec. that you may not knock any thing off, but do not heave them so high as to endanger the joints falling off, and do not snatch them off the table, but take them steadily. The side dishes are not so heavy and large as the top and bottom dishes, therefore you will be able to take them off with one hand, but have firm hold that you do not turn them aside, for you will find more difficulty in taking off the side dishes than the top and bottom dishes, as you will have to lean over the chairs of those who sit at the sides; if you turn yourself sideways you will be able to take them off with more ease; never attempt to take the dishes from off the table standing on the right-hand side of the carver; put them on the same way as you take them off, on the left side of the carver; take care to hold the dish firm, and keep it even, that you may not spill the gravy. When you perceive that the company do not seem inclined to eat of the dishes on the table, you must keep your eye on your master, or mistress, to receive the signal when to remove the first course; and you must, previous to your going to wait at dinner, arrange with the cook that you will let her know a little before you begin, that she may be ready with the second: be very particular not to forget this; if you do, the cook cannot be ready, and the company will be kept waiting through your neglect; and if, at any time, you see that the first course is likely to be done with sooner than it in general is, be sure to let the cook know of it as soon as you can, by ringing the bell, if you cannot get to speak to her.
THE FIRST COURSE REMOVED.
As soon as you receive the signal for removing the first course, take the small knife-tray with a clean knife-cloth in it, and take all the carving knives, forks, and spoons which have been used, from off all the dishes, before you attempt to take the dishes. Observe when you take off the knives, forks, and dishes, to begin at the bottom of the table, and take the knives, &c. from the left-hand side of the dish, and go regularly round, removing from off the sides as you go up and down the table; then, when come to the bottom where you began, put down your tray, and begin removing the dishes from off the table in the same way you did the knives, forks, &c. ; remove the bottom dish first, then the side, top, and the other side: as you must consider in taking off and putting on, you should lose no time, nor be running backwards and forwards any more than you can help; let your dishes be taken off and put on in a systematic order, so that you make no bustle and confusion in the room; be quick, but quiet, in your movements ; as you take off the dishes, put them into a large tray, which of course you will have ready, and if there is no one to take them down stairs for you, do it yourself; empty your tray as quick as possible, and put the second course on it ; but be not in too great a hurry, as you may spill the gravy, or break the dishes, but be no longer than you can help in carrying the things up and down. It sometimes happens, when there have been but four dishes for the first course, there have been six for the second; be particular in putting them on; have the bill of fare in the tray, or on the sideboard, then you will be able to look at it, and prevent making mistakes, as it is reasonable to think that ladies and gentlemen like to have the dishes put on the same way which they have contrived for the things to answer each other. If you were to pay attention in setting the dishes in the tray, you could place them in it as they are to go on the table; this certainly would be an advantage to you, and you may easily do so when you have the dishes all up; begin to put them on in the same order as you took the others off, the bottom dish first, then the left side, and top, &c.; be very particular to have them in a proper line with each other, and at equal distances from the sides and ends of the table. When you have put them all on, take the covers from off those which are covered, then be ready to wait on the company; when you see they are finishing with the second course, let the cheese-plates be put before them as you change the others, a small knife, and if there is salad, a fork also should be put in the plate. Have your cheese and butter and salad all ready against the second course is done with ; take it off as before directed; be sure to remove the knives, forks, &c. &c. first; then, as soon as all the course is removed, put on the cheese &c. if there should be two cheeses and a salad, with sliced cucumber and butter, let the cheeses be put top and bottom, the butter in the middle, with the salad and cucumber on each side; let the cheese and butter knives be put with the cheese, the spoon and fork with the salad, and a spoon with the cucumber. While the company are eating their cheese, take all the loose knives, forks, and spoons off the table, and put the glass-coolers with the wine-glasses on a small tray, which you ought to have in the room ready, not to have to move them three or four times, as this takes up time, besides running a risk of breaking them: wine is seldom drank with the cheese, only porter, ale, or something of that kind, therefore take all the wine-glasses and put them into your tray to remove them with the rest.
As soon as the company have done with the cheese, remove it from the table; then take all the things quite off, both dirty and clean; have a spoon (if there is not a proper table-brush) with a plate, and take off all the bits of bread, then with a clean glass-cloth and another plate, brush all the crumbs off the cloth; as soon as this is done, put round the finger-glasses, one to each person. If you have not got the dessert ready before you put the finger-glasses on, you had better get it while they are using; during that time, likewise, remove as many of the things as you possibly can out of the room. As soon as the finger-glasses are done with, remove them; then take off the cloth with the green one also, and put them out of the room at once, other- wise it is very likely in your haste you may fall over them; when you have removed the cloths, if the hot dishes have drawn out the damp, take a cloth and wipe it off, but do not do it with a dirty cloth, as this will not be pleasant for the company to see, nor yet use your best glass-cloths to do it with, as the table mats may have been cleaned with oil, or wax, which will come off on the cloth and make your glasses smeary and therefore have a cloth for this purpose, and do not use it for any thing else. As soon as you have wiped the table, put the dessert on; put the dessert dishes nearer the middle of the table than you did with the meat, &c. &c. as they are smaller. Observe the same rule in putting on the dessert as the other courses, unless there are more dishes in the dessert than in the courses; in this case, you may put on the dessert dishes top, middle, and bottom, before you put on the sides; when they are all put on, then put on the sugar-basin and the water-jug, between the top and bottom dishes and middle one, in the same line; then put the cut-glass rummers between the two side dishes and the middle, two on each side; then put the wine-decanters on at the bottom of the table, next to the gentlemen; but if there be none but ladies, put the wine near the one who sits at the top. Let four table-spoons be laid to serve the dessert with, and if there be a cake, let a knife be put with it; next put on the dessert-plates, and two wine-glasses to each person; and when the dessert is all set out, be as quick as you possibly can in removing every thing out of the room except the clean glasses on the sideboard, the cruet-stand, and the clean plate; the clean knives, forks, and plates on the side-table may also be left ; but remove all the dirty plates, knives, forks, beer, toast and water, &c. All things of the eating and drinking kind should be removed before you leave the dining- room; but let it be done quickly, and with as little noise as possible, so as not to appear all in a bustle and confusion when leaving the room, for a good servant is to have every thing in the room ready when called for, to put on and take off the dishes in order and without confusion, to be quick in changing plates and handing vegetables, or whatever may be called for, and never want telling what he ought to do. The sooner you leave the room after the dessert is put on the better; never loiter about the room when the company are drinking their wine; some servants that I know will be rattling the knives and forks, and removing all the clean glasses &c.. &c. from the dining-room before they leave it, but this is quite unnecessary. You may leave the sideboard and side-table to look ornamental without much trouble or loss of time.
If the family do not dine by candlelight, perhaps by the time dinner is over it will be necessary to light the lamps in the hall and on the staircase; have all the candles and lamps in the drawing-room in readiness, if not lighted, as the ladies seldom stop long in the dining-room. As soon as you have removed all the things which have been used for dinner, see that there be water boiling for the tea and coffee; let the iron heaters be put in the fire for the urns, and all things which will be wanted for tea in readiness: then put all your things into their proper places ; let the steel knives be wiped, and the plate washed and wiped quite dry; the glasses likewise washed and put in their proper places; this will make room for the dirty glasses you will have when the dessert things are removed, and the tea-things done with; always keep the pantry as clear as you can, that you may have room to put things out of your hand, without confusion or fear of breaking them.
If at any time you should not have wine enough out, and more should be called for, try to
catch your master's eye, if you cannot provide it without him, and then go out of the room. If, after waiting a few minutes, you find he does not come, go back again and tell him, that a person wishes to speak to him. Never say, "There is no more wine out," or any thing of that sort, as, if you do, you will make yourself appear very ignorant of proper behaviour, and render your master liable to be ridiculed for your want of consideration.
I am sure we are all very hungry after all that effort. Here is your dinner dish:
Ragouts of Poultry, Game, Pigeons, Rabbits, &c.
Half roast it, then stew it whole, or divide it into joints and pieces proper to help at table, and put it into a stew-pan, with a pint and a half of broth, or as much water, with any trimmings or parings of meat you have, one large onion with cloves stuck in it, twelve berries of allspice, the same of black pepper, and a roll of lemon peel; when it boils, scum it very clean, let it simmer very gently for about an hour and a quarter, if a duck or fowl,—longer if a larger bird; then strain off the liquor, and leave the ducks by the fire to keep hot; scum the fat off. Put into a clean stew-pan two ounces of butter, when it is hot, stir in as much flour as will make it of a stiff paste, add the liquor by degrees, let it boil up, put in a glass of port wine and a little lemon juice, and simmer it ten minutes; put the ducks, &c. into the dish, and strain the sauce through a fine sieve over them. Garnish with sippets of toasted, or fried bread.
If the poultry is only half roasted, and stewed only till just nicely tender, this will be an acceptable bonne bouche to those who are fond of made dishes. The flavour may be varied by adding catsup, curry powder, or any of the flavoured vinegars.
This is an easy prepared side dish, especially when you have a large dinner to dress; and coming to table ready carved, saves a deal of time and trouble; it is, therefore, an excellent way of serving poultry, &c for a large party.
A modern system of domestic cookery … by M. Radcliffe (Manchester, 1823)