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The object of domestic solicitude is to endeavour to combine comfort and system, with economy in the social intercourse of life; to draw a line between an intellectual dinner party of four, six, or eight (and which, with an equal admixture of ladies, may be extended to twelve), and that of large dinner gatherings, which are now very properly designated, "Season Liquidation Re-unions," in discharge of Cosmopolitan " Soup Tickets." To such re-unions, in rooms no larger than closets, and to the people who submit to the infliction of being stowed away like negroes in a slaver's hold, the only remedy is to withdraw from the self-imposed ordeal of this middle passage, and seek repose in the quiet of small wellselected parties, where alone " the feast of reason and the flow of soul," can be expected to be realised.
If objection be taken to the prominent introduction of agreeable and economical "cup beverages," the reply is, " Wenham Lake ice demands them."
Cookery-books, from the celebrated "Ude," the brilliant and accomplished "Soyer," down to humble "Meg Dodds," abound in every bookseller's shop, in all of which ample instructions will be found for the guidance and study of those anxious to excel in the profound science of Gastronomy; all that requires to be added, as a hint to cooks, is, "Keep your cooking up and keep your bills down." But country butlers often have to acquire a knowledge of the art of decorating a table and serving a dinner from such practical experience as they may have acquired from time to time in perhaps not first-rate modern schools.
Considering that the success of a well-cooked dinner entirely depends on the mode in which it is served, and the style of the waiting, the following brief instructions will give a general idea of what is absolutely essential as an approach towards serving a dinner a la Russe.
DECORATION OP THE TABLE.
Flowers should invariably be tastefully introduced, as being the most pleasing and agreeable to the eye and senses. Plateaus of fruits complete the ornamental part of the arrangements. For the sake of convenience, sherry and madeira may be placed on the table.
It is of the utmost importance that the diningroom should be well-lighted; this is a point often neglected at the tables of people who ought to know better, but are too indolent to give directions. The light thrown on the table should be brilliant, and every part of the room thoroughly illuminated, although with a more subdued light. Ventilation must, at the same time, he attended to.
Every dish, plate, knife, fork, spoon, and glass should be placed on the table and removed without the least noise or appearance of bustle; every movement must be quiet, cool, collected, and deferential. Plates warmed up to that point of heat which will bear the touch. Small cruet-frames,—such as manufactured by Dismore, of Liverpool,—containing salt, Cayenne pepper, and mustard, should be on the table in proportion of one to every three persons.
In order to give the cook fair play, the fish should never be served with the soup—it is a distinct and important course.
When the Boup is handed round, ring the bell as a signal for the cook to send up the fish, and thus it will be served hot, and the anxiety and character of a good cook cared for.* Never place fish on a napkin, but serve on a silver or earthenware strainer. Almost every fish requires the use of a knife, and as steel is highly detrimental to the delicate flavour of the piscatory luxury, and the use of one is deemed a vulgarism, a sharp silver blade will prevent your being choked with bones, and not lay you open to the charge of being a Goth.
In the same way, the entrees and top and bottom dishes should never be served together. The entrees
* The hour named for dinner should he adhered to with military exactness. It is related of Cambaceres that Napoleon kept his dinner waiting half an hour, and in despair he sent for his cook, and in true military phraseology, exclaimed, "Henri! save the entremets, the entrees are annihilated.'' The late Dr. Kitchener, whose name fully bore out his devotion to the culinary art, piqued himself upon his punctuality, and was in the habit of having the following motto written over his sideboard: "Come at seven, go at eleven." Theodore Hook, who always liked to get into what are called the short hours, added the word "it," to the above, and great was the surprise of the worthy doctor, when he found that by the alteration the notice read as follows:
"Come at seven, go it at eleven."
should be handed round singly and disposed of in succession, and when the plates are removed then place on the table the top and bottom removes.— N.B.—Two good entrees, a light and a solid one, are enough, and worth a dozen badly cooked and worse served. Don't omit to hand the vegetables and sauces.
ENTREMETS. Require no particular instructions.
If rose-water is introduced, do not have a silver hand-bath for the million, but have the fragrant liquid in a separate finger-glass for each guest. It is impossible to be too Jewish in the cleanliness of your feast. The lavatory operation is often performed in a way truly disgusting—napkins and fingers immersed.
The old fashion of a small piece of lemon in a glass of pure water,—tepid, if during the winter, is always respectable.
After Soup.—Hand round madeira and sherry; and remember that, after turtle, punch is banished from all well-regulated tables, as being a stomachdestroying, bilious, gouty, and cloying beverage.
After White Fish.—One glass only of hock or